It was a warm autumn afternoon on Sunday. I got off the F train at the Roosevelt Island stop and I spotted fellow choir members, Howard, and then Wilfred, and then Sheila and Doug. We chatted as we made our way up the seemingly endless escalators in the station. We made our way above ground looking for the red shuttle bus stop that would bring us to our destination—Coler Rehabilitation and Nursing Facility, a government-run, 815-bed nursing home--where Peace of Heart Choir was scheduled to perform an outreach concert later that afternoon. (Roosevelt Island is a narrow island about two-miles long in New York City’s East River. It lies between Manhattan to its west and the borough of Queens on Long Island to its east, and is part of Manhattan.) This would mark our first outreach concert at this venue.
After a brief wait, the little red shuttle bus pulled up and we took the short ride to the last stop where we saw a group of choir members who had decided to walk and explore the island on this lovely day. We walked to the main desk where a friendly face greeted us and asked to see our IDs and took our visitor photos. We put on our visitor photos and went to the recreational room where we would be performing. As more choir members joined us, Rene began a rehearsal. Coler residents began to trickle in and watch our rehearsal. They seemed appreciative and Vivian exclaimed enthusiastically to our early audience, “And this is only our rehearsal…”
There were about 60 people in our audience by the time we were about to start. Coler’s Recreational Therapist, George Smith, told the audience before we began, “If you like what you hear, be sure to show your appreciation with applause.” And so they did.
Our first song--one of our core songs--Brian Muni’s “Pieces of the World” with solos by Olga P., Gail, me, Wilfred, Brian, and Nancy was met with applause. The applause just grew throughout the outreach. We continued with “That Lonesome Road” with a solo by Gary. Next up was the sing-along, the African-American spiritual, “Peace Like A River” with an introduction by Nancy. I introduced our next song, the Pharrell Williams chart-topper “Happy”--a new song this season and this was our inaugural performance. The audience was obviously enjoying the music and this piece had made them happy indeed. I saw the joy as a man sitting in the third row wearing glasses and a Yankees shirt was smiling and bobbing his head up and down to the music. Another man in a lavender shirt sitting next to him was obviously enjoying our concert as well—his face beaming--a smile lighting up his face.
Audience members seemed to come alive as the outreach progressed. We continued with a crowd favorite, “Guantanamera” with an introduction by Rene and the reaction grew stronger. The audience loved this one! Another sing-along followed—“This Little Light of Mine”. Rene introduced our next song, “Ose Shalom”. We continued with one of our core songs, Matisyahu’s anthem calling for an end to violence, “One Day”, with solos by Wilfred and Olga.P. Our next song was the popular Korean folk song, “Arirang”, often considered the unofficial anthem of Korea with an introduction by Sheila with Amanda and Gail, both on flutes, providing musical accompaniment. Next was the sing-along “Down By the Riverside” during which several choir members went out into the audience to shake hands with audience members.
Ariel later noted to me how touched she was when an audience member--a man in a red shirt who in response to Ariel shaking his hand, kissed her hand in return. Barry introduced the next song, “Seven Principles”, highlighting the seven principles of each of the seven days of Kwanzaa. This was our first time performing it at an outreach this season and the audience obviously enjoyed it. Rene introduced the next sing-along “Rock-A-My-Soul” during which choir members went into the audience to coach the audience their respective parts. Wilfred caught some amazingly candid photos of these special moments during our outreach and in such an inconspicuous way. Rene and Brian provided musical accompaniment throughout the outreach. Gail introduced the Jim Papoulis anthem with the theme of children as our future, “Give Us Hope”. We concluded with our signature closing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth” which Vivian introduced and took the opportunity to introduce Peace of Heart Choir and our mission to our audience. We bring the music to those who need it.
Recreational Therapist George Smith thanked us and asked the audience, “Do you want Peace of Heart Choir to come back?”
There was rollicking applause and a female voice emerged from a mostly male audience, “EVERY DAY,” she shouted enthusiastically.