Children’s Choral Festival honors late Nelson Mandela, raises awareness for homeless children

“Our children are our greatest treasure,” said the late Nelson Mandela during the 1997 Nationals Men’s March.

Those words resonated on January 26, as children from several Brooklyn schools and programs raised awareness for homeless children as well as honored the memory of the late Mandela through the gift of song. The day marked the Third Annual Children’s Choral & Arts Festival of Peace, held at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Fourth Avenue.

Performers, including students from St. Saviour Catholic Academy Choir, the Leif Ericson Day School Choir, the Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge, Bay Ridge Preparatory School HS, and the P.S. 102 Choir, gathered with their families in the filled church.

Last year’s event focused on helping the victims of Superstorm Sandy. This time around, donations received during the event are being given to various organizations that aid homeless children.

“There are more than 22,000 homeless children in New York City which is the highest number since the Great Depression, and that fact is simply unacceptable,” said the organizers of the event, Rita Pihra-Majurinen and Julia Hurn in a statement leading up to the afternoon.

After a brief introduction, a tribute video to Mandela, who died away this past December, was shown to the audience. With “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” playing in the background, the montage of still shots of Mandela with children was accompanied by famous quotes from the peacemaker.

Following the presentation, the concert began. The well prepared and eager children of Saint Saviour took the stage and began with classic tunes as well as some current songs, such as Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

The children in each group represented themselves with their own school uniforms. LEDS students donned light blue t-shirts with peace symbols. The Children’s Chorus of Bay Ridge wore colorful scarfs over their dress clothes. Regardless of attire, Pihra-Majurinen believed the students both bonded and understood the significance of the day.

If you were watching the children during the concert, you saw they were happy when singing together and totally engaged when they were watching each group perform,” said Pihra-Majurinen. “Mesmerized is the word. I know they enjoyed the experience.”

Before several of the performances, the children recited famous Mandela quotes which were relevant to the day’s theme of children. One choir member said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“Love is stronger than hate,” was a lyric belted out by the choir during the song “Victory is Ours.” John Lennon’s “Imagine” was also performed.

Once the concert concluded, children and their families participated in activities such as face painting and group art projects as well as enjoying refreshments. An art exhibit created by the children was also on display throughout the church.

The event was great,” said Hurn. “The concert was amazing, the art exhibit surrounding us in this space brought an atmosphere of peace and joy to the event, the audience was receptive and supportive, and we were able to raise funds for organizations that directly target the needs of NYC’s 22,000 homeless children. (It was) a great afternoon.”

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