For Melodia Women's Choir, preparations for last year's mid-November concert program, "Questions About Angels," were more nerve-wracking than usual. Hurricane Sandy hit the New York and New Jersey on October 29, and thousands lost their homes, the New York City Marathon was cancelled, and many in the area still did not have their electricity back. But both performances were nearly sold out, and those who attended can attest to the healing power of music during times of crisis.
This year, Melodia celebrates the beginning of its 11th season and Benjamin Britten's centenary with a holiday program, "Visions of Peace," which features the great 20th century composer's A Ceremony of Carols along with Gustav Holst's Seven Part-Songs for Female Voices and Strings and a Spanish-language piece from Paul Csonka, Concierto de Navidad, featuring Christmas carols set to Cuban rhythms. In the spirit of looking back to the events of last year and forward to a continued recovery for the many still affected by disasters both local and global, here are a few visions of peace from the Melodia community:
Cynthia Powell (artistic director): Peace is a theme of the coming season--it's been the great aspiration of humanity since the dawn of time. By peace, we're not so naive to think that conflict will suddenly disappear and everyone will be walking around in la-la land. No, conflict will always be a part of living, but the way conflict is dealt with is another story.
There's something about singing that promotes peace. Voices in harmony? It's one of the miracles of life: that people can come together and sing notes that blend in concord. It's our hope that singing this glorious music will convey that miracle to our listeners and, even if only for a moment, offer a vision of peace.
Amanda MacBlane (board member): Before my first son was born I made a playlist of songs that I thought might be good for bedtime. For a while, it didn't matter which song was on, he either slept or didn't and the music had no impact. But then, slowly, one song stepped out of the crowd and became his go-to lullaby. I tried to switch it up when No. 2 arrived, but he also became attached to the song: John Lennon's "Imagine." I used to think the lyrics were hokey, a relic of a naive time when people actually believed in peace, love, and understanding, despite the horrors of the world. But as I listened to the song every night watching two infants, and then toddlers, and now children, fall into a tranquil, worry-free sleep, I realized that I wanted to join the dreamers that John Lennon sung about. I realized that cynicism is also naive. So what is my vision of peace for the coming season? Let's keep recruiting dreamers.
Colleen Christi (choir member): Melodia is the product of an amazing collection of female talent that is, in my mind, unique to the swirl of cultures, sensibilities and creative passion that defines New York. I find Melodia rehearsals, and performances, to be studies in peace. Each of our members comes together. We are women. We are professionals. We are social workers, corporate professionals, teachers, waitresses, yoga instructors, actors, mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, and friends in our lives outside of that space. When we enter the space where create music together, these other things fall away, and we create a place of music, harmony, and peace. When we perform, we invite our audience into this peaceful space.
Cindy Cooper (board member): My vision of peace is inextricably interwoven with my passion for universal human rights in which each person, worldwide, is respected in her being, beliefs, bodily integrity. These values require eternal vigilance and, as a result, my vision for peace is held afloat by art and poetry and song.
Melodia Women's Choir performs "Visions of Peace" on Saturday, November 23, 7:30 PM at Church of the Holy Apostles, 296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, and Sunday, November 24, 3:00 PM at West End Collegiate Church, 245 West 77th Street at West End Avenue, in New York City. A reception follows both concerts. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $15 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.melodiawomenschoir.org
Matthew Schlecht is a writer and editor in New York City.