SPECTRUM NEWS: 50 years after being mocked, a female singer is welcomed into tenor section

LOS ANGELES — Sometimes she sings melancholy ballads, sometimes cheerful carols, but lately, Angel City Chorale’s Joy Horowitz has been singing a different tune with a different group of singers.

Horowitz is one of several women in the large community choral group who recently migrated to the traditionally male tenor section.

“It still says Alto 2,” she said of the name tag that hung on a lanyard around her neck. “We need to get a new one.”

This is Horowitz’s first season in the newly diversified section, but it’s actually a move she’s been contemplating for 50 years, since her freshman year at Harvard. Back then, she remembers walking through campus and noticing an intriguing sign.

“‘Do you want to go to the Bahamas over the spring break?’” she recalled. “So I was like, yeah, of course I did.”

The caveat: She would have to sing tenor in the Krokodiloes, Harvard’s all male acapella group. Undaunted, Horowitz went to the audition.

“And they laughed me out of the room,” she said.

But now, Horowitz is having the last laugh because half a century later, she’s getting her wish — the singing part, not the spring break in the Bahamas part.

Artistic Director Sue Fink has coined a new name for the groundbreaking group of female tenors like Horowitz: Taltos.

“We were altos, and now we’re singing tenor,” said Horowitz.

And they are loving it. 

The recent change is part of what makes this group so special, she says. Everyone is welcome and every voice matters: young and old, male, female, every race and religion. They’re divided into parts, sure, but Fink says they are one in spirit.

“We are all dedicated to do something beautiful together,” she said. “It unites us.”

Fink admits part of why she invited some women into the tenor section was the need for more voices to beef up the sound. But she also says there are some women who naturally have rich lower tones and this music just suits them. 

“You can’t force people to be what they’re not,” Fink explained. “People have to be who they are.”

“If guys want to sing in other parts, they can do that as well,” Horowitz pointed out. “We are all about promoting a culture of belonging and inclusiveness so this is a part of that.”

Horowitz is thrilled with her new part and her new name. It turns out “talto” is rooted in Hungarian mythology and refers to a person with supernatural power. As she sings tenor, that’s exactly how Horowitz feels.

“It’s having the super power, actually, of inclusion and of being part of a choir,” Horowitz said. “You know, it’s not about one voice. It’s about all of us together.”

The roughly 160-person choir will be together on Dec. 4 and 5 for “Light Up the World,” their first live concert since the start of COVID-19. In another first, the Dec. 4 concert will also be livestreamed for a digital audience.

For more information, please visit angelcitychorale.org/light/.

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