In 2020, Leah Peer had coordinated six Denver-area choirs for Sing Out for SafeHouse. The event would have raised money for domestic-violence advocacy organization SafeHouse Denver.
The combined choirs had their dress rehearsal on March 8 in anticipation for the March 15 concert at Denver's Temple Emanuel. Hundreds of singers were involved. Getting them all together and on the same page was no small feat.
And then it was all over.
“By March 12, everything was shut down,” says Peer, the founder and musical director of Kol Nashim, the women’s choir within the Colorado Hebrew Chorale. “To cancel was devastating.”
Undeterred, Peer says organizers spent the better part of the year putting together an online version of the event, which will stream on March 14. Over the past year, she and her choir have acclimated to the virtual world, hosting classes and practices through Zoom calls. But just because the concert will be virtual doesn't make staging it an any less daunting of a task. Not everyone is enamored with livestreamed concerts.
“Virtual choir is all fine and good,” Peer says. “But then you have people who hate what they look like and don’t want to participate, and you have people who hate what they sound like, and they don’t want to participate. Then you have technical issues.”
It all appears as though it’s going to come off, however. And that’s important to Peer and the people at SafeHouse, who have seen the demand for their services increase over the past year as people stuck in abusive relationships have been trapped inside.
“The lockdowns created a situation that was basically a pressure cooker,” Peer says. “Men, women and children were in dangerous situations and had no way out. People who were in borderline situations were pushed over the edge. Their hotline has been ringing off the hook.”
The March 14 event features a mix of live streaming and pre-recorded segments. Five Denver-area choirs are participating: Kol Nashim, the Colorado Hebrew Chorale, the Denver Children’s Choir, the Denver Women’s Chorus and the Denver Chorale. They will perform a variety of music from a range of traditions.
TheDenver Chorale will take on “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon, and the Denver Women’s Chorus will perform a rendition of “Make Them Hear You,” from the musical Ragtime. The Denver Children’s Chorus is performing “For the Beauty of the Earth,” a Christian hymn.
Peer’s Kol Nashim will premiere the piece “Baruch She’asani Isha,” (Blessed Who Made Me a Woman), by Nili Abrahamsson, with text by Esther Raab, and the Colorado Hebrew Chorale will open the proceedings with “Heal Us Now,” by Leon Sher, basically a prayer for healing.
“We usually open with a prayer for peace,” Peer says, “but I think a prayer for healing is particularly apropos.”
The program will end with a sing-along prayer for peace performed as a round.
“I hope that our viewers will stick around, and I will teach them the round,” 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. According to the organization, which 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.
Peer says the event has an anonymous donor who has agreed to match donations dollar for dollar and hasn’t set a limit. SafeHouse has been hit hard by the pandemic, so she hopes to raise as much money as possible for the organization. Its shelter has been at capacity, as has its transitional housing, and the group is in need of help.
Peer adds that about 300 women attended the joint rehearsal last year, and there were people in the crowd who afterward walked up to SafeHouse representatives to share their domestic-violence stories.
“If you get together a group of several dozen people, they are there — people who either have lived or are living in a domestic-violence situation,” Peer says. “If all we have is one person who says, ‘I didn’t know there was a phone number. I’m going to save that number,’ we’ve already accomplished something.”
The event will not be canceled this year.
“This is going to [happen], come hell or high water,” Peer says.
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