Cylar House, run by Housing Works, houses residents living with HIV/AIDS and also has a day program for HIV+ individuals in need of supportive case management. In addition, they have a Behavioral Health Clinic open to the general public. It is located in AlphabetLand, and Yes, Virginia, this is really Manhattan. The concert announcement said to allow at least 15 minutes to walk from whatever subway we took. It wasn’t wrong. Except for one Soprano who lives in the neighborhood, we each had a transportation war-story to share.
We warmed up on the sixth floor, in a room adjoining an outdoor terrace with chaise lounges. Much to our surprise, we were met there by a professional photographer. It turns out that Noella had advertised for one on Craigs list, and this young man had offered to volunteer his services. Considering that today was the first time we met, he was pretty cool, fitting in immediately, taking pictures of our warmups and later, the concert.
We performed in a sunny—and very hot—room on the ground floor. Gary’s father, Rudy, gave a solo recital before we went on, playing unaccompanied clarinet pieces from his fake-book. He started while we were still warming up, so we got to hear only the end of it—a soulful rendition of Body and Soul.
As soon as we started singing Siyahamba, two men in the corner whipped out their cell phones and began videoing us. The audience was quiet but responsive, swaying to the music. A few were fanning themselves, but their eyes never left us. We followed that with Oseh Shalom and Samiotisa, with Rene explaining that it had 7 beats to a measure and telling them that some African songs had 11 beats. They seemed interested. Down by the Riverside got about half of them singing along, and all shook hands with us when we went out into the audience. When the song was over, one of the men who had been videoing us shouted out, “I like you guys,” and after our next number, Oy Es Dia, he shouted, “I just found your Facebook page!”
Imagine had many singing along, and those who didn’t were leaning forward in their seats. Then came Chanukkah in Santa Monica, which Rene introduced, telling them about Tom Lehrer and social commentary. Rudy accompanied us. Of all the numbers we did so far, this got the most applause, especially when Rene said there were three generations in the room, Rudy, Gary, and Gary’s son.
We followed This Land Is Your Land with Wanemo. When we finished it, a woman called out, “I know that song.” (I went up to her after the concert to ask how she knew it. She said her husband was African, and he had a Nigerian friend.) After Give Us Hope, we did Aquarius, with Gary doing the honors. This was applauded and applauded and applauded. Next was Rock-a-My-Soul, and even the people who hadn’t participated in the first two sing-alongs joined in.
After our final number, Let There Be Peace, Gary said that we liked singing for them and hoped to be invited back. “Yes!” they shouted. “We loved it!”
-Peace of Heart Choir Singer
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