The 2016-2017 season for the Santa Cruz Peace Chorale was unexpectedly driven and intensified by the results of the presidential election in November. Many of us, of course, were and continue to be active in other arenas of political action, but we felt an even more urgent need to use our music to inspire hope, resistance and persistence after November 8, 2016.
We presented several musical events throughout the year. Our December program was entitled “Peace on Earth: Reflections on Peace & Justice.” In early March, we gathered together for a day of service with our annual “Cook, Serve & Sing!” dinner event for the Watsonville homeless shelter at the Salvation Army. In April, we organized a public street-corner choir in support of the “Climate Change March & Rally” in Santa Cruz. We hosted a film event in May for the “Reel Work Labor Film Festival” at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, showing the Jim Brown film “Pete Seeger, the Power of Song,” and leading the audience in song. We concluded our season with two concerts entitled, “Arise! Arise!” – a program of songs to inspire hope and resistance in challenging times. The first of these was a public full-length concert; the second was an informal afternoon presentation for the senior residents at Dominican Oaks. Both were very successful.
Monthly member pledges continue to be the backbone of keeping us fiscally solvent. Our members also spearheaded two choir fundraisers this year: one a mid-year letter-writing campaign, and the other a silent auction at our annual spring concert.
In addition to raising funds to keep the choir afloat, we also used our music to raise funds and supplies for other social justice organizations – notably the DAPL protestors at the Standing Rock Reservation in October, and Oxfam America’s annual “Hunger Banquet” campaign in November.
Many of our members also donated generously to send both our music director Aileen Vance and quite a few children, on “The Peace Train Tour Across America,” a project that brought together 100 diverse youth singers from all over the U.S. who lived, traveled and performed together for 11 days last July. This was an extension of the Peace Chorale’s work in 2015-16 with Peace Train founder, South African musician Sharon Katz, and it was a fitting way to accentuate our desire to build bridges to bring people together while others talk of building walls to keep people out.
We look forward to next year’s season (our 16th!) and our continued dedication to peace and justice.
Aileen Vance, Director of Santa Cruz Peace Chorale