We performed at a Barrier Free Living domestic violence shelter. Due to high security around the shelter, no photos were taken at this outreach. It was two days before Thanksgiving and it was easy to miss the location—in fact, Gary and I almost walked past it at first. We met Rene and a small group of choir members inside. We displayed our IDs at the front desk and made our way to the room downstairs where we would rehearse and leave our belongings. We actually equaled over 20 singers at this outreach which is quite impressive considering it was arranged on such short notice. We did our vocal warm-up, rehearsed some of our repertoire and began to make our way upstairs.
Wonderful photos of residents lined the hallway—really candid shots which were so real and beautiful at the same time--photos that I would later find out were actually taken by the CEO, Paul Feuerstein. As I walked into the dining room where we would be performing, a young girl perhaps twelve-years-old held the door open for me and told me with a warm, welcoming smile that I looked pretty. We lined up according to our respective sections and we knew it was going to be a tight fit, but that was ok
There was a homey feel about the room. There were 17 tables with Thanksgiving-themed tablecloths with arrangements of pumpkins and gourds. Smells of the Thanksgiving meal filled the air. A fellow choir member noted to me that the smells were making her hungry. There were more than 100 people in attendance mostly women and children with a small number of men.
We launched into our signature opening, Siyahamba. The sounds of welcome continued with the lovely sounds created by us on Wanemo. Pocarekare Ana sounded so pretty in the dining room. One of this season’s new songs, Chiribim, introduced and performed beautifully by Leslie was a big hit with the children. The audience was having fun. There was such an excitement, particularly from the young people. But then again pretty early on, it became obvious that we had a fan club at this outreach. The wide smiles, clapping and singing along were priceless and very touching. You would not know the distress or the trauma that our audience have experienced, but only feel the joy of our audience—women, children, and a few men all in the moment.
During Down by the Riverside, we ran out into the audience to shake hands and there was such warmth I felt. Kudos to Dave and Marv for fine musical accompaniment throughout. Dave was going to perform the solo in James Taylor’s That Lonesome Road but couldn’t find his glasses. There was a mad dash to find his glasses and when it was apparent they wouldn’t turn up, Nancy stepped in with a lovely solo. Nancy and Gary partnered up for the Carole King classic, You’ve Got A Friend. Ruth pointed out that Give Us Hope was an anthem for our children because children are our future.
The outreach ended with a warm thank-you from the CEO, a generous man who expressed his appreciation for our visit and we were greeted with warm, enthusiastic applause. We made our way downstairs to get our coats and spoke to the director before we left. It was her third Thanksgiving party that day and her energy and her passion for the mission of empowerment is undeniable. We left the outreach on an absolute high.
There would be no photos of this outreach. But I know this was one of the best outreach concerts I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of. I also know the images are indelible in the minds of all who took part—exuberant souls and those wonderful, smiling children. This is what Thanksgiving is all about—the ability to experience joy in the moment, the triumph of spirit and true gratitude against all odds.
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