By Adeline Sire
This Saturday, Boston area musicians will be performing at the Memorial Church of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, to benefit refugees at the US-Mexican border. Boston Camerata’s Music Director Emeritus Joel Cohen, who spearheaded this “Help the Children” musical fundraiser, promises a program of compelling music and varied historical periods and styles.
The program’s opening song has a particularly salient line:
“Lord, why have you imprisoned your dove, and kept her in chains? In solitude, she cries to you, Lord, Lord!”
“This line is meant as a metaphor for Jewish people in exile,” says Cohen, “but could now be heard as a poetic metaphor for children in cages at the US-Mexico border.”
Soprano Anne Azéma (and Boston Camerata’s director) will sing this song, the first in an eclectic vocal program, that will feature Medieval, Renaissance and Shaker songs, as well as American Spirituals, contemporary choral works, Turkish, and South American music. The performers include: The Boston Camerata, Blue Heron, Dünya, and Black Nativity Cast members, among others.
Listeners will hear very different moods in this program, from pensive melodies such as “Weeping Pilgrim,” a 19th century American song from the Sacred Harp songbook, to the comical 12th century tune “Gregis Pastor,” and the uplifting African-American Spiritual “Go Tell it on The Mountain.”
“It’s not a concert about despair,” observes Cohen, “there’s a lot of festive music in it.”
Cohen says besides raising funds, the concert will also showcase the wide range of musicians who live and work in the city. “One of thing you want to show in Boston is that there’s lots of talent here,” Cohen says. “That’s not the main reason for the concert, but it’s good to point it out.”
All proceeds from the “Help the Children” concert will be distributed to the Cambridge Legal Defense Fund for Immigrants, and to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).
It’s not the first time Cohen has put together benefit concerts. In 2016, his concert fundraiser at the All Saints Church in Brookline raised $14,000 for Doctors Without Borders. While he says he doesn’t pretend to be able to solve all the world’s problems, he hopes such artistic events can make “a genuine difference in the lives of some real, precious human beings.”
“Help the Children”: Saturday March 9th at 3 p.m., at the Memorial Church of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Admission is free and donations kindly requested.
Adeline Sire is a French-American journalist and radio producer based in the Boston area. @AdelineSire