Sunday November 23 2008, ANSWER held its 5th Annual Holiday Concert-Benefit at the Wege Auditorium at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.
140 sponsors and guests attended to hear David Lockington, Musical Director of the Grand Rapids symphony and cellist; Aviram Reichert, pianist and Van Cliburn medalist; Joseph Conyers, on the double bass. Alexander and Mary Jane Miller, oboist and violist; and Gene Hahn, violinist. Avi closed with Etudes by Chopin. The pentultimate piece, Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, featured the musicians together.
The musicians performed a wide breadth of musical arrangements from Bach, Shostakovich, Chopin and Mozart to the less traditional “Clapping Music,” an a capella duet by the Millers. Along this vein, Gene Hahn “fiddled” the familiar Shenandoah, Skip to My Lou, and Danny Boy which moved us from smiles to tears.
Among the several unique pieces were “Whispers in the Winds” composed, played, and sung by David and drawn on a poem written by his daughter, Mariama. The text was: “Beauty is just like time- always finding ways to piece lip by in sunbeams, or ride away like dandelion wishes in the wind”. Another featured David and Ale together on cello and oboe to perform one of Ale’s own musical compositions, “The Grass-cutter” or “Ghasi”, taking the lyrics of a 19th century poem composed by Nepal’s first great national poet Bhanubhatta.
He gives his life to cutting grass, yet he earns little money.
He hopes to make a well for his poeople,
So he will be remembered after death.
This high-thinking grass-cutter lives in poverty,
While I have achieved nothing with my wealth.
The image by Ale playing his oboe and swaying with the music as if charming the snakes lurking in the grass to stand clear,and David mournfully singing while moving his bow across the strings as if he were cutting the grass to sell for animal fodder was mystical. This visage and the poet’s pleating reminds us that supporting these children is “our well”, our legacy for which some on the other side of the world will never forget.
During intermission, a captivating video produced by Wayne Glatz documented and explained ANSWER’s role in providing educational opportunity and career placement to hundreds of Nepali children. As beautiful as the music was to the soul the dinner was equally appealing to the eye and palate: Moroccan spiced pork (or vegetarian strudel) was served with purple Peruvian mashed potatoes.
We were especially fortunate to have our country director Som Raj Subedi come all the way from Nepal to visit us. Som has been directly selecting and overseeing the progress of each and every child and is generally referred to by the children as “Big Brother.” The other night Som revealed a little homesickness in a passing remark, “I miss my children.” Som took the microphone to address questions from the audience such as how are our children are selected, how do we determine if the child is bright, and what about the Maoists.
We thank all of you who came to the Benefit, all who were unable to come but still sent in donations, all who purchased scarves and handicrafts at our Marketplace, and all who donated through the silent auction (even those who didn’t bid helped us by bidding up the final bid!).Special thanks to our board, the musicians, the Aquinas staff, and again ALL OF YOU–You helped make this our most financially successful Benefit ever. Please tell your friends to be sure to come to our Holiday Gala next year.