On Tuesday, December 18, POHC visited Rivington House on Manhattan's Lower East Side. After showing our photo IDs to security and receiving our bright red visitor stickers, we were instructed to press PH in the elevator. This brought us to the pent house on the fifth floor. It consisted of two large rooms, one with chairs set up in rows and a grand piano covered with a red Christmas cloth, the other with physical therapy tables complete with pillows. We stored our coats and bags near the PT tables, and Tenor Anthony’s mom put out the pizza-with-everything she had brought for us. Back in the first room we did our warm-ups as a few staff members made final adjustments to the chair arrangement and someone on the loud speaker announced a Hearts Voices concert (meaning us) in the pent house. The residents--some using wheelchairs, others using canes, some walking without assistive devices--dribbled in as we were still running through a few bars of each song, deciding what to sing.They took their seats and watched intently, so we explained that this was just the rehearsal. It was fine with them—they seemed to like this taste of what was to come. One guy shouted out that he remembered us from last year.
Five minutes later, we began the real performance.As always, Siyahamba got us off to a rousing start. This audience loved everything we did. They clapped. They sang along. When we got to the line "gonna-shake-hands-around-the-world" from Down By the Riverside, and were making our way through the audience, a woman said “Happy Holidays” to me while I was singing and shaking her hand. René gave the audience instructions on how to join us for Little Bitty Pretty One, and they followed him to the letter, even to the softer and softer fade-out at the end. When he gave the final cut-off, they did so exactly on time! Tenor Wilfred and Soprano Gwen did a great job on the solos--without microphones.
Lily (former choir member, and the one who was the contact for this gig) slipped into the back of the audience while we were singing the third or fourth number. So when we got to the closing song, Let There Be Peace On Earth, I invited her up to sing it with us.
A woman in the front row thought I was inviting her up, and she came to stand next to the altos. This woman hardly smiled throughout the concert, but clapped and sang along from her seat. Now, standing in front with us and facing the audience, she still didn’t smile, but she knew all the words and kept her eye on René and did everything she was supposed to do as a member of the choir. René caught her eye to let her know he knew she was up there and that he was including her. After the applause, while we were still standing before the audience, she went back to her seat. Though she didn’t say anything, we could tell that this had given her a lot of pleasure. A nice reminder of how our mission to bring music to those in need includes allowing their voices (and hearts) to join with ours.
- 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.