They sing to unite the world — and the borough!
Youth singing groups from Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Park Slope converged on Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Fourth Avenue between 74th and 75th streets on Jan. 26 for the third annual Children’s Choral and Arts Festival for Peace.
Students from Saint Saviour’s Catholic Academy in Park Slope, Leif Ericson Day School in Dyker, PS 102 in Bay Ridge, Bay Ridge Prep, and the Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge intoned songs for peace in front of an audience of 300, recalling the life and work of late South African leader Nelson Mandela and the 22,000 homeless children in New York City.
Organizers said they first conceived of the children’s concert three years ago in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. The planners decided they wanted to raise money to help those affected while teaching valuable lessons about cooperation to the youth.
“We wanted to get the kids together to sing for each other and to exercise peace-building, building bridges between people,” said Rita Pihra-Majurinen, music director of the Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge and at Good Shepherd, and an employee of Leif Ericson. “We just want to make sure we’re instilling in children a way to become peaceful citizens and global citizens.”
The first event was a success, and Pihra-Majurinen and her co-organizer Julia Hurn — music teacher and choral director at Saint Saviour’s — held it again in 2013 to raise money for Sandy victims. This year, the two took inspiration from the passing of anti-apartheid leader and former South African President Nelson Mandela and from the news that the number of homeless children in New York has topped the number during the Great Depression.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable, the number of transient children in this city,” said Pihra-Majurinen.
So the two had the children decorate the Good Shepherd’s sanctuary with Mandela-inspired artwork, and had them perform traditional African numbers alongside Katy Perry’s anti-bullying number “Roar” and John Lennon’s pacifist anthem “Imagine.” They also collected donations from attendees to benefit school counseling programs for homeless children. The organizers are still counting up all the contributions.
Pihra-Majurinen also argued it was important that the young performers met in a friendly, egalitarian forum.
“It’s really a way to get kids together in a way that is not adjudicated, not competitive,” the director said. “This is just a way for them to express themselves.”