Everyone at the United Nations represents some cultural abode--a unique place of beginnings and the springboard of dreams. Like the prodigal son, restless to drink life, we venture beyond home to sculpture our ideal world. Sometimes the journey takes an odd twist.
In 1990, with heave-ho zest to become a jazz singer, I moved from laid-back Los Angeles to do-it-yesterday New York City. For months, I ate, slept and drank jazz. But the neon lights of Broadway eluded me. When my funds dwindled, I accepted a job at the United Nations Press Office. Unknowingly, I'd waltzed into a myriad of chances to perform.
I heard the UNSRC Singers--a chorus of staff members-at a lunchtime concert. Enchanted, I joined the club. Tri-weekly rehearsals conducted by Nelly Vuksic, local performances and annual Christmas programmes quenched my singer cravings.
Two years later, drummer Derrick Mbatha quipped, "If you like jazz, why don't you come jam with us?"
"Here at the UN?" I was unaware of a Jazz Society or the band.
"Yes, every Wednesday."
I quit the UN Singers. Every week, I met with Derrick, vocalist Debbie Goodridge, drummer Yuhei Sakurada, bassist Bruno Razafindrakoto and pianist Ellis "Nazarene" Pough in Room GA-37. We swung through Moon glow, plodded over Everything Happens to Me, and grooved on Street Life. At first, like a flower afraid to bloom, we only played for ourselves. But by UN Staff Day 1996, we were opening for Roy Hargrove's Quintet, and in 1997 for legendary trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.
I'd found the neon lights at the UN, but it wasn't the dazzling celebrities. The radiance illuminated from us, a family of kindred souls performing together.
On Friday, 22 June this year, the UNSRC Singers, the Jazz Society Workshop Band and the Ballroom Dance Club presented a concert at the Hitchcock-Rockefeller Auditorium at the YWCA. What a blast!
The effort to combine three stand-alone acts--jazz band, chorus, dancers-into one production required diplomacy. Sol Oca, the UN Singers programme director, worked tirelessly coordinating the groups. Missed. rehearsals, last-minute cancellations, differences in musical taste, and rigorous practice sessions took its toll. just before show time, tension...