Last week, as Yo Yo Ma play his famous cello at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, 3,400 children from Chicago neighborhoods sang in the background, and I felt hope for the future. It was the kind of hope that only innocence and the universal language of music can bring.
Watching the joyful and buoyant Artistic Director, Josephine Lee, swing her wand to orchestrate multinational tunes was a luminous experience all by itself. The globally famous Chicago's Children Choir performed their annual Paint The Town Red concert to spread this message: peace is possible.
They were also bringing attention to fundraising efforts for a new Englewood Neighborhood Choir Program. “Violence in Chicago has reached epidemic proportions,” said Josephine Lee. “We as a community must help our city’s children find an alternative to the streets, and music holds the power to change their lives.” Only $10,000 remains to reach their $100,000 goal. The Lincoln Park/DePaul Pops concert on June 9th ($15/person and $5 for kids) hopes to push them over that goal.
The stage was filled with song and celebrity. In addition to Deborah Rutter, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Yo Yo Ma gave a heartfelt introduction to Rahm Emanuel. The Chicago Mayor then committed $1 million to the Chicago Public School's arts programs. The world felt brighter.
The last number the children sang was the song that inspired the birth of the Chicago Children's Choir "We Shall Overcome." If it wasn't enough to see the children holding crossed arms, dancing in lockstep and singing to perfection, the audience also held crossed arms and everyone sang together: "...We believe in our hearts that can live in peace."
The future has a chance after all...