I arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal to find fellow choir members but Rene was not there. He had taken an unannounced, unanticipated detour to Brooklyn courtesy of the MTA. We lined up with hundreds of ferry passengers and boarded the ferry which would take us to our destination, the Richmond County Ballpark. The day was beautiful—warm and mostly sunny-- and we enjoyed the views of the Lower Manhattan skyline including the Statue of Liberty and we took photos and selfies. There was an air of anticipation—this would be our second appearance singing the national anthem at the Staten Island Yankees game.
We arrived at the Staten Island Ferry St. George Terminal and found our usual route to the stadium was under construction so this outing provided us with a new path lined with a new view of buildings with great architecture. When we reached the front of the ballpark, there was a desk with a red banner with the invitation to “Win a Car” sponsored by the National Automobile Club of America/ Staten Island Region. We perused the antique cars that were part of the raffle and some of us even took photos with them. There was a white Camaro but perhaps the most popular were the antique black Ford circa 1922 and the shiny candy apple red Ford from the 1950s. I said that I loved the red one and Gail agreed adding that her father would have loved that one too.
We were so happy Rene was now here. He had just missed the ferry we took because his MTA train had bypassed his stop without any announcement and he had to take the train back to the bypassed Lower Manhattan stop to catch the ferry. It was now time for our first set. A sea of red Peace of Heart Choir caps and assorted Peace of Heart Choir T-shirts and polos, we joined our voices in song for our signature opening number, a spirited “Siyahamba” which transitioned into a rousing “Shosholoza” which featured Rene on vocals. People that were waiting in line to get into the stadium stopped and watched our set enthusiastically—happy to see us. We continued with a fun “Paz Y Libertad”, the sing-alongs “Peace Like a River” and “Down by the Riverside” and in a twist, we shook each other’s hands during “Down by the Riverside” rather than audience member’s hands. Our voices soared strong and confident throughout “Freedom Is Coming” and “That Lonesome Road” featuring a solo by Nancy. We concluded our set with a resonant, upbeat “Give Us Hope”, the perfect way to end our first set.
We made our way through the stadium to the clubhouse area where we had a short break before we took the field. We were chatting and excited, waiting to take the field. Before we knew it, it was time. This time we would be performing a short set in addition to the national anthem. We took our positions and walked across the grassy ball field. Oh, how I loved the smell of that freshly-cut grass that populated the field. I took a breath before we began with our first song, “Siyahamba”, and I inhaled the sweet smell of that grass and the song felt somehow brand new even though we’d sung it countless times before. We had an unexpected companion for our set—Scooter, the Staten Island Yankees mascot who had taken photos with us last year after we sang the national anthem. This time Scooter danced and hammed it up behind Rene’s back in upstaging fashion as we sang. That’s what mascots do—ham it up. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a mascot take a shot at conducting though—that was a first. We continued with a very heartfelt “Peace Like a River” and a very strong, triumphant “Freedom is Coming”. Extremely enthusiastic applause followed our set and we walked back off the field before we would sing our final song which would be the climactic moment of our visit here--the singing of the national anthem to kick off the game.
Before long, the announcer introduced us again and that we would sing the national anthem. Everyone rose and we lowered our caps to our hearts as we sang fully, gloriously, and from our hearts to the wonderful complement of Olivia playing the trumpet. There were thousands of spectators in the stadium. I looked at their faces—solemn and moved—I saw one man tearing up. Something spectacular happened before we finished singing—the clouds that had filled the sky in the last hour or so parted and the sun began to shine as if on cue with the trumpet and the music. We left the field feeling euphoric, the audience vigorously applauding our efforts.
Most of us stayed to watch the game and joined our family and friends to eat some food and enjoy each other’s company. The game was fun with many fun-filled activities between innings that made it enjoyable for children and the rest of us who are young-at-heart. Here Scooter was in his element, good-naturedly sparring with a little boy—the little boy won--and having a mock stand-off with one of the hosts. I loved the Staten Island Yankees dance team leading the audience and a group of children in dance moves. They even propelled some of us who are young-at-heart out of our seats. Sheila caught one of the many T-shirts that the on-field hosts/hostesses had thrown out into the crowd. The announcers and the Staten Island Yankees crew made us all feel welcome and at home. Jason, a Staten Island Yankees representative, told us as we watched the game that the Staten Island Yankees manager declared our rendition of the national anthem “the best he had ever heard sung at the stadium”. High praise, indeed.
A group of us stayed until we saw the final play and the game was over, the screen erupting into brightly colored letters that read “YANKEES WIN”. We made our way back to the ferry. I was thankful for this wonderful experience and I thought of how this day had been such an incredible way to cap off such a phenomenal Peace of Heart Choir season.
Carrie Wesolowski, Alto 1