This past Saturday, the Virginia Women’s Chorus put on their first “Women Against Violence: Rise Up” benefit concert in Old Cabell Hall. The concert, which featured music from various a capella groups from both the University of Virginia and the local Charlottesville area, aimed to raise awareness on the topic of sexual assault.
KaeRenae Mitchell, the orchestrator of this event and the Director of the Virginia Women’s Chorus, first gained her inspiration while reading the survivor’s account of her rape from the controversial Brock Turner case. Drawing on this inspiration, Mitchell organized an inaugural concert benefitting three local Charlottesville organizations that provide vital resources for survivors of sexual assault: the Sexual Assault Advocacy Fund (SAAF), Sexual Assault Resource Fund (SARA), and the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at UVa.
With this concert, she also wanted to emphasize importance of using one’s voice.
“After the Rolling Stone article put UVa in a negative spotlight, I thought we could shine the light on the positive messages that the University is sending,” Mitchell said. “And it is imperative that young women’s and men’s voices are heard – literally! Music has long been used to create social change and has the inherent ability to unify and inspire others.”
The concert itself kicked off with resounding applause following a performance of the Coldplay song, “Fix You,” by No Fella A Capella, an all-girl ensemble from Albemarle High School. Next came moving and poignant performances by the Virginia Women’s Chorus, the Virginia Belles, the Virginia Gentleman, the Virginia Sil’hooettes, as well as the Virginia Glee Club. Interspersed between sets was information on how to get involved and learn about sexual assault issues.
The concert later ended with a standing ovation following an all-female combined rendition of “Still I Rise” by Rosephayne Powell, in which students from Charlottesville High School and Monticello High School also participated.
Mitchell hopes that after this concert, “people feel empowered and emboldened to take a stand against violence and disrespect, whether it is in conversations, financial contributions to organizations that help survivors, or by volunteering to help those in need.”