Outreach

March Gladness

Choir performs at Split Rock Rehabilitation Center, Goddard Riverside Community Center and the Sundays at JASA Program

by Carrie Wesolowski

[all photos by Frank Asencio]

March ushered in a new outreach season and just like Emily Dickinson’s poem heralding it “the month of expectation,” we were welcome visitors bringing color back to the dreary world of late winter blues. Our first outreach reminded us that we were wedged somewhere between winter and the official start of spring. An impressive turn-out of choir members had traveled by public transportation on as many as three or four trains to Split Rock Rehabilitation Center in the Bronx neighborhood of Baychester amidst the remnants of a late winter storm. The weather gods obliged to some extent when the inclement weather finally abated late Saturday morning signaling that it was time for us to sing. After all, we had been trying to secure this outreach for several years and our persistence finally paid off when Lis booked it. It was well worth the wait! Rene’s former student, Vivian Rivera, who is now a resident at the rehab center, was thrilled that we were finally able to sing at the center and it was truly a beautiful moment when Vivian and Lis performed a duet of Sull’ aria during the program.

I felt this sense of community and ease. There was so much joy from choir and audience alike.
— Brooke M., alto
The choir at   Goddard Riverside Community Center

The choir at Goddard Riverside Community Center

Six days later, we all had such a wonderful time on a sunny but chilly afternoon, singing at the Goddard Riverside Community Center. 

The smells of cooking drew us in, and as we entered, some of us wondered, "Was it seafood?” We all convened in the lobby area and Renè warmed us up a bit.

We sang in their cafeteria surrounded by brightly colored artwork—some perhaps self-portraits, some abstract pieces, and some artwork that featured women in sunglasses with words representing opposing emotions on each of their lenses. There was a piano in the center of the room which Renè played throughout our outreach. We sang to a very enthusiastic crowd of about sixty seniors who loved our music, many visibly singing along.

It was alto Brooke’s first outreach and as she noted, “I felt this sense of community and ease. There was so much joy from choir and audience alike. Everyone there was so engaged. I looked up from my music as much as I could and saw smiles, singing, someone playing air piano on the table, and even dancing from the audience.”

 

At the end of our outreach, our audience shouted, "Encore.” And we gave them what they wanted. We responded with a rousing impromptu "Let the Sun Shine in" which featured Johnny singing and running out into the audience, hugging a few ladies in the front row. 

... the “one and only Peace of Heart Choir.”
— Norma, one of the choir's biggest supporters
Three guitarists accompany the choir on the song,  Fragile ,   performed at  Sundays at JASA  .  JASA stands for the Jewish Association Serving the Aging .

Three guitarists accompany the choir on the song, Fragile, performed at Sundays at JASA. JASA stands for the Jewish Association Serving the Aging.

The month’s last marvelous outreach was at John Jay College on St. Patrick’s Day—thus, the smattering of green shirts here and there that you’ll notice in the photos. We provided the entertainment for the lunchtime Sundays at JASA program, a continuing education program for adults 55 years of age and older.

One of our biggest supporters, Norma introduced us amid much fanfare as the "one and only Peace of Heart Choir.” We sang on a stage in a classroom setting with blackboards at our backs as Renè, Andy, and Marv accompanied us on guitar throughout our concert. We had such a joyous time performing sing-alongs such as “This Land is Your Land,” “Singing for Our Lives,” and “Peace Like a River.”  We did our special rendition of “Fragile” driven by Andy’s vocals and René and Andy on guitar with the choir singing the chorus refrain.

As I walked out, I noticed John Jay’s 9/11 Memorial Sculpture, the twisted steel beam that had once supported one of the towers of the World Trade Center until that fateful day which now bears the names of 67 people from the John Jay community who lost their lives on 9/11 etched on the granite’s outer pathway.

I thought of our connection to 9/11—how Peace of Heart Choir was formed after the tragic events of that day to promote healing, diversity, and mutual understanding through music. And we continue to bring that healing through music nearly twenty years later.  

9/11 Memorial at John Jay College

9/11 Memorial at John Jay College

 
March indeed was a month of expectation blossoming with three wonderful outreaches and one delightful public performance on the Sing for Hope Performing Arts Stage at Port Authority. (For a more in-depth account of our public performance on the Sing for Hope Performing Arts Stage at Port Authority, here is the link to check out our blog post: Port Authority Rush Hour Commuters Transported by Our Rainbow of Music.

After Brooke’s first outreach, she exclaimed, “I can’t wait for my next outreach!”  I second that emotion. Spring has arrived with more outreaches in April at The New Jewish Home, Fountain House, and The New York State Veterans’ Home

  

In Harmony,

Carrie Wesolowski, Alto 1

Port Authority Rush Hour Commuters Transported by Our Rainbow of Music

Choir performs at Sing for Hope’s balcony performance space

by Carrie Wesolowski

[All photos by Frank Asencio]

Port Authority Bus Terminal during rush hour: scurrying commuters, patrolling National Guard soldiers, and on this Wednesday evening—the harmonious Peace of Heart Choir. Every Wednesday during rush hour on the Sing for Hope Performing Arts Stage just above the concourse level Au Bon Pain and wedged between steps and sets of escalators, the terminal is transformed by the sounds of music.

Located on a platform that was once the terminal’s operations control center, the glass-enclosed stage seems tucked away at the very center of Port Authority, almost an entity unto itself that majestically rises up from the street level with its official Sing for Hope logos on the front of the glass, Sing for Hope banners as the backdrop and of course, front and center, the artist-designed Sing for Hope rainbow piano jazzed up in marvelously whimsical swirls of color that would make Pucci proud. Our Peace of Heart Choir banner was featured too--at the far-right corner.    



We gathered in a semicircle around the piano with Renè at the helm. There was an “only in Port Authority irony” when as we sang “Save the Country”, the flashing LED sign on the opposite mezzanine read “God Bless America” followed by a flashing message heralding “Quick and Easy Hair Removal”. But that’s just the flavor of the ever-moving New York City—what makes it so unique, rich, and full-of-life. 

There was some blood—Renè cut his thumb playing—with Nancy quickly coming to the rescue with a Band-Aid, maybe a little sweat under the stage lights which produced some interesting optical illusions at times—a small group of baritones standing together looked as if they were part of Blue Man Group. There were no tears though, unless someone listening was choked up by one of our songs which has happened before.

Maestro Renè Galvan conducts the choir at New York’s Port Authority


There was a lot of joy as all of us sang, sharing our music with the audience. We were clapping enthusiastically and dancing during sing-alongs such as "Peace Like a River" and "This Little Light of Mine”. Some of us waved to commuters below as a greeting and an invitation to stay and watch the music which some of them did. Perhaps for one song, perhaps two, before moving along again. Lis had her own fan club--friends from Texas who had come to see her sing her solo in the Billy Joel classic “River of Dreams”.

She smiled enthusiastically, exclaiming how beautiful we sounded, how much she loved our music...


Gail and Renè both mused at the end “what did the audience get from it.”  In a place like Port Authority, with people passing through you will likely never see again, you may never know. About 30 minutes later walking through the terminal, a Port Authority cleaning lady approached me to let me know that she had seen all of us sing earlier. She smiled enthusiastically, exclaiming how beautiful we sounded, how much she loved our music, how she had loved seeing us sing here two years ago, and how glad she was to see us again. She had remembered us, remembered our music and made sure she saw us when we came back. After a mutual expression of gratitude and a hug, we were back on our way. I walked back into the anonymity of Port Authority with a smile on my face.

Ah, the power of music… Helping to make your time spent at Port Authority sound a whole lot better….

In Harmony,
Carrie Wesolowski, Alto 1

 

For more information on the non-profit Sing for Hope; visit their website at www.singforhope.org

A Look Back at the Fall/Winter 2018 Season

Here is a recap of
recent outreach performances
from September 2018-January 2019

by Carrie Wesolowski

[All photos by Frank Asencio]

Choir members as they watch clients dance during a performance at YAI in November, 2018.

Choir members as they watch clients dance during a performance at YAI in November, 2018.

"You have travelled to 50 places together,” Facebook recently declared of me and another Peace of Heart Choir member. I later thought to myself that It was considerably more than that.  We may not have logged frequent flyer miles but we have passed the litmus test of all good travel experiences—meeting new people and reaping the rewards that come with human interaction—the experiences that enrich our lives and change us for the better.  We have travelled to spots around the New York City area—averaging around 24 venues each season-- as part of our very special group, Peace of Heart Choir, singing to those who need the music. Our music. Music we select each season. It’s important to look at where we’ve been to know where we’re going. Eleven outreaches this past season together creating new memories while doing what we all love to do—sharing the universal language of music with our audiences. Here's a brief glimpse of our travels.

 

The choir performs “Lift Us Up” on The High Line.

9/12/18 The High Line:  Rain couldn't dampen our spirits as we took refuge in a covered area under the Chelsea Market Passage on the High Line, performing our first outreach of the Fall 2018 season in remembrance of 9/11, to a very enthusiastic audience including a familiar face in the audience, former Peace of Heart Choir soprano Naomi Frerotte. We performed on 9/12 with a foggy NYC skyline as our backdrop. We sang in remembrance of the 9/11 attacks, but we also sang in the spirit of moving forward together that 9/12 has come to symbolize. During the performance, the smiles appeared, and the rain disappeared. One audience member came up to me afterwards to ask me more about our group and tell me how much she loved the music.

 

10/21/18 Mt. Sinai/St. Luke’s: We sang on a locked ward of Mt.Sinai/St.Luke’s to an audience of patients who were battling mental illness and/or drug addiction. At first, it seemed that the staff didn’t expect us, and they were surprised that we were there to sing. Several patients came alive singing along with us--one patient thanked us with a gentle fist bump as we left and said that we had to come back. As for the staff who didn’t know we were coming, it was a pleasant surprise to them as they smiled and grooved to the music and seconded our male audience member’s call for a return visit.  

 

Choir director René Galván, on guitar, leads the choir in “Oye Como Va” at YAI.

Choir director René Galván, on guitar, leads the choir in “Oye Como Va” at YAI.

11/2/18 YAI:  It is always such a great experience singing here—YAI is truly the unofficial Peace of Heart Choir fan club. We have a very special relationship with YAI as they brought us our baritone Anthony. We’ve visited them regularly for many years, and they also staff the snack table at our benefit concerts. They are always so happy to see us and we were so happy to be there and sing for them. This wonderful organization supports people of all ages with developmental disabilities in achieving the fullest life possible by creating new opportunities for them. For those of us who have been here before, we recognized many of our audience members. We visited with our old friends and caught up on special events in their lives including their latest baby photos. At the end, Renè led us in an impromptu “Oye Como Va” that electrified our audience and had them dancing along. 

 

11/14/18 Visions at Selis Manor:  This organization for the blind provides an adapted learning environment and meeting place for youth, adults and seniors which offers support groups, computer training, adapted activities, volunteer and social work services. We have sung here several times before. This time we sang at a weekday lunch program. Our audience was appreciative and many were visibly moved. One woman told us about the choir that she had belonged to in her youth. One man, his voice choked up with emotion, took my hand and thanked us for the music and told me that we sounded beautiful.

 

11/17/18 Village Care:  This is an assisted living facility in Midtown West that provides post-acute care, managed long-term care and community-based services for seniors. We performed during lunch, and our audience was visibly affected by our music—one woman tearing up at one point. We got a chance to speak to the residents afterwards. One man seated in an armchair outside was particularly nostalgic when talking about our concert, how the music brought him back to another time. He recounted stories of the past. It was lovely how the music meant something so personal to him. 

 

12/5/18 Mercy Home: We have a special relationship with this venue, a network of group homes for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The former church where we performed is used as a community center, a place the residents come for recreation and enrichment programs. We have performed here several times before and our soprano Michael Anne used to work here. It is always such a pleasure to sing in their small chapel with its wonderful acoustics and to see our audience members’ smiles and this time was no exception. As we entered, they gave each of us colorful shapes cut out of construction paper for a chance to win sweatshirts with artwork by the residents. They always have a special musical treat for us too—their very own musical group Melodic Soul performed for us, and for a short time we shifted from performers to audience. But this time they had an added treat for us—as they dimmed the lights, the unveiling of an art project amidst the setting of the cavernous chapel. The light show felt almost psychedelic in nature and there was a certain magic with the lights ascending and descending the artwork in the dark until the lights connected from side to side and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” was revealed in its entirety.

 

The choir at JCC, the Jewish Community Center.

The choir at JCC, the Jewish Community Center.

12/8/18 JCC: We performed in the lobby of the JCC on the Upper West Side, as part of their Shabbat R&R program. The JCC has been a good friend to us over the years. Observing the rules of the Jewish Sabbath, we performed a cappella, without instruments or even a pitch pipe to find our starting notes. Children and their families took in our music engaging in some lively chatter in the background. We gave out Peace of Heart Choir key chains after the performance to a very appreciative audience who thanked us for our music. 

 

12/20/18 Hope Lodge: Amidst the backdrop of a beautiful Christmas tree adorned with New York City-themed ornaments, we sang at a holiday meal for cancer patients and their families who stay at Hope Lodge for days, weeks, or sometimes months while they are in town for treatment at area hospitals. The group sang along with us on sing-alongs, including a young girl singing along to “You Are My Sunshine”. At the end of the concert, a woman in a wheelchair getting off the elevator asked if she had missed the concert. A small POHC group who had been waiting at the elevator that would soon grow a bit larger began to sing an impromptu version of “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” our official theme song. The woman began to sing along and thanked the group as everyone parted wishing each other “Happy Holidays”. There was a tear in many an eye after she parted ways. 

 

12/22 Housing Works: A New York City-based non-profit providing services to those fighting AIDS, drug use, and homelessness, we’ve sung at other Housing Works venues before but this was the first time we ventured to this downtown Brooklyn location. We sang in the basement where the walls were covered with holiday decorations. We performed for a very small but appreciative group that had gathered for lunch. One woman was especially enthusiastic-- not only did she sing along with us but she hugged several of us afterwards. 

 

1/9 Edie Windsor SAGE Center:  Our tenor, Wilfred, has noted that he is no stranger to SAGE as he has attended SAGE socials before. This was our second time performing here but this was my first time that I noticed the picture behind the reception desk as I got off the elevator—a picture of an elderly woman with both arms thrown up in the air triumphantly with a beaming smile across her face and the words SAGE/Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders with the tagline underneath: We refuse to be invisible. And that is exactly what I saw as we sang for our audience—vibrant, involved individuals who expressed their love for our music—a man in the second row who visibly sang along appreciatively to “Singing for our Lives”. A woman in our audience sang along with me all the lyrics to “You Are My Sunshine”. You could really feel the connection we had made with this audience.

 

1/17 National Council of Jewish Women: We have sung for the lunchtime meetings of this group several times before, and one member here, Norma, has even become our unofficial booking agent, calling us regularly with ideas and performance opportunities. This year we participated in a program which promotes healthy aging, Council Lifetime Learning’s 2018-2019 Gerson Cultural Arts Season through our music. Norma gave us a warm introduction as usual. Gary told our audience a bit about our mission and who we are. We sang for an audience of seniors and several caregivers. The Heartbeats (an unofficial girl group created by choir members for our semi-annual cabaret nights) even reprised an arrangement of favorite, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”. Gary encouraged our audience by saying that the only thing we like better than singing is our audience singing along with us. As Gary estimated percentages of our audience singing along, I later joked we should coin the term “Garyometer” for this purpose. Again, we gave out Peace of Heart Choir key chains at the end of our performance and received positive feedback from our audience. This performance wrapped up a wonderful outreach season!

 

We look forward to another season of travels--not far in terms of distance--but reaching those who most need it, living alongside us.

 

Come join us for our upcoming public performances:  first up on March 13 at 5PM--Sing for Hope at Port Authority 625 8th Ave (bet 40 & 41 St), our Benefit Concert Performance on June 2 at 4PM--Alvin Ailey Center, 405 W 55th St (9th Ave), and Make Music New York on June 21 at a time/location TBD.

 

Ah, the power of music and the reciprocity of goodwill that keeps our heart beating and reawakens our soul in the affirmation that everything is gonna be alright.

 

Looking Forward to Another Harmonious Outreach Season, 
Carrie Wesolowski
Alto 1 

Each year, on or near the anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, the choir performs a public concert. On September 12, 2018 we performed on the High Line in New York City.

Each year, on or near the anniversary of the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center, the choir performs a public concert. On September 12, 2018 we performed on the High Line in New York City.

At The Lincoln Center

We’ve sung in public venues before, usually in places like the High Line, where people happen upon us as they stroll by. Today, the audience came specifically to hear us. In Lincoln Center. In an auditorium named for Bruno Walter. We all felt the awe of that. Backstage hummed, with Rob giving out POHC mugs, shirts, and totes, and Evelyn, our deportment guru, lining us up so we could practice walking onstage in formation, closed books in our left hands. The warm-up was long, more like a dress rehearsal, where, for the first time, we got to work on the transition between Mood Indigo and Satin Doll. Like cramming in the moments before a final exam. Amazingly, it worked.

At The National Council of Jewish Women

The NCJW has a sister senior center in Brooklyn that my mother was a member of for many years. She had lunch there, acted in plays, sang in the chorus, and brought her broken appliances to the retired fix-it man who set up shop in the lobby. The Council Center, as she called it, definitely lives up to the mission stated on its website: to address the social, intellectual, and creative needs of seniors. 

At Foutain House

Fountain House is a community center in the West Forties dedicated to the recovery of men and women with mental illness. Run by members and staff, it provides employment, housing, education, and wellness programs. Members can also hang out in the elegant town-house to play chess, learn a craft, or eat. In the past we sang upstairs in the cafeteria, but tonight we were in the parlor on the ground floor, with couches, armchairs, a baby grand piano, and bottles of water put out for us on a table

After our usual warmups—vocalizing and trying out bits of songs to synchronize guitar, mandolin, and ukulele—one of the early-bird audience members called out, “You sound beautiful.” Then, in the few minutes before the start of the concert, some of us walked through the audience giving out pamphlets to people who asked about auditions and the fundraiser. There was an old-home-week kind feeling: one woman knew Lenore and Bill from her church; another woman knew Anthony from YAI; and a man asked whether I was Marv’s sister (it turns out he had once come to a POHC rehearsal).

We opened with “Siyhamba”—no surprise there—but this time it was “Siyhamba” with a twist. When we finished it, a woman in the back asked whether we ever tried to sing both languages at once. So Rene had half of us sing Zulu while the other half sung English, and it sounded pretty good. “You’re hired!” we told her.

They liked the whole concert and really did look at the singalong sheets, because when it came time for “This Little Light of Mine,” they said the same thing our last audience said: “It’s not on the sheet.” No matter, they sang it anyway.

After the concert, at Wilfred’s request, we posed for a group picture, taken the old fashioned way, by a photographer not in the picture (Anthony’s mom and his coach). Then another picture, this one a selfie by Brian—if a selfie can have 20 people in it. The audience watched the photo shoot, too. When it was over, as we were walking out, many told us how much they enjoyed the concert. “Come back,” one said, and another called, “God bless you all.”

-Choir Singer

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

At Clyde Burton House

FullSizeRender (1)

 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.

FullSizeRender (4)

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.

-Choir Singer

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

At Mercy Home

The Sisters of Mercy closed their Willoughby Avenue convent in 2008, after 146 years of ministering to the homeless, orphans, and the sick. The beautiful building now serves as the administrative office for Mercy Home, the order’s network of thirteen group homes for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The building is also used as a community center, a place the residents come for recreation and enrichment programs. It was POHC’s privilege to be the recreation for this evening, both on the giving and receiving end.

The door of our small warmup room was open, and people stopped by to introduce themselves and shake hands on their way to the former chapel, now the auditorium. Many of them knew Michael Anne, the POHC Soprano who works for Mercy Home and arranged this gig. When it was time to begin, we marched down the center aisle to the stage area in front, with people waving and smiling as we passed. Ruth introduced the choir, and then we opened with—you guessed it—“Siyahamba.” It’s always a hit, but this time, when it was over, someone shouted Encore! above the applause.

Encores we did. Ten. By pre-arrangement, most were singalongs, with POHC members mingling with the very receptive audience during Rock-a-My Soul. The rest of our numbers were sung on stage, which we shared with one of the residents and his full set of drums. Occasionally he helped us keep the beat, but otherwise he just sat and listened. This audience was dressed up for an event, and they all had big smiles on their faces. They moved. They swayed. They Clapped. A few even stood up to bounce in place while we sang and Rene, Ruth, and Marv played—not all at once—two guitars, a mandolin, and a ukulele. Thanks to Wilfred and Deb for beautiful solos.

After our closing “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” we got to sit in the audience and hear their band, The Melodic Souls. The drum guy on stage came to life, and so did a keyboard player and a guitar player. Other members of the band were in the first two rows of the audience, turned around to face the rest of the audience while they shook maracas and tambourines. Each member of the band was introduced by the drummer and got up to take a bow while the audience whooped and hollered. Then came an original song, “On Our Way Home,” and a standard, “I Can See Clearly Now.” One of the staff members passed a microphone around to give each of the band members a solo moment. Now it was our turn to clap.

On my way to the reception that followed—pastries, fruit salad, and beverages—another staff members stopped me to say, “You guys are great! So in sync and in harmony. You gave me the chills.”

Tonight, we did, indeed, sing joy. Furaha!

-Choir Singer

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

"A Season to Shine": At a Benefit Concert for the first time!

 

Our annual Benefit Concert, "A Season to Shine" was finally here, At the "Baruch Performing Arts Center" we were expected to appear, Excited alike were the veteran and new members, This would be a performance to remember!

The day began with an early call time, Everyone carrying baked treats and looking just fine! Michael Anne, Olga T. & Noella were stunning in Red, Alex, Gary and Phil dressed in Blue the tenors led. In the alto section Carrie sparkled and shined, And René topped it all with an Orange sublime!

 

The first task was a general rehearsal. How should we stand? You'll be there, I'll be here, everyone hold your music with your left hand! We went through the repertoire tuning our voices and refining our part, With René's final adjustments, soon it was time for the concert to start.

We headed to the backstage excited and eager to begin, And while we waited Bass Barry Started to sing, "It had to be you" he ingeniously improvised for us newbies, And Deb with "Certificates of Achievement" made us all shine like rubies, Maryann and Laura S. were never absent at rehearsals this season, so for celebrating there was more than one reason.

Attention please, It's time to line up! Rob called out, chaos broke loose, the right place in the line was for everyone a huge doubt, after fumbling a little and giggling a lot, We were finally ready, everyone in their spot. So we walked on stage, the lights shone bright Seeing our friends and family was a delight, (and soooo many people gave us a bit of stage fright).

"Furaha!" We sang first, wishing joy for each and every day, And so the concert was well on its way.

"Carol of the Bells" was a favorite for many of us, So excited to sing it we took off a bit rushed. René made no fuss, He led us to the last notes, “Ding Dong Ding Dong”, That was a wonderful song!

Next the lovely Lily invited the audience to join in, For the Yiddish tongue twisting "Ciri biri biri bim", We all concentrated to come in on cue, It turned out just right, a sigh of relief we all blew.

Then Pearl introduced "Gentrai", the beautiful Irish song, and we knew our sopranos couldn't go wrong, Seconds together with altos as Uilleann pipes hummed, And with intricate lyrics the first sopranos were then summed.

Next Carol King's "You've got a friend", The audience enjoyed from beginning to end. Laura Wells and Charlie blew me away with their heartfelt duet, And Evelyn's violin was so special it will be hard to forget.

The Bass and Tenors were the highlight of the "Kwanzaa Song", "Continuous, continuous" they all sang along, Then the time came to "Light one candle" And even though I had a few doubts, with the help of my fellow seconds it was easy to handle!

The intermission arrived in a flash, And off for our treats the audience made a dash, The Bourbon brownies I hear were a must, They sold out so quickly nothing was left, not even a crust.

The second part began with "Sleigh Ride", the bells started ringing, And to a fast tempo we were tightly clinging, Rene led the horses with a clip and a clop, Carrie had practiced "the slap" all night. That's why the "special effects" were the song's highlight!

The time came for "That Lonesome Road", And in her solo our dear Nancy her talents showed, She wowed the audience with her vibrant jazzy voice, For this song she was the perfect choice!

 Then it was time to dance with "The Boys", "Oye Como Va" let's make some noise, Barbara in percussion and Marv's flute, To the great Tito Puente we payed tribute.

The room was suddenly quiet when Dave began to play, His "Holiday Medley Guitar Solo", blew the audience away, It set the perfect festive atmosphere, I felt honored to have such a talented peer!

Our 4 Lennons came on stage for "Happy Xmas (War is over)", Of course I mean: Brian, Andrea, Gary and Tony Glover, They gave a unique feel to a traditional tune, There won't be a cooler quartet anytime soon.

Anthony put on his shades, he knew it was time to have fun, "Proud Mary" was next, “nice and rough” was how it had to be done, I had always dreamed of singing it one day, And with Tony's improv.  we put on quite a display.

The repertoire included some sing alongs, “Rock-a my Soul” and “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”, I was happy to see our board members singing and dancing galore, Last but not least, with "Let there Be Peace on Earth" the concert was coming to an end, And for this one, with the past alumni we made a perfect blend.

I felt so lucky to be part of such a diverse and wonderful crowd, We looked at each other and gracefully bowed, I never thought so many friends I would acquire, Thank you for being so awesome "Peace of Heart Choir".

-Olga Pinto, Choir Singer

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

-

At The Workmen’s Circle Multicare Center

I looked for the entrance of Workmen’s Circle Multicare Center. Its turquoise pillars stood out in this residential Bronx neighborhood on a dismal December day and I knew I had found the right place. Workmen’s Circle Multi-Care Center is a 525-bed non-profit rehabilitation center/nursing home. I walked through the front doors and I told someone at the front desk that I was with Peace of Heart Choir and asked where we were rehearsing. He directed me to a room directly across from the desk where I found Rene and several other choir members waiting for guidance as to where we would go next. Apparently, they were not aware we would be performing. But that it is possible on a weekend performance such as this when the director was not there. I joked to fellow choir members we were being sequestered as the glass door was closed, the space was tight, and it was very warm—even warmer than the nursing home itself which is always warm as a rule of thumb.

A lady who was a manager came by and rescued us and brought us upstairs to a chapel where we left our belongings and it was time for the outreach to begin. We lined up and I took notice of the room. A Sunday meal menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was posted on the wall with a photo of Liberace at the very top. I joked to Howard, “It appears that Liberace presides over the Sunday meal.” Howard laughed. I then noticed the poster of a record that read “Rock and Roll” across it. If you looked to your left, you could see you were in a hospital/nursing home setting. When you looked in the direction of the dining hall, it felt like a combination dining hall/classroom with all of its decorations—a place almost stuck in time meant to probably evoke nostalgia with its posters of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, and Liberace as I mentioned before—just to name a few. Rene warned us before we entered of the frail state of the people in attendance. I was prepared for it as I was so familiar with my Dad’s frailty at the end of his life 5 years ago after a battle with lung cancer. Many residents were in wheelchairs and had breathing tubes.

We took our places and it was time for the outreach to begin. From our opening number, Siyahamba, it was evident we had a fan in the front row. She had a breathing tube and was in a wheelchair and she was just as bold and spirited as her red lipstick and the bright red beads she wore around her neck. She was pounding her right fist in the air in response to our music. At the end of the song, in a raspy voice, Jeanette shouted, “Excellent.” We continued with a lovely Wanemo to which Jeanette exclaimed, “Beautiful.” It was also clear we had another fan. He was in a wheelchair on the opposite side in the front row. He wore a drag racing cap and seemed to be a native New Yorker and was very assertive in his approval. A festive Carol of the Bells was next followed by Michael Row the Boat Ashore. There was a lady sitting at the left hand side of the room in the corner. I made eye contact with her a few times. It was during Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, she seemed to become more involved in the outreach. Her eyes lit up. During Down by the Riverside, we went out to shake the hands of the residents which I found really moving and I know my choirmates found especially touching as well.

When I shook the hand of the lady who became involved during Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, she revealed a most gracious and gentle smile as she mouthed, “Beautiful” to me and she said softly, “My throat is sore. I wish I could sing.” That Lonesome Road featured a heartfelt, lovely solo by Nancy. Oye Come Va was a great fun, up tempo number. A pretty Pokarekare Ana, our Maori love ballad and a pensive Light One Candle followed. Next was Happy Xmas(War is Over). I’m so glad that Deb suggested we reinstate the choral refrain War is Over. I know many other choir members have commented what a difference that makes in preserving the integrity of the original meaning of the song as written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. And what a wonderful vocal quartet we had for this song: Brian, Gail, Gary, and Maryann. Our number one fan, Jeanette, especially appreciated this tune as did several audience members. Rock-a-My-Soul was next followed by our wonderful anthem for our children, Give Us Hope and our signature anthem, Let There Be Peace on Earth. Exemplary musical accompaniment was provided throughout the outreach by Brian and Marv on guitar and Rene on ukelele/cigar box guitar as it was affectionately referenced. Deb, Barbara, and Ellen also provided fine musical support.

We carpooled back to Manhattan and Queens, respectively. It had been a touching outreach—the last outreach of the season. I thought of when I shook Jeanette’s hand during Down by the Riverside. She said, “Bless You.” I felt blessed to have met her and to have been a part of this Peace of Heart Choir outreach. Blessed indeed.

-Choir Singer

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