Mary Sherman Lycan, the founding conductor of Women’s Voices Chorus, has spent the last ten years as a researcher, publisher, performer, conductor and advocate of classical choral music for women’s voices.
Born in Connecticut in 1947, she began piano lessons at age 7, and learned sight-singing in the Glastonbury public schools. At age 11, she joined the St. Cecilia Girls’ Choir at St. James’s Church, New London, and the choir at the then all-girls’ Williams School.
She graduated from Brown University with an A.B in music, and studied musicology at the University of Chicago. She has studied choral conducting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with Daniel Huff and Susan Klebanow.
She has played the organ and sung in choirs from Columbus, Ohio to Sydney, Australia, including one term as a chorister at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Wellington, New Zealand. She has also been organist and choir director at various Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Episcopal churches in the Triangle area of North Carolina.
In the autumn of 1991, while living temporarily in Palo Alto, California, Mary joined the Peninsula Women’s Chorus, directed by the late Patricia Hennings. After a twenty-seven year hiatus from women’s choirs, the beauty and power of 60 adult women singing together were a revelation to her, and she determined to start a women’s chorus when she returned to Chapel Hill.
In 1993 Women’s Voices Chorus was born. Looking for lost historic repertoire by women composers for the chorus to sing, she has amassed a database of a thousand pieces by women, for women, through research at the Library of Congress. At choral conductors’ conventions, she heard fellow conductors of women’s choirs begging a panel of publishers for more good repertoire for women’s chorus so she started a desktop publishing venture. In 1995 Treble Clef Music Press was born. Wishing more community-based women’s choirs could enjoy the musical growth and pure fun of a festival, she also started the North Carolina Women’s Choral Festival in 2002.
Mary is an active member of the American Choral Directors Association. In 2003 she was named the North Carolina state chair for women’s chorus repertoire and standards. She has presented workshops on women’s choral history and repertoire at regional and national conventions of the ACDA.
Mary and her husband, William G. Lycan, have one daughter, Jane. Mary is an avid knitter, and can sometimes be found rowing a boat on University Lake in Chapel Hill.[back][Papers, la]