By Vivian Conan
The Peace of Heart Choir is one of New York City’s many choral groups you probably never heard of, but if you’ve been to any of their concerts, you most certainly haven’t forgotten the feeling of joy and connection it left you with.
Formed after 9/11, the group sings approximately 20 free concerts a year in venues like shelters, senior centers, community centers, and hospitals. Most are places where the the audience can’t travel to them, so they travel to the audience. They have even sung on Riker’s Island. Their aim is to promote healing, community bonding, and mutual understanding through music. They do this through a repertoire of world music — they sing in many languages — as well as Broadway tunes, folk songs, and songs from groups like the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. Always, there are sing–alongs. “The only thing we like better than singing for ourselves is hearing you sing with us,” they tell their audiences.
On the Upper West Side, some of those audiences have been at Dorot, Goddard Riverside, JASA Club 76 Older Adult Center and JASA at John Jay College, Mount Sinai West, the JCC, and Atria West 86. On November 17, the Choir sang in the chapel at Mount Sinai Morningside for the final part of the hospital’s Employee Wellness Week. Unlike with most concerts, where the audience is there from beginning to end, this audience arrived in shifts, some in street clothes, some in scrubs, staying for a few songs before they had to leave because of their work schedules. “I really needed that today,” one woman said on her way out.
Most of those free outreach concerts are not open to the public, but twice a year, the Choir has a Benefit Concert, to raise money for expenses like rehearsal space rental and a salary for their conductor, Robert René Galvan. Their upcoming Benefit Concert is on Sunday, December 10, at 3:00 pm, in Hunter College, a chance for the general public to experience their enthusiasm and love of song.
Vivian Conan is an alto with the Peace of Heart Choir. Read her inspiring WSR story, Finding Home, here.
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