The Sisters of Mercy closed their Willoughby Avenue convent in 2008, after 146 years of ministering to the homeless, orphans, and the sick. The beautiful building now serves as the administrative office for Mercy Home, the order’s network of thirteen group homes for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The building is also used as a community center, a place the residents come for recreation and enrichment programs. It was POHC’s privilege to be the recreation for this evening, both on the giving and receiving end.
The door of our small warmup room was open, and people stopped by to introduce themselves and shake hands on their way to the former chapel, now the auditorium. Many of them knew Michael Anne, the POHC Soprano who works for Mercy Home and arranged this gig. When it was time to begin, we marched down the center aisle to the stage area in front, with people waving and smiling as we passed. Ruth introduced the choir, and then we opened with—you guessed it—“Siyahamba.” It’s always a hit, but this time, when it was over, someone shouted Encore! above the applause.
Encores we did. Ten. By pre-arrangement, most were singalongs, with POHC members mingling with the very receptive audience during Rock-a-My Soul. The rest of our numbers were sung on stage, which we shared with one of the residents and his full set of drums. Occasionally he helped us keep the beat, but otherwise he just sat and listened. This audience was dressed up for an event, and they all had big smiles on their faces. They moved. They swayed. They Clapped. A few even stood up to bounce in place while we sang and Rene, Ruth, and Marv played—not all at once—two guitars, a mandolin, and a ukulele. Thanks to Wilfred and Deb for beautiful solos.
After our closing “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” we got to sit in the audience and hear their band, The Melodic Souls. The drum guy on stage came to life, and so did a keyboard player and a guitar player. Other members of the band were in the first two rows of the audience, turned around to face the rest of the audience while they shook maracas and tambourines. Each member of the band was introduced by the drummer and got up to take a bow while the audience whooped and hollered. Then came an original song, “On Our Way Home,” and a standard, “I Can See Clearly Now.” One of the staff members passed a microphone around to give each of the band members a solo moment. Now it was our turn to clap.
On my way to the reception that followed—pastries, fruit salad, and beverages—another staff members stopped me to say, “You guys are great! So in sync and in harmony. You gave me the chills.”
Tonight, we did, indeed, sing joy. Furaha!
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