• Voices of Haiti in New York – Last day

    The final rush. First a morning visit at the “Frank Sinatra School of the Arts,” founded by Tony Bennet, and then the last performance, on the Metropolitan Ballroom stage, at the Clinton Global Initiative. The day started with autumn showers, as we dived into a classic school day, surrounded by hundreds of American students. The New York City Department of Education public school structure is no less than 5 stories high! This is a place that is filled with art and adolescence, and this is an opportunity for our kids to observe the talented kids hard at work. This is a true ‘incubator’ of art, with orchestras, choirs, dance, fine arts but also labs and classrooms. However the most exciting moment, after lunch in the school cafeteria, was in the “Tony Bennet Concert Hall”, where the “Voices of Haiti” performed, after being introduced by the director, Malcom J. Merriweather, who recounted the didactic and existential journey gone through by the kids, whilst introducing our Haitian collaborators (who also performed solos at the concert hall). Everyone was warmly welcomed by loud claps and whistles. The Voices of Haiti performed a wide range of songs from their repertoire, followed by the American students performing their own vocal show. After this rush of enthusiasm, we are certain, will nurture the dreams of the Haitian children and will convince them to follow them through. The last stretch, was in front of a very important audience (once again alongside Andrea) at the annual 2016 CGI, during the “Clinton Global Citizen Awards”. The adventure has come to an end, but has opened many doors for the future of our choir members. Such an experience requires some time to be completely well absorbed and understood. For our young children to properly benefit from the past week, their slightly confused hearts will need a bit of time to analyse all that has happened. The children are coming home bringing along with them memories of music and affection, and essentially a whole new and different world that has suddenly come into their lives and changed them. Their educators and the staff of St. Luc and ABF will need to follow through with the growth of the children, so that they can benefit as much as possible from the experience. It is now time for goodbyes, for hugs and tears and for promises. This was no ordinary experience, it demanded a lot of responsibility, discipline, and even some sacrifices from the children. The challenge was however well handled, and the Voices of Haiti are now a reality. They have been able to perform on very difficult stages (some that represent the culminator of a career for other artists) and they are now ready for new adventures. In 2017, we have planned performances at Madison Square Garden, in Miami and in Europe. There are opportunities for not only the children that came on this trip, but for many others to discover, study, dream and share experiences to help build the future of their country. For who had the honour to stay close to the children, and for those who had the patience to read and follow our tournee through these little travel updates, can be certain that our family is now stronger than ever. The children are all now part of our family. As Andrea Bocelli reminds us, it is not necessary to be altruistic to help them. We just need to understand that their future is also a part of ours.

    Giorgio De Martino

  • Voices of Haiti in New York – Day 5 and 6

    Taking care of others and as a consequence making a difference in their lives. The will to take care of people, or lack thereof, divides the world into two kinds of people: those who are against this unbalance and try to understand what to do for others, and those who do not. This was the essence of the homely of Father Rick Frechette, the unstoppable form of inspiration for all, particularly ABF. In an interview two days ago, Andrea Bocelli himself defined him as a ‘modern day hero’. Sunday morning, in the front rows of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, sat the 35 members of our choir their blue and red togas immersing the church in colour. They are followed by Andrea, Veronica and hundreds of other worshippers. The weekend of the Voices of Haiti was dedicated to resting and the exploration of New York. Yesterday, the choir toured the ‘centre of the world’ … otherwise known as Times Square, the exuberant Little Italy and finally Broadway, where our young singers got the chance to experience the unforgetta ble Lion King. The news of the attack in Manhattan reached (and shocked) us when we were still in the theatre. Luckily, the updates were not too as tragic as we initially feared. The city’s precautions and worked were as such that we managed to reach the hotel with no further delays or problems. The next day, after the Holy Mass, which showcased Andrea and the choir, and after breakfast in the sacristy, other memorable experiences awaited our young musicians. Thanks to another generous gift by Bob Book, the entire groups was invited on a boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty, and later to visit the ‘Top of the Rock ‘ with its incredible view. Father Rick spoke clearly during his homely, he is after all very much used to talking about the essence of things. Father Rick is both a doctor and a priest, who for over 25 years has had an unmoving will to celebrate and defend life, both in the church and in the operating room. From the Altar of the church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a strong moral appeal is given, calling for everyone to do his or her part. Calling from the words of the Gospel, citing that who does good in little things, will do good also in big things. He speaks of a lot of people of good will, including Andrea and Veronica, who have taken to heart the future of the Haitian peninsula, and how little things have progressively grown. They have grown so much that they have performed for the United Nations, at Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, Cipriani… And tomorrow for the ‘Clinton Global Initiative’. Father Rick recalled one of the many stories that have crossed his path. He spoke of a Haitian family, hurt by many problems regarding health and livelihood, but how their live had been changed and flipped around just because there was someone who cared. Father Rick explains that we have to first see how we can help people before we can take action, the children in our choir also come from difficult situations. However change thought ABF and the Fondation St Luc is possible and within five grasp, and it can make a great difference in the lives of many children. The slums of Port au Prince and galas attended by royalty would seem far too different worlds to have a connecting link. Because where there is a will (to take care of others), there is a way!

  • Voices of Haiti in New York – Day 4

    The United Nations General Assembly will soon reunite most of the heads of state of the world in the tall glass building where our young choir performed the Haitian national anthem just yesterday. At the United Nations security check, the guards are not even letting in a small device, vaguely resembling a pencil sharpener that our cameraman forgot to take out of his bag. However, our young singers’ determination and strength, always aimed to at people’s hearts was not stopped by the detectors. In the words of Andrea Bocelli, who was called to speak at the United Nations ‘theirs, is a necessary revelation’. Andrea also spoke at the closing of the second “Global Exchange”: “It is easy and at the same time intolerable to see the difference between wealth and the most extreme poverty. Whoever really wants to change the world for the better, needs to foster revolutionary thoughts… not quite like the ones history has already seen. Those have already cost too much in terms of human lives, and have one by one almost always failed. I am speaking of the only possible revolution: an internal one which we all have to foster within us. The young singers of the “Voices of Haiti” are ready, they want to fight for their people and make the Earth a better place and we have to support them along the way.” Music is a tool for development. Culture and beauty are used as strategies to relieve anyone out of their difficult situations. Music allows the beautiful souls of our young singers to flourish. The founder of ABF added, “today they are moving us, but tomorrow they will surprise us. These children have shown us so much beauty, and have thanked us with the light in their eyes. The seed that we planted in their paths, can really transform their country”. The children sand at the “Thank You Gala Dinner” and New York’s Cipriani in front of the Princess of Sweden.

  • Voices of Haiti in New York – Day 3

    Seeds. This is how Andrea Bocelli described them, after infinite hugs at “Jazz at Lincoln Center”. In the rehearsal room, the children sang for him, and then he for them. A unique opportunity, for the future of their country, the “Voices of Haiti” received a standing ovation yesterday on the stage of the “Global Exchange” at Lincoln Center. In their hearts, they already feel what their country can become. Andrea describes ABF as giving the fertile land where people can plant seeds and allow them to grow. Where they can widen their prospectives and fulfill their greatest potential. The second annual Global Exchange speaks of the peaceful power of art, which we can apply on a daily basis. The inauguration is a mix of creative outlets, that have come from all over the world, but are all narrating the same story: of action against oppresion, war and the cruelty it brings. The ABF choir, in partnership with the St. Luc Foundation, has overcome the first challenge of its career: its first performance on stage! Shortly before the debut, during “hair and makeup,” the young choir took advantage of the time off to run around and dance to rap music playing from cell phones in front of our video-makers. “Voices of Haiti,” has done just what Andrea Bocelli is famous for doing: putting heart and soul into musiIt is now the time for the choir to enjoy their time in New York and to keep performing at their best. c. They filled the audience with an intense emotions, leaving no cheek dry as they sang “Amazing Grace”. Immediately following their performance at Lincoln Center, the choir was brought to “Radio City Music Hall,” whilst making new aquaintances of the likes of Tony Bennet! Voices of Haiti sang once again, this time in front of an even bigger audience, among huge stars including Lady Gaga and Michael Buble in the Big Apple. It is now the time for the choir to enjoy their time in New York and to keep performing at their best. Art is only art if it is done for good, and this is what the Global Exchange is really about.

  • Voices of Haiti in New York – Day 2

    A real stage. And a huge stage at that! Radio City Music Hall has welcomes the young ABF and St. Luc singers. Behind them stands a 3-level orchestra, sorrounded by columns holding up screens. In front of the children stand 6,000 seats, and right beside them is Andrea, who just arrived last night from Italy. The count down to the debut of the “Voices of Haiti” is now only down to one digit. Just a few more hours until the inauguration of the “Global Exchange” at Lincoln Center, immediately followed by another historic performance, for Tony Bennett’s 90 year birthday. Tomorrow, more exciting adventures await, at the United Nations and the Childhood Foundation. The birthday message for Tony, sitting on the left of the stage at “Radio City” announces that “the best is yet to come” and this also applies to the young children of the choir. There is nothing that wipes away the smile, good mood and excitement even after many hours of rehearsal. The Maestro Eugene Kohn, finally has met “Voices of Haiti,” at the tenth floor of Lincoln Center. Many years ago, not far from here, he was sitting behind a piano to play for Maria Callas, and today he is welcoming his new friends and now “collegues”. The September sun illumites the path followed by our young Haitians, in a crowded, yet calm Manhattan. The air condtioning is the only antagonist in this trip, but the flu has not won over any of our young choir members. Yesterday night, suddenly, a intense rainfall drenched the Midtown. Once we (the adults) reached the bus, we were wet, tired and a little annoyed. The children were somehow even happier, as they kept saying “ it is a blessing from the sky, the sky is blessing our adventure!”. And for us, it was impossible not to agree with them.

  • Voices of Haiti in New York – Day 1

    They are finally here! For one week they will showcase their voices in New York, reminding the world through music that education, culture and art are essential in order to overcome challenges. Just a few hours after their debut, the ‘Voices of Haiti’ have already warmed our hearts and filled them with joy. Their eyes, already glimmering back in the Caribbean island, have now filled with an even brighter light here in New York. As they live exciting new experiences and look up to the sky to see the unfamiliar shape of skyscrapers instead of the usual starry night sky. All this excited has however not taken away from their concentration. On the contrary, now more than ever, they have a burning desire to understand and learn whilst getting to meet (and very warmly embrace) new people. As they catch your gaze, they see the child that you once were. They celebrate you as you are, as we all are. They await for you to join them in celebration.