Wicked Local: May 10, 2014

Tonight Arlington group will celebrate 30 years of singing around the world

ARLINGTON: When singing unites people in harmony, friendship, and purpose, it can change lives and communities.

SANS Welcome to South Africa

In fact, it has! At a concert entitled "Mnogaya Lyeta" (Many Years) at 8 p.m. on May 10 First Parish Church, 630 Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington, Sharing A New Song (SANS) Chorus will celebrate its 30th year of reaching across cultural and political boundaries, around the world and in the United States.

Over the past 30 years, SANS has built bridges, "… one song at a time," to connect people, despite language barriers, cultural differences and political ideologies. Doing so has resulted in lifelong friendships, the sharing of musical traditions, and a deeper understanding of history and people in other countries and cultures.

Longtime Arlington resident Gwen Hooper is an original member of SANS. She tells of many memorable events during her first trip to the former Soviet Union in 1984.

"We were told that Russians were being kept from world news, and if there was any way we could bring current news magazines and give them to Russian chorus members, they would very much appreciate it. Someone gave us a hint—to tear the magazine into four parts, pack it in our luggage, and when we get there, put it together and give it to someone.

"So, I did that with two magazines. But, without our knowledge, a couple of our group members brought in bibles and religious things. The authorities found these objects when they searched our luggage in the railroad station, and were mad. They kept us at the station for six hours, while they looked through everything. They never found my magazines, but it was scary.

"The restrictions on us as Americans were very tight. There were three to fourd men in suits watching us all the time, everywhere we went, even when we went to the opera….

"After a concert one evening, we wanted to invite our host chorus back to our hotel. But Russians weren’t allowed in the hotel, so they stood outside the windows and waved to us. We felt so badly. We began to understand how tightly controlled the Russian people were…. We only got to know them when we rehearsed and sang. I thought the Russians might be standoffish or cold. It shocked me so much when they hugged us. I can remember how tightly they hugged us; it was really emotional. They only spoke a few words of English, and we only spoke a few words of Russian. But we connected by learning songs they taught us that we sang together in concerts, and that was how we became friendly. It was wonderful!"

Hooper and other members of SANS have had memorable and often life-changing experiences in South Africa, Cuba, Brazil, Vietnam, Nicaragua, and other countries; in Houma, Louisiana, as well as here in Boston. The connections happen when singing together, while dancing, drumming and sharing meals. It is through these shared experiences that SANS carry out its mission to celebrate the human spirit through choral music.

This summer, SANS is traveling to Bulgaria, Romania, and Estonia where SANS members look forward to singing with new friends, and in Estonia, renewing friendships from previous trips. A highlight this year will be a return to the Estonian Song Festival celebrated since 1869, including the years of Soviet domination, and documented in the film, The Singing Revolution.

Tickets for tonight's concert at door are $12; $10 for seniors & students.

Posted May. 10, 2014 @ 10:38 am in the Arlington Advocate/Wicked Local Arlington, Permalink here