International harmony at the Whaling Church

Island Community Chorus
A community of singers. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Eleni Collins - April 5, 2006

The Island Community Chorus's first concert of 2007 was a repertoire of cultured and refined international songs, from Native American tribal to Filipino Folk.

Over 70 choir members took the stage last Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, outfitted in garb as distinct as the songs they sang. Women dressed in Lederhosen, while others wore Scottish plaid, headscarves, and colorful wrap skirts.

The concert opened with "Chocholoza," a traditional Zimbabwean folk song. Director Peter Boak began each song with a short introduction on the background of the piece. This first song was about a steam train coming from the mountains in Zimbabwe, bringing workers home at the end of the day. The piece had a percussion element to it, and instead of using drums, three dancers made their own beats using their feet on the stage.

The singers are reflected in the pipe organist's mirror.

The songs were divided up into groups. The first several songs were about friendship and love, the second on hope and peace, and the last a farewell.

One of the most inspiring songs was "Inscription of Hope" by Z. Randall Stroope. The words were found written on cellar walls in Cologne, Germany, by Jewish people in hiding during World War II. The message of hope was made loud and clear in the singers' strength and the meaningful lyrics:

"I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining. I believe in love, even when no one's there."

The concert continued with a song that quoted Native American Mandan chief Sheheke. The Mandans were known as the People of the Willows, as is the name of the song by Tom Porter. The tribe was host to the Lewis and Clarke expedition in 1804, and Sheheke accompanied the explorers back to Washington D.C., befriended Thomas Jefferson, and made a promise to Lewis and Clark. The promise makes up the song sung by the chorus:

Peter Boak
Director Peter Boak approves of the chorus's musical talents.

"If we eat, you shall eat. If we starve, you still starve. Our wish is to be at peace with all."

The performance was a beautiful arrangement of voice and dress, overcoming a disruption during rehearsal weeks. One month ago, accompanist Garrett Brown broke his arm. Unable to play, his brother Wesley agreed to take over, and played in this weekend's concert, gracefully accompanying the singers on the piano.

Marking the 11th anniversary of the chorus, president Judy Crawford said attendance was normal, filling about two-thirds of the Old Whaling Church for each of the two performances. She is very excited about the next concert, on June 30, at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. "We always bring back Peter Boak Scholarship award winners," says Ms. Crawford. "We like to feature the kids; they're all such great musicians."