On the 15th of September the children of the Voices of Haiti received a standing ovation at their New York debut during the second Global Exchange. They are a precious seed for the future of their land… Deep in their hearts, they already cherish what their island will be in the future, while what we can give them today – Andrea Bocelli points out – is just a fertile ground where they can sprout and broaden their horizons, in order to take off, as they are actually already capable of doing and are increasingly aware of.
The international event was held at Lincoln Center, in the heart of Manhattan, where the Andrea Bocelli Foundation choir, in partnership with the St Luc Foundation, faced the audience for the first time in their career, and this event focused on the peacekeeping power of art, which all of us can practice in our daily life. Alongside Andrea, the children’s choir did what Andrea himself is loved for all over the world: they put their hearts into their voices, flooding the audience with emotions that, after “Amazing Grace,” prompted tears on many cheeks.
There was no better way, in the opinion of everyone, to stress what the conference was meant to remind the world of: art has that peacekeeping power if it is performed for the common good. The revolution triggered by these Haitian children is «the only great revolution wished for», as Andrea Bocelli stated, when he spoke first at the United Nations and then at the closing of the second Global Exchange.
Here are some excerpts from his addresses:
My philanthropic activity is the result of a long-standing choice I made, which can be summarized as the determination to be on the side of the good. The idea of generating happiness and hope in those who don’t have any is one of the goals that give meaning and accomplishment to life. And music is inevitably connected with this momentum, because it has the invaluable power of touching our conscience and contributing to our spiritual development.
When we are touched by a musical score, something happens inside us. Emotion and compassion are in fact feelings that contribute to make us better human beings… A concept that was already known in ancient times, so much so that two thousand years ago, Cato Uticensis recommended that the military not listen to music because it would have made them unfit for war… And today we very much want a world made of women and men who are “unfit for war.”
My relationship with Haiti started off with what must have been a predestined meeting with Father Rick Frechette, a hero of our times who, as many of you know, went to Haiti when he was a young priest and, after having witnessed the tragic situation, decided to go back to the United States, get a degree in medicine, and return to the Caribbean island for good. Here, for more than a quarter century, he has been a priest every new dawning day, when he wears his cassock and celebrates the liturgy (which unfortunately almost every day is also a funeral), and he has been a doctor for the rest of his day…
A short time after my first meeting with Father Rick, I set up the foundation that bears my name. Meanwhile, Haiti suffered the terrible earthquake we all know about. It was therefore a natural consequence to focus a large share of our energies on this disfigured land.
In its first five years of activity, ABF has grown rather quickly, thanks to the generosity of the donors and of all men and women of good will who have committed themselves to the foundation. The positive results have not been long in coming, because when you work in a place where everything is needed, it is easy to see almost immediately the first fruits of your efforts.
Voices of Haiti is a recent challenge but already a winning one. These children are able to tell their story to the world, not only via the music, but also with the power of their eyes and the touch of their emotions. Such wonderful young choir members – like all other children – are like clean blackboards on which it is easy to write. Many of them have a genuine artistic talent, on top of an enormous desire… And we all know: where there’s a will there’s a way! Today, for the first time, they are experiencing a world which is totally unknown to them: they are becoming aware of the great diversity of humankind and are ready to grow up, being a precious seed for this great people.
I believe in music as a tool for developing the human soul. Leibniz, the great German philosopher, defined it as an “occult arithmetic exercise of the soul, unconscious of its counting.” This concept, apparently complex but very simple in actual fact, is based on a great awareness: each musician knows that, when you juxtapose some notes – each one with its values – on the staff, you are dealing with numbers. And you are equally aware of how many numbers are necessarily left out of that staff. Well, these are numbers left to the interpretation, imagination, and sensitivity of the musician. Indeed, directions such as forte, piano, or diminuendo, crescendo, leave great freedom; they don’t tell you “how much” to decrease or increase. Only the performer’s soul can respond, that soul that indeed is “unconscious of its counting“… The study of music, and of singing in particular, in my opinion, is a fundamental tool to nurture each soul, including the bright ones of Haitian children who live in an extremely different context from our own.
Today these children are moving us, tomorrow they will surprise us, giving us beauty and even thanking us with the light of their eyes, with the astonished expression of their faces: they are the hope of a people and a land that has been hit by so many disasters. They have set out on a pathway that will lead to the transformation of their country.
It’s easy to see the difference, at times unbearable, between unrestrained wealth and unrelenting poverty. Those who cherish the wish to improve the world must nurture a great revolutionary idea. Not those revolutionary ideas that history has already known, at an extremely high price in terms of the loss of human lives, which have miserably failed, one after another. I am talking of the only possible revolution: the inner one, that we have to accomplish in each of us. These are the children open to the only big revolution that can be hoped for and is possible. The young choir singers of the Voices of Haiti are ready, they have the will to strive for their people and make this earth a better place… And we have to stand by them.