Praxilla Femina: A Woman's Opera Collective Making Art For Everyone

courtesy of Praxilla Femina's  website

courtesy of Praxilla Femina's website

Body lyrics and a 5th century BCE feminist may be what you need to get through the remaining days of this catastrophic year.

Not surprisingly, many social justice organizations were born out of the shock and horror that rippled through the US  after the results of the 2016 election. Almost immediately, many social service providers were flooded with volunteers, those who felt the need to kill (with kindness) and give back to their communities. But how many social justice groups speak music and are armed with classical opera training?

Praxilla Femina, Chicago's feminist music collective, was founded by a group of women desiring to enact change and radicalize a medium that historically profits off pretty women singing pretty. Classical music—and more specifically opera—has been viewed as an elite art, where concert halls are filled with those with deep pockets and little concern for those outside of their inner circles. Singer Andrea Hansen hopes to radicalize this art and demands, "classical music gets back to a social aspect. Not just you sit in a dark room and applaud when you're told to applaud."

This collective's namesake, Praxilla, was a woman composer famous for her choral hymns and drinking songs. She encountered much adversity in a field dominated by men and they treated her with the same disdain as a prostitute. Embodying this resiliency to push into realms usually gendered or uncomfortable, Praxilla Femina are today's "nasty women."

Praxilla Femina's music speaks social justice through supporting local causes. "We have this talent to draw people to an awareness of a social justice issue using something that they may not have known." Megan Cook speaks of the collective's partnership with other social organizations, which have resulted in concrete resources for those in need. Their inaugural concert on April 8th at Volumes Bookcafe was a great success. They partnered with Chicago Books to Women in Prison, where they were able to collect over sixty books and raise almost $200. Since then, they have continued to put on concerts with a purpose. Doing good is a part of their mission and they show no sign of stopping.

Listen to these strong women yourselves via SoundCloud, where they discuss their lives, Praxilla's origins, and plans for the future. Brava to these women!