Friends old and new at Ground Zero
The choir has been on such a wonderful journey this week, we still can't quite believe we've sung in the world famous Carnegie Hall, rubbing shoulders with professional composers, conductors and choirs, and today we paid our own tribute at Ground Zero.
We've sung almost non stop since arriving six days ago and, although we had two important performances to do, we've also sung with buskers on the metro and in the hotel lobby to guests. We just can't stop singing.
Rehearsals have taken up the majority of our time and with the various taxi and subway rides to get to locations, as a group of 22, it's been a logistical nightmare, but it's been something to remember for the rest of our lives.
Before we went to Ground Zero we spoke about our emotions and ways to keep them at bay. We wanted to do the fallen firefighters proud and we wanted it to be about them, not us. We'd waited so long to do this so it had to be right.
Over the last few days the weather had been really cold but dry. Today it rained non stop. It was agreed that whatever the weather when we got there, we were singing at Ground Zero and nothing was going to stop us.
Fellow choristers from the Carnegie Hall concert, Ulster University http://www.ulsterchoir.com/and Cambridge Chorale http://www.cambridgechorale.org.uk/joined us, despite the weather conditions, and together we sang two sections of Stabat Mater and people were drawn instantly to the sound and came from across the Memorial to watch.
The area that performers are allocated to sing in by the 911 Museum at Ground Zero is a flat space of granite paving. There is no stage given for the performance, which can only last 15 minutes and not be intrusive to the area. It is a memorial and respect is paramount.
Our group of 40 sang facing the memorial in what is basically an open space, surrounded by the New York skyline. It was a wonderful experience to sing Stabat Mater with our new found friends and made the trip extra special. We thanked them for their support and they joined the now growing audience for our next song.
Soloist firefighter Matt Lloyd from Macclesfield took up the helm. Matt and the operational firefighters of the choir wore their uniforms and medals as a mark of respect. Matt sang the first section on the song "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen and then the choir joined in.
This song talks about the wreckage and pain of that horrendous event on 9/11 and is a requiem for those who perished in that sudden inferno, and those who died trying to save them. It's an emotional song at the best of times but words cannot describe how we actually felt singing it at Ground Zero. Tears of sadness were mixed with rain as the choir stood proud. We could not have sung it any better and afterwards we thanked the people who came to support us.
Our old choir friend from Sing While You Work, Raf Lopez, took the day off from his New York city job to come and see us. Raf sang with CitiBank throughout the programme and has remained good friends with the choir ever since.
We were also honoured to meet Richard McKay from Sandbeach Fire Department. Richard is head chaplain. Richard's wife Elizabeth is from Warrington and saw on social media that we were performing in New York, so they came to both Carnegie Hall and Ground Zero to watch us perform.
Wherever you go in the world firefighters are one big family and we wanted to do this for all those that fell that fateful day.
We can now rest in the knowledge that we have paid our respects at Ground Zero and are heading home to Cheshire contented, fulfilled and honoured to have been part of something so special.