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Six Choirs Come Together to Raise Funds for SafeHouse Denver

Leah Peer is the founder and musical director of Kol Nashim, the women's choir within the Colorado Hebrew Chorale.
Leah Peer is the founder and musical director of Kol Nashim, the women's choir within the Colorado Hebrew Chorale. Lisa Salzer
Update, March 11, 2020: This event has been postponed.

A loose coalition of Denver-area women’s choirs has hosted concerts since 2018 to raise money for SafeHouse Denver. Each year, the benefit concerts continue to grow, and the one on March 15 at Temple Emanuel is looking to be the largest yet.

“Before we turned around, we had 300 singers,” says Leah Peer, founder and musical director of Kol Nashim, the women’s choir within the Colorado Hebrew Chorale. “This is our third event.”

She expects as many as 1,000 people to attend this year’s concert, Sing Out for SafeHouse 2020. Peer founded Kol Nashim in 2013.

The group, one of the six scheduled to sing at the March 15 show, performs different styles of Jewish music while championing women’s issues. Kol Nashim initially raised money for a battered women’s shelter in Israel. Eventually, Peer was approached by audience members who asked for performances to raise money for a Denver women’s shelter.

She immediately thought of SafeHouse Denver.

“I had already established a relationship with SafeHouse Denver several years before,” she says. “My daughter and I put on a vocal recital that had benefited them.”

The concerts have added more and more choirs and steadily grown in size. This year, Kol Nashim, Denver Children's Choir's Fourteeners, East High School’s Seraphim, Impromptu, Metro State University's Treble Choir and Denver Women’s Chorus will perform separately and in tandem. The different choirs will sing songs from a variety of musical traditions, including pieces by local Jewish composers and Claude Debussy, as well as traditional spirituals. Some works will be sung in English and others in Hebrew.

Each choir will perform two songs, and the collected choirs will perform three to end the show.

“Each of the directors selects music with the goal that the music should have a message of empowerment, of strength, of taking control of one’s life,” Peer says.

SafeHouse Denver was established in 1978 to provide emergency shelter to women and children experiencing domestic violence; its first shelter opened in 1979. The organization doesn’t charge the people who use its services. About one in three women will experience rape, physical violence or stalking at the hands of an intimate partner sometime in their lives.

Women constitute 84 percent of victims of spousal abuse, and about three-quarters of people who commit family violence are men, according to the organization.

Peer says the groups have received a grant from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District as well as donations from the Rose Community Foundation and JEWISHColorado to help offset expenses related to the event. An anonymous donor has agreed to match each $18 ticket sold. All proceeds will go to SafeHouse Denver.

The $18 ticket price has special meaning, Peer explains: “In numerology, in Hebrew, the word ‘chai’ which is ‘live’ or ‘life’ adds up to eighteen. In the Jewish tradition, people often make donations that are multiples of the number eighteen.”

She adds that it can be a big ask for some people to fork over $18 — particularly for parents of some of the kids who will be singing. So in lieu of tickets, people can bring bottles of shampoo and conditioner that will also be donated to SafeHouse Denver. Prior events have collected socks and flip-flops for the shelter.

“I know typically when somebody reaches the point where they escape from an abusive situation, it’s really 'Get out now,’” she says. “The window is open. It’s typically with whatever they have on their backs.”

Sing Out for SafeHouse 2020 happens at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, at Temple Emanuel, 51 Grape Street. An $18 donation will constitute a ticket and can be purchased at Attendees can also donate a bottle of shampoo or conditioner instead of a cash donation.
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