For an upper-west-sider who rarely ventures into Queens, I felt I was in a foreign country when I got off the #7 train at Main Street. The store signs were in Asian characters, and people on the corner were handing out flyers in Asian characters. A man thrust a flyer toward me, looked at my face, and took it back. Fortunately, the street signs were in the roman alphabet, and I found my way to the library easily.
The lobby was busy, with one area set aside for NYC-ID card applicants, and another for library card applicants. I applied for a library card myself (disclosure: I’m a librarian), then went down to the auditorium, where I found Rene fiddling with some wires. After leaving my things in the green room I joined my fellow singers in the freezing front row of the auditorium while Rene finished setting up his latest toy: a new microphone.
We went on stage to do our warm-ups, with Rob arranging us into rows. The new microphone proved to be superb—you don’t have to stand on top of it to get a good sound. We did a practice walk-off: back row leaves first, remember who’s on either side of you, one line snaking down the corridor. Obedient, we remained on that line for about ten minutes, until word came to go onstage for real, no time to return to the green room to leave sweaters. Jeanette, Anthony’s mom, to the rescue. She collected sweaters and water bottles as we filed past (they were waiting for us in the green room after the performance).
We opened with “Pieces of the World” (Gail, Olga, Wilfred, Brian, and Deb on solo), after which Rene asked Brian to tell the story of how he wrote the song. The audience looked sparser than it was, because they were spread throughout the large auditorium, not all sitting in one area, but they seemed to enjoy both the song and the explanation.
Next came “Lonesome Road” (Maryann on solo), followed by “Peace Like a River,” a sing-along. Other sing-alongs, sprinkled among our more serious offerings, were “This Little Light of Mine,” “Down By the Riverside,” and “Rock-a my Soul.” There was more physical distance between the choir and the audience than there usually is, and it was hard to tell how many people were actually singing along, but it was clear that they were clapping along, some were swaying, and some did hand gestures for “so high, can’t get over it...”
The audience grew slightly as we sang the rest of our repertoire: “Mo Li Hua” (Marv on flute), “Guantanamera (Rene and Brian on strings-and-picks), “Ose Shalom” (Amanda’s hauntingly soulful clarinet, with Brian on guitar), “One Day” (Olga and Gary on solo), “Arirang” (Marv and Gail on flute), “Bright Morning Star” (we get better on this every time), “Give Us Hope,” and “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”
While this audience was appreciative—we were musically very good—and they were obviously engaged, as evidenced by their applause and their clap-alongs, I didn’t feel the connection with them that I do at most outreach concerts. Some of that may have been because this was a formal auditorium, and they were farther away from us than usual. It may also have been because we have gotten out of the habit of having individual choir members introduce each song. I felt that this audience would have been receptive to that, because the few times we did engage directly with them were met by applause: When Brian explained “Pieces of the World,” when Brian said this was Amanda’s first concert, and toward the middle, when Gary and Olga were in position for the start of their solos in “One Day,” and Gary asked Rene if he could say something about the choir first.
After the concert, eleven of us followed Anthony’s mom into a bazaar type arcade, up two escalators, and into a palace with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and chairs covered in salmon-pink fabric. This, she told us, was the “best dim-sum place in Queens.” When the hostess said there was no room for us, because they were expecting a large party, Jeanette talked to them in Chinese, and they found us two tables.
Non sequitur—best of the maestro’s witticisms to come out of this concert: In describing the taped-together pages of his sheet music (so he doesn’t have to turn pages), Rene said, “It’s longer than a CVS receipt.”
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