According to CAMBA’s website, the Park Slope Women’s Shelter “enables mentally-ill and often substance-abusing women to stabilize their condition and move toward permanent and/or supported housing.” They’re located in the Park Slope Armory. We entered through double doors so massive they wouldn’t have been out of place in a medieval castle, then mounted an imposing symmetrical staircase to our warm-up room. The acoustics there were great; Rene said he could record in it.The acoustics weren’t as good in the large dining room we performed in, but that hardly mattered. This was the most responsive adult group we have ever sung for, rivaling the YAI kids in their enthusiasm. Our first number was—you guessed it—Siyahamba. One or two women caught on and sang it with us. Others swayed in their seats, as they did for the next two numbers, also lively: Oseh Shalom and This Land is Your Land. Then an abrupt mood change with Oy Es Dia De Placer, and the room became more peaceful.
Little did Larry know when he introduced Wanemo that there was a native Nigerian in the audience.
“What language is it in?” she asked.
“Igbo,” Deb said.
“OK,” the woman said. “Let’s see.”
We told her that it was only one word, and we would ask her at the end of the song whether it sounded right. When we finished, we received her verdict: “That was correct.”
We followed Imagine and Peace Salaam Shalom with Rock-a My Soul, with Rene saying, “Let’s put you to work now,” and dividing them into three groups. They LOVED it and truly rocked that hall, sounding as good as, if not better than, we did. Wilfred gave a touching introduction to Waltz of the Flowers that ended in early holiday greetings and wishes for a good year. He got a round of applause. Then I introduced Give Us Hope, telling them it was written after 9/11 with the message that what children needed most was hope. “Amen,” a woman in the back called out.
By far the most amazing song of the evening was Aquarius. Wilfred brought the house down with his adlib in the Let The Sun Shine In part. There was one woman in the first row who had been paying attention during the entire concert, but with a long and serious face. Until Wilfred’s “business,” as Rene called it. All at once she was smiling widely, eyes shining.
We closed with Let There Be Peace On Earth, and when we took a bow, we got a standing ovation.
As a fitting end to the evening, ten or twelve of us, Rene included, took the F train back toward Manhattan, and, in high spirits, we honored the subway car with a reprise of Siyahamba.
- Peace of Heart Choir Singer