Sixteen performers, and twelve audience members in a very small room. Chamber music. Up close and personal.
Clyde Burton House, at the end of Alphabet City (between C-D, but feels more like Z when you’re walking there), has 33 SRO units of supportive, permanent housing for formerly homeless seniors or seniors with mental health issues. (A senior is someone over 55.) It’s one of the facilities run by the Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), and our own Soprano Olga does volunteer work there. The crafts her seniors made were hanging on the bulletin board.
We warmed up by running through several numbers, mainly so the various stringed instruments (Rene’s, Brian’s, Marv’s) could coordinate. A few audience members were already seated during this time, and we explained that they would be hearing these songs again. One of the men said that was fine: “Y’all good at what you do, from what I heard.” One of the women sang along with “Pieces of the World,” even though there was no way she could have heard the song before. After Carrie introduced the choir, when we officially started with “Siyahamba,” she sang along with that, too.
These men and women joined in enthusiastically on the singalongs, and the ones who didn’t sing had smiles on their faces. Wilfred was the Jack of all soloists, doing both “Lonesome Road” and “Let There Be Peace On Earth.” And Rene livened the show by explaining things about his instruments, especially the wooden sticks he was using during “Siyahamba” instead of drums—though the song was Zulu, he said, from Africa, and the sticks were from Mexico, they went well together. Rene also told them that this wasn’t the whole choir, and they wanted to know when we were going to come back with the rest. (There’s no way we could all fit in that room.)
One of the woman who was singing along with gusto told me after the performance that her mother was a music teacher, and she was a singer. She asked whether we were performing anywhere that she could come to. I told her about the fundraiser at Baruch and gave her a pamphlet. She doesn’t have a computer but uses the ones at the public library and said she was going to check for when our auditions were “now that things are settling down.”
When I got home, before writing this, I looked at the BRC and clicked on a video called “Grace’s Story” (see below for link). It turned out to be the story of the woman who was singing “Siyahamba” and “Pieces of the World.” The subtitle of the video is “Every Homeless Person Has a Story. This is Grace’s.” It’s not often that we get to know the personal histories of the people we sing for. It adds another dimension to what we do.
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