Between the hustle and bustle of Hanukkah and Christmas, POHC members from all around the city gathered to sing at the Women's Mental Health Shelter at the Park Avenue Armory, part of the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House organization. Those of us who found our way into the fortress via the Park Avenue entrance wound up on the third floor. Those who entered through the side door on 67th Street wound up in the basement. Each group wondered when the others were going to show up. Thank you to our Communications Coordinator and Baritone member Robert, for finally uniting us. We warmed up in a side room where some kind elf had left cookies and apple cider for us, along with a thank you note. Then we went into the cafeteria to perform. There were only a handful of people there, so the woman in charge announced over the PA system that there would be a concert, and a few more women came in.We opened with Seasons of Love—no introduction, just singing. One or two women swayed; most just sat with no expression. The applause was appreciative but mild. Then a woman called out, “Can I ask a question? Was that fromRent?” René said it was, and the ice was broken.
Next came Ocho Kandelikas, (Eight Candles, a Hanukkah song in Ladino) introduced by René. One woman sang the counting part with us. Our sound must have traveled to the dormitory rooms off the sides of the long hall outside the cafeteria, because little by little, more women drifted in.
Julie filled in for Megan with Silver Bells, with many audience members now singing along with us. After we finished Night of Silence/Silent Night, another woman called out that her former husband used to be in a choir, and he sang Silent Night during every concert he did. As we introduced each song, the connection between the audience and the choir grew. They especially loved Alex’s intro to California Dreamin. When we got to the “Gonna shake hands around the world” part of Down By the Riverside, some choir members went into the audience to shake hands while we sang, and all the women extended their hands to us.
Our effect on these women was palpable. Some faces brightened right away. Some took three or four songs before they were pulled in. But by the end of the evening, all had let go of the history they had come into the room with and let themselves become totally involved in the moment.
As we were walking out at the end, I told one woman I saw her singing the German lyrics to Silent Night, and she said she used to live in Hamburg and her husband is from Sicily. The woman sitting next to her said, “I feel as if you just got started. I could go on and on.” Another great concert, POHC. This is what we're all about.
-Peace of Heart Alto It has become a tradition for a member of POHC to do a post-concert write-up. It started when our Sign-up Coordinator began emailing her summaries to the other members in order to entice newer members to sign-up to sing at community concerts held early in the season. It didn't take long for Concert Write-ups to become greatly anticipated amongst our members, so we share them here in hopes that you'll join us at a future concert.