When I’ve not been glued to the telly, I’ve been out and about catching up with people, some of whom I’ve known for years, and others I’ve met more recently. It’s all been good. It’s all part of coming home for the holidays.
Dublin, a city I love more and more the longer I’m away from it, is buzzing. Having lunch in Powerscourt the other day, we were serenaded by a series of carolers raising money for various charities. They ran the gamut from Jingle Bells to more operatic airs and each one just added another bit of flavour to the goodwill that was abounding.
Christmas is a time when thoughts turn to charity – to those less fortunate than ourselves. The collectors are out in the droves, shaking buckets and making pleas. And yet, given the various exposés earlier this year of how the funds raised by various Irish big-name charities were spent, as a nation, there’s a wariness about where to give money.
One of the nicest stories I’ve heard/seen so far this week is that of the High Hopes Choir who made their debut on the Late Late Show (Ireland’s longest-running TV chat show) back in October.
The choir is the brainchild of David Brophy who worked with some of Ireland’s better known charities dealing with homelessness -Dublin Simon Community, Saint Vincent De Paul, and Focus Ireland – to put together two regional choirs – one in Dublin and the other in Waterford. Choir members have one thing in common, apart from being willing to sing: they are either directly affected by homelessness or volunteer with those who are.
Brophy summed it up beautifully:
In just 8 weeks, through 20 rehearsals and over 1200 cups of tea and coffee, more than 60 people, all dealing with Ireland’s homeless crisis, reach beyond the stars.
They recorded Kodaline’s High Hopes, which was then released as a single and is now a chart topper at iTunes. Then they put on a gala concert for 400 people at Christchurch, where they were accompanied by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and with guest performances from Lisa Hannigan and Brian Kennedy.
In a TV special that I bawled my way through, the overriding message was that this choir, and belonging to it, gave people back their voice. As homeless people, no one listens to them. But now, performing in front of many of Ireland’s musical greats, on national TV, and in Dublin’s iconic cathedral, they’ve rediscovered who they are and more importantly, what they can be. The stories were heart-wrenching and a lesson in humility.
David Brophy, a former conductor with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, fronted the TV series that provided a forum for the initiative. After the gig at Christchurch, when the participants were interviewed about how much being part of the project meant to them, their gratitude to him was overwhelming. They gave themselves credit, too. And it was a lovely balance, one that struck me as missing from my more settled world. All too often we forget to give thanks and we forget to give ourselves credit, too. Or else we overdo it to the point of what we’d call at home ‘mé féin-ing’. We can be our own worst critics, our own worst enemies. And yet, with a little rightful humility and a dash of gratefulness, maybe we could restore some meaning to what we do. That was the lesson I learned from the High Hopes Choir – one that, this week, I’m truly grateful for.
The High Hopes Choir on iTunes 90 cent from each download will be split equally between Dublin Simon Community, Saint Vincent De Paul and Focus Ireland.