Guest Artists


Joan Szymko is a composer and conductor from the Pacific Northwest. With a catalog of over 100 published choral works, her music is performed by ensembles across North America and abroad. The OCWC has performed her works in the past, including Ave Maria in December 2015. Joan, like the OCWC, is committed to bringing the choral art to her community. She says, "I find great solace in weekly choral rehearsals. There, people from all walks of life come together to surrender themselves to the whole, they come for communion, hoping to perfect a unified sound and for the promise of a deeply exhilarating musical experience. It can be transformative. It is healing." 

Words are very important to us, and Joan shares that passion for language. She says, "I employ words that delight, confront, or inspire me; make me think, make me feel." When asked to comment on her experience of composing this work, Joan wrote, "Eliza and I agreed on the text of this commissioned work in the spring of 2016, well in advance of the conclusion to the political season. As I finished composing Water Women in November in the weeks immediately following the presidential election, giving breath and life to Alla Bozarth's words became a cathartic experience. The poet upends the notion that women with a 'place at the table' best step carefully in order to protect their position: 'We do not want to rock the boat,' she says, 'mistaking our new poise for something safe.' We are not safe. We are on stormy seas the likes of which the human race has never seen. As an artist, and as a woman, I am of the belief that any hope for a sustainable future on this planet is dependent not only on women having a real place 'on board,' but on women taking over the helm.

"Water Women's opening theme suggests a 'rocking' feeling - not in a soothing way, as in rocking the cradle, but angular,and unsettled. Throughout, piano accompaniment supplies a watery undercurrent supporting women's voices that alternate between powerful unison, harmonized rhythmic unison and coordinated polyphony. The watery journey culminates in a somewhat altered version of the opening theme and a final unison statement of women's 'supernatural' powers."