Beautiful things still happen. Even in a week when winter came early and hard. Even in a city suffering a bone-deep weariness and caught in a paralysing fog of insurance-related bureaucracy. Even in our neighbourhood, still badly bashed up 17 months on from the February 22 quake, with several homes demolished, several more destined to come down, almost all severely damaged, and half still stuck in the white-zone limbo that was imposed almost exactly a year ago.
The beautiful thing for us was the Christchurch Pops Choir. This soaring group of voices is the inspiration of the brilliantly talented Luke di Somma, a young Fulbright scholar who has come home to Christchurch after completing a masters in musical theatre writing at New York University.
Faced with the loss of performance outlets for singers and musicians after the quake, di Somma conceived of a choir, the likes of which we haven’t seen before – a community of up to 80 singers, doing everything from Michael Jackson to Don McGlashan, Gershwin to Gaga, from Queen to Adele.
This weekend they came and sang for our little neighbourhood.
A few weeks ago, through the online group we use to keep our street connected, we’d set a date for a pot-luck dinner, something we’ve tried to do periodically to build the community bonds that will help sustain us through the long road ahead.
But in this, our second post-quake winter with little sign of progress towards rebuilding, I wanted us to do more than just get together to eat and trade insurance horror stories. We needed something joyful, something brilliant.
So I wrote a cheeky email to di Somma, asking if it was beyond the bounds of possibility for the Christchurch Pops Choir to come and sing to our small gathering of 50 or 60 neighbours on a mid-winter night; oh, and by the way, we couldn’t offer them anything more than a modest donation.
I expected to be duly ignored or receive a polite “no thanks”. But, no; choir president Jo Domigan wrote back with the news, “We’re on!”
And on Saturday night, there they were. Fifty or so choristers filed through the door of our local school hall – one of the few neighbourhood venues not closed by earthquake damage or tagged “unsafe” by nervous engineers – and lifted the roof with a powerful blast of gospel, rock and pop.
Their rendition of McGlashan’s divine Bathe in the River brought me to tears; there was Man in the Mirror, Bohemian Rhapsody, Seasons of Love from the musical Rent, and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep – all superbly tight and masterfully executed.
And, to finish off, the song they performed at the February 22 memorial and which has become an anthem of hope for Christchurch’s tired souls, You Raise Me Up.
As moving as the music itself was the generosity and warmth of the performance and of di Somma’s energetic leadership. I got the impression the choir, which was celebrating its first anniversary last night, was getting as much of a boost as we were. From their community to ours, a beautiful collision.