Yankee Magazine November/December 2021

Page 110

THEIR VOICES CARRY F By bringing together young immigrants in song, this Portland, Maine, chorus offers a life-changing experience for performers and audience alike. BY M E L A L L E N | P H OTO S BY S É A N A LO N Z O H A R R I S

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“Even though we are only a tiny chorus, we try to give people hope of peace.” —Natalia, age 13, from Angola on Fullam awakens in the darkness of 4 a.m. on Thursday, August 5, at his home in Windham, Maine. He is 73, and “it takes me a while now to get everything together,” he says. Later this afternoon, Pihcintu, the chorus of immigrant girls and young women he founded and directs, will sing live for only the second time since the pandemic made rehearsing, let alone performing, all but impossible. But first, he must get them to Portland.

The size of the chorus over the years has ranged from 20-something to as many as 44, with its members beginning as young as 8 and some remaining for a decade or more. Now there are 28 singers, and he hopes many of them will make it today. But he never knows for certain. It is summer, midweek; the older ones have jobs, and not all with managers who will let them go. No matter that only a few weeks earlier Yo-Yo Ma had joined Pihcintu onstage in Bar Harbor for a Juneteenth celebration, or that the chorus had sung at the United Nations and the Kennedy Center and the National Cathedral, NEWENGLAND.COM

9/9/21 10:30 AM