Guided by Voices

Tuneage // Zinzi Edmundson // 06/07/10
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LEFT TO RIGHT: Jenny Park, Becky Stark, Mandy Khan, Mor Elian, Miss KK, Jeannine Haynes, Bethany McCarty, Michelle Miskovitch, Henrietta Tiefenthaler, Leona Marrs, Raquel Jordan, Molly Steele, Ariana Delawari, Astara Calas, Alexandra Spunt

In an industry where irony and a too-cool-for school attitude are practically badges of honor, a little earnest exuberance is as rare as an indie rock frontman in khakis and a golf shirt. Yet, each week, the thirty members of L.A. Ladies Choir—whose primary tenet is “sing joyfully”—gather to sing with the kind of enthusiasm and abandon normally reserved for the shower or in the car with the radio at full blast.

As with everything having to do with the all-women’s chorus, the group’s origins are laced with myth and magic: Two years ago, while arranging choral pieces for the film “City of Ember,” co-founder Becky Stark (of neo-folk band Lavender Diamond) had a revelation. Says Stark, “I was like ‘I know all these amazing women with amazing voices—we should sing together.’” Stark went on to incorporate her vision of feminine strength into a Lavender Diamond video project called the Green Path. Then, in a cosmic coincidence, at a fundraiser for the project, Aska Matsumiya (of dream-pop group The Moonrats) spontaneously approached Stark. “She said to me, ‘I want to starting an all-female choir,’” remembers Stark. “We had the same idea!” Matsumiya had already floated the idea with model Frankie Rayder, who had offered up her house as a practice space, so the three assembled a group of friends—among them, electropop rocker Anna Oxygen and Parentetical Girls’ Kitty Jensen—and hit the ground singing.

Over a year later, the choir is thirty voices deep and still growing. Dressed in long pastel dresses from the ‘70s—most borrowed from Stark’s own vintage collection—with (literally) beet juice-stained cheeks, the Ladies perform mainly in the L.A. area and are recording a forthcoming EP. While many of their hits are covers—a sweet rendition of Yoko Ono’s “Sister O Sister” is a favorite—most of the songs are original, written by Stark and Matsumiya. Preaching an ethos of love and healing, the group operates on the esoteric notion that joy, as Stark says, is an “unconditional value.” Hippie-dippish? Perhaps. But judging by the smiling faces, peals of laughter and easy harmonies during a recent practice session, we’d say they’re on to something.

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Originally published in June/July 2010

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