Friday, September 28, 2012

Helping Street People with Music

Street people, we know, are those that have no home and wander the streets. Often they have mental problems, reversals in life, poverty, sickness and those who have given up on society and prefer going it alone.  Drink is a serious problem with street people, and Korea has taken the violence that follows drinking to a new level of concern. There are 39 places of rest for street people in Seoul and many places offering free meals.

The government, private organizations and religious groups all are involved in helping those who are homeless.  The Seoul railroad station is the home for many of these wanderers. The Peace Weekly has an article acquainting us with the work of the "Warm Meeting Place," a place not only where a homeless person can get a free meal but also can attend a choir practice. The addition of this choral group was well received, with 25 to 40 attending singing practice.

Just having a place to eat, of course, does not solve the problems of the street  people. However, being a member of the choir gives the street people a feeling of belonging. With music, they are consoled and some find the strength to return to society.

Started by a community of sisters, the choir has its own choir director. They begin practicing on Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m., and are now practicing about once a week. There is even  some well-known  vocalist who helps in the directing.

The Peace Weekly article on the choir mentions that a change  has taken place with some of those attending. Not only is there a change in the clothes they wear, but their desire to return to a normal life is noticed during the period of practicing. One of the Sisters said the results of music can be keenly felt. In just a few weeks a change can be seen in the confidence they acquire with attendance.

The musical repertoire usually consists of folk songs and songs from the movies, but the street people say they prefer the classical songs. They also have a desire to enunciate clearly and to study the intricacy of choral singing, which energizes those who are there to teach.

The time spent in singing and learning the music enables the street people to find themselves and gain confidence. They begin to dream of returning to society and finding a job. The thought of forming a group of street people to come together to sing sounds preposterous. And yet the possibility of teaching this segment of society to sing as a choir makes us reflect on how limited we are by our prejudices and fixed ideas of what is possible and what is not. Another example of not letting our possibilities be limited by our perceived limitations but to see what can be accomplished and to work toward its realization.

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