July 11th, Day 5
Submitted by: Christine d'Allance
July 11th, Day 5
Submitted by: Chris Bennett
I woke up this morning thinking about contrasts and contradictions: for example, enjoying a grand Greek tour and more food than we can eat on the same day we visit and sing for refugees. Should I be afraid or hide my valuables from people who have so little,or could I arrive with open heart and arms? Was it appropriate to sing a song about freedom to people who don't have it?
The earlier part of our day included a tour of historic Greek Orthodox churches with our guide Machie and wandering in the hill neighborhood below the Acropolis. But as we finished our group dinner in our clean, white matching uniforms, I reflected again on how little I knew about our "gig" at the camp.
Our arrival at the gates was chaotic as our donations were unloaded and introductions were made. We then walked as a group to a dirt and gravel courtyard which had been set up with benches and chairs next to the very well-kept soccer field. With the trusty portable keyboard set up, we lined up.
Ofer began with a statement in Arabic, then the children performed some songs for us with the help of their volunteer music instructor from El Sistema Greece. One little girl, Daria, quickly estabished herself as the very capable translator--she spoke 7 languages--and ringleader. We also sang 2 songs with them which helped break the ice for audience and us.
As we started our set, I think many of us were aware of the possibility that we could be seen as condescending or worse. I watched our soloist Sarah struggle with singing "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free" but do it anyway with heartbreaking empathy. We sang the words "Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live" to people who live behind wire fences--was that tone-deaf or even sadistic?
And yet I truly felt we connected with and delighted most of our audience. One chief reson is the incredible gift of empathy and connection that Ofer has--with children in particular. The curtain between him and other people is so transparent that he grabs their attention and hearts. We as singers chose to follow him there, singing not "at" or "to" our audience but with and for them and I believe they knew that. We also played with them, spoke with them, and held their hands.
One final gift came as we rode home still processing: George, a local liaison for our tour group Classical Movements, came onto the bus and shared that he has brought several musical groups to the camp but there had never before been such attendance and participation. He was clearly moved, as were we.
In the end, I think we lived with the contradictions and shared music and yes love from our hearts. We couldn't change their circumstances, but we could give them, and all of us, a moment to remember and cherish.