By Mary Anne Moisan
The First Friday Art Walk in downtown Portland comes alive in December with holiday lights and festive activities. Sea Change Chorale was proud to be part of it this year, sharing our mission to promote social justice through song. We were invited to sing at the annual lighting of the Copper Beech Tree at the Portland Museum of Art on December 1, 2017.
The event also marked World AIDS Day in collaboration with another event partner, the Frannie Peabody Center. This is time when the global community comes together to honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, express ongoing commitment to assist those who are living with or at risk for HIV, and celebrate the caregivers, families, friends, and communities that support them.
Immersed in art as we warmed up in the dining room of the McLellan House in the PMA, curious museum patrons passed by wondering what we were up to. We then gathered outside in the alcove of the Joan B. Burns Garden which houses David E. Shaw and Family Sculpture Park, newly opened this July. This space, now free and open to the public year round during museum hours, allows the community to enjoy and engage with art in a truly, unique, intimate and beautiful setting.
With temperatures dropping rapidly, we continued to warm up our voices and hearts, looking out at the expectant crowd gathering to hear us sing. Folks were bundled up in hats and scarfs, long coats and puffy down parkas, many holding hot cocoa (courtesy of The Marshmallow Cart and Bangor Savings Bank) to keep their hands warm. The Chorale donned red scarves commemorating AIDS awareness, which also helped to keep the chill out of our voices. Children were romping and playing, or sitting quietly snuggled in to their parent’s lap waiting for the magic to happen.
The chorale was joined by Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Portland’s official poet laureate, alternating meditative poetry with songs of peace and hope throughout the event. Following introductions by Marcie Griswold, the Manager of Community Outreach and Programs at the PMA, and some inspiring poetry, the Chorale started with a rousing shape-note rendition of Wondrous Love. After more poetry, the Chorale continued with the mystical Breaths. Our final piece, a dynamic Gospel tune titled Faithful Over a Few Things, energized and delighted the crowd.
Building on that energy, our artistic director Deirdre McClure, directed the crowd in a sing-a-long: the Peace Round. Everyone continued to sing as we processed to the tree, faces drenched in the ambient glow of the holidays lights decorating the courtyard, voices strong and clear. As we all gathered around the tree tingling with anticipation, the crowd joined in on the countdown to the tree lighting. 10, 9, 8 … 3, 2, 1 and the tree exploded in light. On a closing note, in pseudo flash-mob style, the Chorale members sang the contemplative Dona Nobis Pacem. The tree stood aglow, tall and beautiful, solid and strong. A beacon of light amid our songs of peace.
Mary Anne Moisan joined Sea Change Chorale this past October and has been enjoying the hopeful message, camaraderie and good cheer of the group. After watching her children sing in choral groups through high school and into college, she figured it’s her turn now. When not singing or writing or knitting, she works as a homecare physical therapist.