December 9 at Old First: All Eyes on the Accord Treble Choir

Formed in 2009 in NYC by friends and veteran choral singers, the choir selects challenging music that emphasizes the beauty of treble voices.

The word “vision” can have many meanings and stir many emotions. At Old First on Saturday, December 9, we’ll get to see — and hear — a choral interpretation of what may be our most mystical sense.

The Accord Treble Choir presents Oculi as its winter concert, the latest of its performance tradition at Old First. The work is an attempt to explore the mystery and challenges of vision, along with a “look” at related ways of knowing.

“It’s all about seeing and the way we relate to each other,” says Accord founder Liz Geisewite. “That became the focal point. I also found other pieces about eyes or vision or perspective, or a psychic way of seeing without using the eyes.”

An unusual treatment of an oft-thought-about subject, for sure; Liz attempts to bring clarity to a sense that can often be cloudy, misty, and unfocused.

“I’m always looking for music,” she says, regarding the content of the concerts. “I try to dig into pieces that are not commonly done by treble choirs or women’s choirs.”

The performance will feature a diverse selection: a Renaissance madrigal, a civil-rights-era freedom song, a work of Mendelssohn, and a composition by  Latvian composer Ansis Sauka (with text from renowned Soviet-era poet Imants Ziedonis). Also thrown into the eclectic mix to deepen the vision: Dolly Parton, The Crash Test Dummies, and Sweet Honey in the Rock.

“I start with the music first and usually the theme comes secondarily,” she says.

Liz is creating this magic from a rich vocal tradition that is not often explored or considered in North America.

“The U.S. doesn’t have as deep a choral tradition when it comes to same-sex adult choirs,” she says. “To find the interesting music, I go to the source, and those are the Eastern European composers. They just have a much richer tradition and repertoire for treble voices. So I’m always looking. I’m always mining. When I find pieces that I like, I put them on hold until the inspiration strikes to incorporate them and build a program around them.”

Liz is originally from Central Pennsylvania and earned her masters in music at Truman State College in Missouri. She’s currently a music teacher at Bay Ridge High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology.

Accord’s repertoire ranges from medieval chant to Renaissance madrigals to the vast array of 20th and 21st century composers who wrote specifically for upper voice a cappella ensembles.

Accord was a passion project, started with a friend, Akiko Fuchisawa, in 2009. It had grown from six members to its current nine members (“the biggest we’ve ever been.”). The group consists of friends who are choral veterans.

“Akiko really pushed me to do it,” Liz says of starting the choir, “because I never conducted my own group before, or led a group before. Sometimes you need a friend to give you that push, and she gave me that.”

The group has since become an ensemble in residence at St. Ignatius of Antioch on the Upper West Side. They consider that home base, but their home away from home is usually in Brooklyn, and always at Old First. This will be the choir’s sixth appearance, usually performing here twice a year to enthusiastic audiences.

“We really like the community and that space,” Liz says of Old First.

The feeling is mutual: the pleasure of hearing and seeing a dedicated and talented choir is one of the high points of our year.

“We work so hard,” she says of the ongoing success of the group. “We sing really unusual and difficult music, often in many languages that are not usually done commonly in the U.S. And to put that kind of effort into a hobby takes a choral geek. So we find each other, and people who want that kind of opportunity are interested and they’ll find us.”

Mark your calendar for the Oculi concert at Old First, this Saturday, December 9, at 6 PM (suggested donation: $15; $5 for students and seniors). A reception will follow. Facebook invite here.

Click here to find out more about the Accord Treble Choir.