I am so excited to see the PS22 Chorus perform at the Academy Awards tomorrow night! I have been a huge fan of Mr. B and his singers ever since I first discovered their videos on YouTube. At the time, I was working on an arrangement of the song Carbon by Tori Amos for the adult choir I sing with, and was looking to see if any other choirs out there had covered it. It's kind of an obscure song, so I didn't have my hopes up too high, but then I found the following video and simply fell in love:
I was so taken with these kids that I temporarily abandoned my search for more versions of that song and just kept watching their videos, one after another. I especially loved their versions of "I'll Stand by You", "Forever Young", and Bjork's "Joga". These kids reminded me why I love singing, and singing in a choir in particular. They got me back in touch with the pure joy at the heart of it, something that, though I hadn't completely lost it, was buried under layers of perfectionism and "safe" singing (you know: singing that risks nothing, that is not emotionally vulnerable, but sounds good, and so is received with praise). I became a PS22 evangelist for a while there, insisting that everyone I knew, whether they were musicians or not, watch their videos. I was convinced that there was something there that anyone could benefit from seeing, and everyone I showed them to was genuinely affected by the experience.
A number of influences combined to give me the final push it took to get Shine off the ground, but the PS22 kids were right up there among them, reminding me over and over again that it was a worthy pursuit, that I could do it as long as I had the love for it, and that it was going to mean a lot to a lot of people someday.
I often tell people that Shine is inspired by the hit show Glee, because it's something most people have heard of, but the truth is that these real-life kids and their incredible teacher in Staten Island have moved me and encouraged me much more than any TV show could, and what they do is much closer to what we actually do in Shine. I hope that their Oscar performance will make them famous enough where I can say, "You know the PS22 Chorus? It's kind of like that!"
I like to think that Shine is somehow connected to PS22, like a sister chorus on the opposite coast. So, PS22 kids, we wish you a wonderful performance tomorrow, and a safe trip home! Thank you for sharing your music with the world. You guys rock!
I'm so glad that we were able to obtain a recording of this performance. It was a really special experience for the kids. The Home for the Holidays show is put on annually by local musician Mark Bosnian, who, upon hearing about Shine in September (when we were just getting started) invited us to be beneficiaries of the concert AND to perform at it! A performance opportunity AND a donation-- what more could a fledgling chorus ask for? We were thrilled!
The night of the concert, we arrived for our sound check and found that not only was Mark Bosnian just as kind a person as his generosity would suggest, but he was also amazingly calm while pulling together all the last minute details for a major event with lots of people involved. I think his calmness helped put the kids at ease, and reminded all of us that we were gathering to share music and joy, and to relax and let it be fun.
And so much fun it was! We sang our mash-up of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I'm Yours by Jason Mraz, and our soloist JinMei really knocked it out of the park! We also did Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) by Shakira. The audience was wonderful, the atmosphere was warm and inviting, and the kids REALLY connected. Afterward, there was lots of praise for Shine and how expressively the kids sang, how they really seemed to be getting into the music and enjoying themselves, and how nice they sounded. The rest of the night was filled with beautiful music by different groups and individual performers (including the multi-talented Mark Bosnian himself), and it was a pleasure and an honor to be a part of it.
Watch Shine's performance below!