Peace of Heart Choir Sings at Bryant Park,
The 9/11 Memorial, and Astoria Park
by Carrie Wesolowski
all photos by Frank Asencio
How do you keep the music playing?
If you’re Peace of Heart Choir and you’ve just performed another successful Spring Benefit Concert, you usher in summer by taking to the streets of New York City and serving up musical nirvana for audiences at three very special public performances.
Our Sing for Hope concert at Bryant Park—not even a week after our Spring Benefit Concert—was a shining example of what happens when you mix music, the outdoors, New York City, and a brightly colored Sing for Hope piano: You achieve this harmonious synchronicity that makes New York City special.
As we sang at the bottom of the steps of the New York Public Library with the Library Lions—Patience and Fortitude—as our mascots, song lyrics we have sung countless times took on a different meaning.
For example, as we sang the lyric, “I’ve got joy like a fountain,” the library’s two recently restored fountains, named Beauty and Truth, flowed freely, as if with joy, near us. We might have had to dodge pigeons as they flew low on occasion, but we had friends of the choir in charge of pigeon patrol.
As René played the beatific rainbow piano throughout the concert, friends and family of choir members gathered along with passersby who stood or sat on the steps to take in the music.
During the Harry Chapin song, “Circle,” a couple who had just gotten married—the bride in a white dress carrying a small bouquet of flowers and the groom in a suit—sat on the stairs of the library and took in some music before moving on again.
René wasn’t sure we should do “Happy,” but he decided we should give it a go and our audience was obviously glad he did. By the time I introduced our closing song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” it felt we had come full circle like it says in the Chapin song we sing.
One of our regular audience members came up to me after our performance and shared, “The music inspires me.”
The 9/11 Memorial
Our second public performance in June was only days later at the 9/11 Memorial. We have sung inside the museum portion of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on several solemn occasions. This is only the second time we have sung outdoors, and it was a gloriously beautiful day—nothing but magnificent blue skies.
Once again, we were marking a solemn occasion. Our performance was a special musical tribute in remembrance of the third anniversary of the attack that killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and in observance of both WorldPride 2019 and Stonewall 50, that latter of which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City that marked the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
We sang not far from the 9/11 reflecting pools near the Survivor Tree where a sign invited anyone who stopped by to tie a ribbon around the railing of the tree as a symbol of hope, love, and resilience.
We did a five-song set including “Hard Times,” “Singing for Our Lives,” “Lift Us Up,” and “One Day,” as passersby, including young children, tied brightly colored ribbons chosen from one of six buckets, each containing a color of the Pride Flag’s six rainbow stripes.
A small audience formed—one woman sitting on a cement step, a man wearing a “RESIST” t-shirt bearing the Pride Flag, and a few others who sang along to “Singing For our Lives.”
By the time we finished our closing song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and took our bows, we felt a deep sense of harmony with others who gathered as this day of reflection brought to bear a unifying spirit that made us so honored to have been part of this moving ceremony.
Our last public performance of June was on Summer Solstice as part of Make Music NY.
On this first official day of summer, we sang with a cool breeze at our backs in Astoria Park amidst the landscape of the East River and its two adjacent bridges, the Triborough and the Hell Gate. In so doing, when we sang “Peace Like a River” and “River of Dreams,” it’s as if the East River personified the river in each of the songs.
Our outdoor location had everything you would expect, including ambient sounds in the form of ice cream trucks and Acela trains. Still, we were up to the challenge. Indeed, no Acela train could stop our rendition of “One Day.”
Our audience grew as the concert progressed. It included many families, some with small children, babies with their parents, and, since it was an outdoor park, also an array of dogs. I’d swear even the dogs loved the music. One, in a most comfortable happy position—lying on its back with its belly exposed—seemed to be even enjoying the cool breeze as well. Many in the audience clapped along to “Happy” as well as our encore, “Let the Sun Shine In.”
As our performance neared its end, sundown approached on this longest day of the year. As we exited the park, I saw a young mother with her newborn tucked in her pouch sling baby carrier who had been watching our concert. I thanked her for listening, and she replied, “Thank you for the beautiful music,” as she smiled and walked into her house.
What a glorious musical celebration of Summer Solstice 2019 and the end of a harmoniously magical June to remember! This month, we hit it out of the park, so to speak.
Next at bat: Peace of Heart Choir sings at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark—first a musical set and then the National Anthem at a Staten Island Yankees game.
Carrie Wesolowski, Alto 1