BRATTLEBORO — Many of the singers in the Brattleboro Women's Chorus are committed to singing with the group — which explains the fact that the Chorus is celebrating its 20th anniversary this fall — but Marty Moscrip takes that commitment to a whole new level. After retiring to North Carolina, she decided that she wants to be a part of the anniversary celebration, so she fitted up a camper and headed north for the fall.
"Somebody in Chorus said, 'Are you going to do that every week?'" she recalled. "No — I came up in a camper, stopped at truck stops on the way up, and am staying with a friend who is giving me space in her apartment.
"I was doing whatever it took," she continued, "because I knew it would be joyful for me to sing, to embrace the light of the season — and it is."
The camper is a van with tinted rear windows for privacy. Moscrip installed a place to sleep and some storage space so that she could pull off the highway wherever she wanted to.
"Truck stops are great," she noted. "They're safe."
She has been singing with the Chorus since 2004.
"I came in 2004 and I saw the spring concert with Verandah Porche reading a poem, and the Chorus was doing songs that went with the poem," she said. "I was amazed by the blend of voices and the energy behind the songs."
Unlike some Chorus members, who have never sung in a group before joining, Moscrip had experience as a singer.
"I sang in my choir growing up in church," she said. "I sang in choir at college, and in my hippy days I wandered to Colorado and sang in a bar for the six-month ski season. When I'm walking down the street I'm singing."
She sang with the Chorus every year from 2004 to when she retired in 2013 from her work as a mental-health counselor at the Brattleboro Retreat. After retiring, she traveled around for a while before settling in Oak Island, N.C., with her partner, Nancy Pike.
"It's an island community," she explained. "In the winter there are 6,000 residents, but in the summer there are 40,000 because of tourism."
Moscrip said she and Pike have found their new community different from Brattleboro not only geographically, but culturally.
"My experience so far in the South is that diversity is tolerated, but I think here (in Brattleboro) we encourage conversation," she commented. "On a personal level, Nancy and I have a Buddha flag flying in front of our house, and across the street is a Confederate flag. Conversations are really about what are the differences and how you come together as neighbors in a neighborhood with such radically different opinions."
While she is enjoying some elements in the new culture, "Neighbors do help each other out," she added that it doesn't always feel comfortable.
"It's like living where something is stewing, like in a pressure cooker, and you're not sure if the lid's coming off.
"We've also found a little group of folks who are inclusive and accepting of diversity and as concerned about social justice as we are," she continued, "and we have a little meditation group that meets every week on the beach unless the weather's bad."
She tried joining various singing groups near her new home, but was disappointed.
"I tried a chorus down there, and the music was depressing for me," she said. "I tried a choir down there with a great director, but could not get behind the spiritual message of the church. I volunteered to sing in nursing homes with a group, but that wasn't a fit either.
"And then I got an email from Becky (Graber, director of the Women's Chorus) saying it was the 20th anniversary, and I came back to sing with these wonderful women," she recalled. "Sometimes you just have to do what your heart says. Once you retire, you reach a point where it's important to do the things that are important in your heart, and it's one of those things for me — right from my tippy-toes to the top of my head.
"I feel connected to the community," she continued. "I'm a singer through the deaths of family and friends, through changing jobs, through all of life's transformations. It's the anchor for me of every week. I can go and sing and feel connected to a much larger community, so Chorus for me is a blending of voices, a connection to the women's community, and a gift for the larger community."
Having been away for a couple of years, she is rediscovering the power of the Chorus's music.
"I'm delightfully amazed at the number of folks who have come back to sing from the past and that we're 100 strong and that the blend is so beautiful," she concluded. "If you're a singer, I can't imagine a better way to sing — I really can't. It's such a community of friends, and messages of empowerment and social justice. What else would I want to sing?"