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Dangerous Women

Inspired by Ariana Grande's “Dangerous Woman,” artistic director Martha Swisher has shaped a program that thinks expansively about what it means to be dangerous women. With grit and softness, C21’s dangerous women sing that “even though a thousand times disappointed . . . be grateful my soul, I have lived amidst eternity.” Channeling the power of the earth in all its feminine tenacity, C21 sings of “the deep sigh in the quiet of the forest” and the strength of seeds sown by grandmothers: “They touched earth and grain grew.” Dangerous women are determined. The way forward may be uncertain, but dangerous women draw strength from their sisters and community to break the old compass and build a new one. In M.E. Valverde’s setting of J. Patrick Lewis’s “When Thunder Comes,” C21 harnesses the power of the sublime storm to declare how the “civil righteous . . . are finished being meek.”

This concert is supported in part by grants from the Daniel H. Lome Foundation and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE).

*Quotes from Norbert Čapek’s “Be Grateful, My Soul,” Don Macdonald’s “When the Earth Stands Still”, and Margaret Walker’s “Lineage”.


Women in Constellation

C21 Women’s Ensemble presents “Women in Constellation” on Sunday, October 23 at the Columbus Park Refectory. “No notes are as connected as the souls that sing them … like stars of twinkling sound.” Through spirituals, rap, contemporary and classical compositions, we aim to inspire. In the immortal words of Susan B. Anthony, set to music, “There is so much to be done, Rise Up!” West-Side students from the Austin BUILD program will join the ensemble to celebrate the words of poet Colleen Carhuff: “I am you, We are one!”

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The Fire Within

The fire within is the creative impulse. It is the unchosen directive that burns inside. The C21 Women’s Ensemble presents songs that fuel the imagination with flames and energy.  

We hope to inspire the same creative spark that allowed someone like Coretta Scott King to bear the weight of a legacy with grace and integrity. ("I’ll Go Alone," Alexander) and that enabled Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century mystic to illuminate the spiritual ("O frondens virga," Kesselman), as well as music from the film Portrait of a Lady on Fire ("La Jeune Fille en Feu," Simonini), a Macedonian dance ("Makedonska Humoreska," Skalovski) and much more to help us a find a way through the darkness and into the light.


Days of Beauty

In spite of everything, beauty still inspires. C21 Women's Ensemble invites you along on our musical journey this October through the 'Days of Beauty."​

We don't fit the usual. The name of our group represents the world we live in - the 21st century - but that doesn't limit us. We go back, way back, to what got us here. We slap and clap our way through 16th century madrigals and motets, 19th century German folks’ songs, a Bulgarian wedding, and onward to current repertoire that embraces the earth and the empowerment of women.

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Dancing in the Dark

Candlelight, movement, shadows...we’re dancing in the dark, waltzing in the wonder of why we’re here. C21, the elite all-women ensemble that performs eclectic, intricate music from around the globe and across time has been delighting sold-out audiences in Chicago for years. Fresh, unpredictable, bold, we embrace the venerable as well as the modern, the classic, the overlooked and the innovative. From tight harmonies to body percussion, we insist on having fun and our loyal audience seems to agree. The program includes “What Happens When a Woman” by Alexandra Olsavsky, Sean Ivory's setting of poet Wendell Berry's “Peace of the Wild Things,” pieces by Argentina’s Santiago Veros and Slovenia's,Makor Andrej and “The Storm,” a body-percussive showstopper that will have you tapping your feet. 

Philosopher/poet Meeta Ahluwalia says, “She danced wild across the evening sky, dispersing clouds with the frills of her gown.” We do just that: dancing in the dark, dancing like no one is watching, singing proud and feeling free in our music. 



"Will you be my sanctuary, my haven in the storm?”  Will we be refuge for one another until we can carry on?  Refuge that restores resilience, refuge as prelude to action. 


Where do you find sanctuary, refuge, haven, harbor, safe zone, oasis?  Music is all of that for C21 women's ensemble as we journey in search of soulful refuge that restores and sends us back to the troubled world, refreshed and ready to re-engage.


Our search takes us from prayers to dreams to finding the strength of our own voice in the summer's wind.  Not an escape but a coming home.  Safely home to our true selves.  To solace in the hand of a soulmate, to the supportive ground beneath a loved one's bare foot, to the cathedral of the natural world,  to the sanctuary of morning, wherever it lies, to the calm in our own self assurance.  “Dying into love like a cloud dissolving in the sunlight.”  Finding ourselves on the other side of the grave itself because a refuge is not a prison.  Find your own sanctuary—or at least imagine it from here.

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In Flight 

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Touch the Universe

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Silent No More

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The Power Of Her Voice

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