By Giselle Miranda
Kamilla Ozman raises her black glasses up her nose and tucks in her short blond hair behind her ears one last time before she begins conducting a group of 32 female vocalists. She turns through each music sheet swiftly as she points her index finger in a downward spiral back and forth motion and claps her hands along with the rhythm of the song, “Lauda Sion,” composed by Gyorgy Orban.
East End Women’s Choir held two spring series concerts, one on April 23 at Center Moriches Presbyterian Church and another on April 30 at St. Louis De Montfort. The intergenerational women’s choir through performances and fundraising events are promoting womanhood in teaching choral literature and serving as role models to millennials and the community of Eastern Long Island.
The choir, first established in late August 2013, was founded by Kamilla Ozman (B.A. in Music Education; M.A. in Music) retired choral director of William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, and organist at Center Moriches Presbyterian Church.
“We are the only women’s choir in Eastern Long Island,” Ozman said.
The all-women choir has weekly rehearsals on Thursday nights in preparation for their two spring performances in Center Moriches and Sound Beach.
“Many of us are music teachers,” Doretta Schimpf, Treasurer of the East End Women’s Choir Board of Directors, said. “I am a retired music teacher and so are many people here.We are now a non-profit organization and a board of 11 people.”
Young working mothers, former students of Ozman, violinists, dancers and school band directors implement hours of practice in preparation for these performances. The choir’s youngest participating member was 18-years-old.
Many community members from different musical backgrounds join East End Women’s Choir on an ongoing seasonal basis.
“I thought it was amazing that something like this is on Long Island,” Mikael Darmanie, a solo pianist first time playing for the choir and a fourth year music graduate student at Stony Brook University, said. “It’s mainly music educators, so everybody is deeply rooted in music, which means they can read music, they understand, and they teach it.”
In the family-oriented choir group, every member is tightly connected to Ozman.
“My granddaughter is in the East End Women’s Choir, and Kamilla used to be her music teacher and a lot of people singing are my little granddaughter’s music teachers,” Gail Phillips, a board of trustees chairperson of Center Moriches Presbyterian Church, said.
The women’s choir is taking a leap forward integrating choral literature in the younger generation of Eastern Island. “One year there was an all women’s song produced in the essence of heightening women, bringing a different level to women’s issues,” Phillips said.
The music performed by the choir is typically accompanied by a small chamber of instruments, with an emphasis on contemporary choral composers. These include the likes of “Six Choral Songs for Treble Voices” and “Bogoroditse Devo,” composed by Russian pianist-composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff and “Mass No. 6.”
Ozman tries to incorporate a unique style of A cappella music, a style of music that has been common in Jewish and Christian worship services since the 19th century Renaissance era.
Ozman’s daughter, Emma Ozman sang a solo music piece without instrumental accompaniment at the concert. The choral singing group also featured instruments like the piano, organ, and drums during their musical performance.
Various choir organizations on the Island have established programs for younger women to develop essential life skills and get the feel of being part of a great female community.
The Island Hills Chorus in Hauppauge developed a program involving younger women called, ‘Young Woman in Harmony.’ “It targets women at the age of 25 and younger, and it provides them an opportunity to develop their different singing techniques, offering music educators to work with them,” Edyth Duff-Lockley, team coordinator and president of the Island Hills Chorus, said. “A cappella is becoming more popular with the young people because of the different TV shows they see that involve singing, and also we have two groups in the city, some are in high school and mainly in college majoring in music, they have some talented young people.”
Chorus America and American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) both of which share the same values on educating and engaging youth choirs.
Chorus America conducted a study in 2009 on the impact chorus’ have on the American lifestyle. There is a total of 270,000 choruses nationwide. An estimated 42.6 million adults and children sing in choruses today.
“A number of choirs have excellent education programs that reach young adults and children through the schools,” Liza Beth, director of communications for Chorus America, said. “This can range from simply performing in schools, to working with students as young as elementary age on composing new choral music to long terms residencies in schools.”
As mentioned in the Chorus America 2009 study, Choral singing continues to grow in early childhood education and development. It is a most popular form of performing arts that contribute to academic success and life skill lessons.
“Choir programs are an integral part of numerous public school programs, as well as private schools, community choirs, congregations, etc,” Sundra Flansburg, director of membership and communications of ACDA, said. “We have experts in many different and specific areas of choral programming and repertoire.”
However, East End Women’s Choir is currently working on developing a second young women’s choir. “In September, the plan is to do a combined concert with the young girls from different high schools and the young women’s choir,” Ozman said.
Various of choir organizations, such as Island Hills Chorus and The Huntingtin Community Chorus are starting the movement of developing choir programs for younger women to involved in developing essential life skills and get the feel of being part of a powerful woman community.
“Music is music, and if you can convey the intention of the composer, that is what it is about,” Judy Leopold, director of Huntington Community Chorus, said. “These words are implanted in the heart when they are taught properly.”
The East End Women’s Choir will host their next fundraising event, “Paint and Sip Night” on Friday, May 19 at The Grille in the Ville.