Dallas — The Women’s Chorus of Dallas will present its annual Mother’s Day concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Texas Discovery Gardens at Fair Park. Artistic Director Melinda Imthurn has put “Spring Song” together to honor all types of maternal figures. The song selection looks to both celebrate the powerful bond of motherhood and the “good times,” without shying away from the struggles in the most complicated of relationships—between a mother and a child.
“We don’t approach this concert with the expectation that everyone has had a rosy relationship with their mothers,” says Imthurn. “For some people, it’s someone else that they are singing about.”
Members of the 50-plus member chorus will be telling some of their own stories during a presentation of “Music in My Mother’s House,” which has become a Women’s Chorus of Dallas tradition and a real tissue-grabber. The song and stories offer both the chorus and the audience an opportunity to reminisce and connect with memories, something that Oak Cliff resident Imthurn says is especially appreciated by people those whose mothers are no longer with them. Another tradition, to continue this year, is a butterfly release in the Discovery Garden at the conclusion of the concert.
Some of the chorus members have recently become new mothers themselves, and Imthurn is among them. She sat down to talk with TheaterJones about her experience going through an, at times, uncertain fostering process. Imthurn and her wife Lisa had been caring for their daughter for a year and moved to officially adopt her when it looked as if the little girl may be sent somewhere else. There was also uncertainty over whether she and Lisa should get married before or after going through the adoption process, or at all. They were first told by their agency to hold off on marriage and then told to get married as soon as possible. “So we planned this somewhat last minute wedding and we got married in December,” said Imthurn. The adoption became final last month.
TheaterJones: Do you consider this Mother’s Day your first as a mother?
Melinda Imthurn: Last year we thought she may be going to live somewhere else, so it was different. I did feel like a parent last year, it’s just more permanent this time. For the first five years of doing this concert, my perceptive was my mother. I was the child and I was thinking about my own mother. And now, it’s a completely different perceptive. Not that one is better or worse, it’s just a huge difference.
So, it changes the nature of the day for you? You see it differently?
Definitely. I wasn’t consciously more guarded before we adopted her. I really did make an effort to be her parent, whether she was staying or leaving. That’s what a kid deserves, is someone to love them and give them everything they can. Now that it is final, I recognize that I was holding back a little bit. And, so was she. Something has changed in our house since it happened, and she is really too young to really understand what has happened. There’s just this…I don’t know how to describe it.
Maybe a greater willingness to be vulnerable? A sense of safety?
Yes. Yes, I think so. Even after we got the news that we were going to be able to adopt her, we had read that up until the last minute—the last minute—anything could change. For her sake we didn’t want to say that we were going to be a family forever and then have it change. We didn’t want her to have any more trauma than she’s already had. Now, it’s like “We’re a family” and it’s not going to change. We can say that. Nobody was holding back on purpose before, it’s just that we’re happier now! It’s a huge weight off of your shoulders.
Did your experience influence the song selection for this year?
Oh, for sure. This song, “The Peace of Wild Things,” which is a Wendell Berry poem. “When despair of the world grows…and I awake in the night.” I thought “We have to do this song.” So many people are feeling this politically, but also, what is this going to be for my daughter? Someone growing up in this political climate right now, what are they learning? And, then I wanted to do “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific and “Children Will Listen” [from Into the Woods]. It’s more important to me than ever that we get past all this stuff. But, then we also have “Morning Glow” from Pippin. We wanted to be hopeful that the winds of change are going to blow and things are going to turn around.
Being a same-sex couple, did you run into any road blocks with the state?
Our agency is very gay friendly. As far as the agency went, not at all. Nothing overt that we saw from the state. I would say that for most of the people involved, it was not an issue. I think there are so many gays who are fostering now. From the perspective of the state, their goal is to get a kid into a home. So, it would not be wise to not support it. There’s nothing to suggest that it’s anything but good to find a home, rather than the kid spending the night in a CPS office.
Did you feel as if you made a political statement in any way?
No. I mean, there was nothing like that behind it. I’m glad that the politics have caught up with what’s in the best interests of the kids. That we were able to foster, get married and adopt her together—that’s a big deal. I guess it is a political statement just being who you are. We’re going to be pretty busy parenting right now, but later when things are slower, I really…it’s a broken system, the foster system. Everyone who is involved in making the rules haven’t been in it, and it doesn’t work. There are so many things that need to change. I don’t know what it’s going to take, but that’s something I feel passionately about. Right now, I’m happy just being a mom.