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Lehigh Valley Live: Songs for Sisters showcases talent of Lehigh Valley women

June 13th, 2017 |

Written by Alyssa Mursch for Lehigh Valley Live

Music, coffee and pop-up exhibitions will fill the second floor of the Single Sisters’ House from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 15 in Bethlehem.

Beginning in April 2017, the Single Sisters Series sought to celebrate accomplishments of Lehigh Valley women from the past and present.

The project highlights the history of the Single Sisters’ House beginning in 1748, when the West Church Street building housed single women, providing them with the opportunity to live independently and remain unmarried if they chose.

It was quickly discovered that perseverance, ambition and sisterhood was a recipe for success, especially through the accomplishments of two sisters: Anna Rosina Kleist and Maria Beaumont.

Both women serve as inspiration for the upcoming event. Kleist held her first painting class at Moravian Seminary in 1788 and inspired the art portion of the show. Beaumont inspired the show’s musical aspect. She entered the seminary in 1787 and became known as the best pianist in Bethlehem.

As an outlet to celebrate the achievements of Lehigh Valley women while simultaneously remembering the struggles of the women of the past, the Single Sisters Series now holds monthly events.

One such event is Song for Sisters, which will feature original singer-songwriters Tara Walsh, Julia Sommer and Chelsea Lyn Meyer. Walsh helped coordinate this lineup along with Gerard Longo of Lehigh Valley Underground.

“My story resonates with the Sisters. I came from a family of very resilient women. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be strong and intelligent,” Walsh said.

For a long period of her life, she found herself in situations that made her filter who she was and quiet her creativity, she said.

After her parents divorced when she was 13, she found herself consumed with worrying about what people thought of her. So, when she was made to feel as though she was inherently flawed for having an outspoken personality, she retreated. She was silenced.

Two years ago, however, when her 11-year-old son almost died of severe aplastic anemia, she “broke out of her filtered silence.”

“(My story) is the essence of the songs I’m putting out,” Walsh said. “It’s my opportunity to rise above the circumstances that were destroying me.”

She was finally able to be herself and gain a voice through her music. She compared herself to the Single Sisters and their choice to live independently from men and forge their own path. Like them, she said, she didn’t do this to rebel or set a precedence, but rather because she simply felt it was right.

Although she has been singing since the age of six, she didn’t pursue it as a career and stopped altogether for a long time. Instead, she used her creative mind to help her teach at-risk youth as a high school English teacher. Now, she has one wish for her music.

“I hope I can be one of the Single Sisters to someone and inspire them,” she said.

There will also be pop-up exhibits of women’s regional zines curated by Pocono-based artist Lauren Beauchner of the creative collection Many Mothers. Zines are a type of do-it-yourself magazine, which make it possible for artists and writers to self-publish and distribute their work inexpensively.

“All of the women in (Many Mothers) are huge supporters of each other and I believe that being in frequent conversation and collaboration with each other is what pushes all of us to create more than we might otherwise,” said Beauchner, who has been creating zines since 2015.

“I think because of this group of incredibly strong-willed and proactive women, we were able to join a lot of different groups of people together and encourage the do-it-yourself community in the valley.”

The women whose works are featured in the pop-up range in profession from photographers to poets, bakers to gardeners, painters to writers and more. Beauchner sees this collaboration of multi-disciplinary women as a parallel to the diverse backgrounds of the original Single Sisters.

Now, the voices of early Moravian sisters echo through the halls, where the walls are lined with the same wallpapers that once enclosed them. Keeping these artifacts was a conscious decision in an effort to connect those visiting to the site’s history.

“It’s important to think of this as a historically rooted women’s space,” said director of collections and programming Lindsay Jancay, emphasizing the history of Moravian College.

The college historically educated women and men equally, making Bethlehem one of the first places where women received an education in the country.

It’s also important to look forward and consider what the space can help create now and in the future, Jancay said.

The goal is for it to be a meeting place for women — somewhere they can learn about the successes and hardships of those before them while simultaneously displaying and celebrating their own talents.

“(The success of the original Moravian sisters) shows what can happen when there is support, dialogue and collaboration among women … that’s what we’re trying to offer again,” Jancay said.

The Single Sisters’ House is located on 50 W. Church St. in Bethlehem. Admission for Song for Sisters is $5 per person. Jancay encourages those interested in collaborating or volunteering to contact her at ljancay@historicbethlehem.org.

Other upcoming events include the Zug Lecture on July 30 and Back to Basics on Aug. 26. Those interested in purchasing tickets or learning about other events can visit the Single Sisters Series’ website.

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