Artemis Singers was the first women’s singing ensemble in the U.S. to explicitly label herself a lesbian feminist chorus, and she is dedicated to performing music written or arranged by women and thus highlighting historical, political, and personal events and experiences common to women. Artemis Singers’ initial meeting took place in June 1979, and the chorus was formally introduced in December 1980 at the second annual Chicago Gay/Lesbian Community Band and Windy City Gay Chorus concert, “Don We Now . . . II.”
By 1982, Artemis Singers had earned the Paul R. Goldman Award from the early homophile group ONE of Chicago for outstanding contributions in the field of performing arts in Chicago. Also in 1982, Artemis Singers performed at the landmark first gathering of gay and lesbian choruses at Lincoln Center in New York City, out of which grew today’s international Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses(GALA). Alongside all the men’s and mixed ensembles there, Artemis was the only lesbian chorus to perform, and the other groups were so supportive that Artemis received a standing ovation even before she began to sing.
Artemis has long participated in Sister Singers Network, a nationwide cooperative web of feminist choruses, singers, and musicians. In 1984, Artemis Singers participated in the first National Women’s Choral Festival. In 1986 Artemis Singers hosted the third festival here in Chicago, which included women’s choruses from Minneapolis, Kansas City, Lansing, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Madison. In 2010, Artemis Singers hosted the 10th Sister Singers Network festival, “Our Kind of Sound” in Chicago, welcoming choruses from as far away as Juneau, Alaska; San Diego, California; Tampa, Florida; and Boston, Massachusetts.
Over the years, Artemis has been a mainstay in Chicago’s lesbian-feminist cultural life, performing for groups such as Kinheart, Jane Addams Bookstore, and Mountain Moving Coffeehouse, and at events such as the Illinois State NOW Conference, the historic “Judy Chicago Dinner Party,” and memorial services for Kay Gardner, Joy Rosenblatt, and Michaeline Chvatal.
In 2003 the chorus produced a concert to benefit the Lesbian Community Cancer Project (LCCP), performing “Where I Live,” Diane Benjamin’s seven-movement oratorio about breast cancer. Other highlights include performing at Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park as part of Gay Games VII in 2006; showcasing the classical music work “In My Sister’s Chamber” (Bloomington, Indiana, 1983); and participation in “A Show of Concern: The Heart of America Responds,” a major fundraising event for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago at the Chicago Theater, hosted by Angela Lansbury (1987).
The chorus produced her first-ever recording for public sale, a 2-volume 25th-anniversary CD set, in 2005, and was inducted into the City of Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2008. Starting with “Shall We Dance” in June of 2011, Artemis began holding a dance with live dj following the group’s annual Pride concert. “Proud to be…ME” in June 2015 marked the fifth concert & dance combination.
In 2013, Artemis Singers performed at the October 21 March on Springfield for Marriage Equality and then again November 20, less than a month later, at the Illinois Marriage Equality Bill Signing by Governor Patrick Quinn at UIC Forum in Chicago.