I walked out of the Bowling Green train station and walked towards the signs with the word “Ferries”. A few minutes later, I reached the Staten Island Ferry terminal –the words “Staten Island Ferry” beckoned me. As I approached the terminal, I saw Jeanette and Anthony sitting on the benches outside. I chatted with them a bit and then walked inside. This was my first time inside the Staten Island Ferry terminal and this would not only be my first time taking the Staten Island Ferry but my first visit to Staten Island as well. I took the escalator upstairs and saw Larry with his official clipboard listing all of the choir members who had signed up and those who bought tickets for the game and needed to pick them up first. I checked in with Larry and received my red Peace of Heart Choir baseball cap—a perfect complement to my Yankees Baseball T-Shirt. Peace of Heart Choir was going to be doing a short set and then performing The National Anthem at the season opener of the Staten Island Yankees game. One by one choir members arrived and Larry crossed their names off his list and John and Larry distributed tickets as needed. Family and friends of choir members were also part of the POHC contingent.
The call to board the ferry came soon enough. It was rush hour and there were perhaps a thousand people who boarded. I marveled at how many people the ferry accommodated. We took the steps up to the second level and went out on deck to take in the breathtaking views of New York Harbor, particularly of The Statue of Liberty. As Michael Anne commented, “The Staten Island Ferry is still the best free way to see the Statue of Liberty and the skyline from the harbor.” We alternated between taking photos and then taking a break and enjoying the view.
Before we knew it, we had arrived. We got off the ferry and walked through a small transit hub with shops and a food court and then walked past a restaurant outside and then a short distance to the ballpark. We organized outside the ballpark for a short set. Rene set up his speakers, mic, and other equipment. Rene gave us the signal and we began with our opening number, a spirited “Siyahamba”. As we sang, I looked out towards the stadium and noticed the sign at the top “Ballpark At St. George”. To our left was an ESPN booth set up where people threw bean bags at a target in order to win prizes. We continued with a powerful “That Lonesome Road” featuring a solo by Nancy. The highlights for the crowd seemed to be the choir with Rene and his guitar on the crowd favorite, “Guantanamera” and the Jamaican mento/Calypso folk song, “The Banana Boat Song” which Rene signaled us to do “straight” –this time we wouldn’t have a leader. Leigh who was our contact from the ballpark excitedly commented that “The Banana Boat Song” was her favorite song and this was the best version she had ever heard. We concluded our set with our signature closing song, a sublime “Let There Be Peace on Earth” featuring a solo by Deb.
After our short set, we entered the stadium. Our holding area before our performance was a long hallway where we saw some of the ball players. There we ran through “The Star Spangled Banner” with Rene. Excitement building, it felt like the longest wait to take the field and then it was time. We lined up and took the field one by one as we walked through the gate that opened onto the field. As I walked out onto the field, I was struck by the smell of freshly cut grass—so fragrant, it permeated my nostrils. We took our positions and the PA announced that Peace of Heart Choir would be performing The National Anthem. That was our cue—we all took off our red Peace of Heart Choir caps and lowered them to our chests. It was a surreal moment. The music started and Rene began to direct us. I looked up at the spectators in the stands and the rapt looks on their faces. We sounded triumphant, strong, and inspiring and we had performed with heart. Before we knew it, we had gotten to the end of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The announcer directed the audience to give a warm round of applause for Peace of Heart Choir. The audience reaction was enthusiastic, Rene directed us to take a bow and we began to make our way off the field. If I could bottle the smell of the fragrant grass tickling my nostrils; I would, and if I could bottle that feeling as I left the field; I would too. I was on a high and I know every one of my fellow choir members was too. As we made our way off the field, it was a magical blur as I heard Leigh tell us how wonderful we all sounded, how a ball player said that it was the best version of The National Anthem he had ever heard and thanked us.
We then got to take pictures with the Staten Island Yankees mascot, Scooter, named after Phil Rizzuto in his honor. It was fun posing with him. Now, it was time to get some cold beer and some stadium fare and enjoy the season opener. A Peace of Heart Choir contingent made themselves at home in the stands, watching the game. When I sat down, that cold beer hit the spot on this warm summer day. Gwyn was in the danger zone--she narrowly escaped getting hit by foul balls countless times but she wound up with a new T-shirt that looked great. It got quite chilly as the game rolled on and I needed a sweatshirt more than that cold beer now. I went to the clubhouse store where I got a tie-dye sweatshirt and a compliment. The cashier asked, “Did you perform The National Anthem before?”
“Yes, with Peace of Heart Choir,” I replied.
“It was absolutely beautiful,” she exclaimed.
Yes, it was—I thought to myself as I walked back to my seat--an absolutely beautiful way to cap off a glorious Peace of Heart Choir season.
Have a very Happy Fourth of July, everyone!! See you next season.
Carrie Wesolowski, Alto 1