National Public Radio All things considered: Nai Syrian Children's Choir

Syrian Children's Choir Will Not Perform At U.S. Festival Because Of Travel Ban

June 27, 2018 5:34 PM ET

Heard on All Things Considered

When the Nai Syrian Children's Choir was invited to join the Serenade! Choral Festival in Washington, D.C., this week, they were excited, until they realized they are from a country listed in the American travel ban.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE CHILDREN, RISE TO PEACE")

NAI SYRIAN CHILDREN'S CHOIR: (Singing) I believe this world is possible.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

I believe this world is possible - that's the opening to a song titled "Rise Children, Rise To Peace." It is sung by the Nai Syrian Children's Choir.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE CHILDREN, RISE TO PEACE")

NAI SYRIAN CHILDREN'S CHOIR: (Singing) Rise, children, rise.

KELLY: The group is based in Canada, and it's made up of children between the ages of 6 and 15, all of them Syrian refugees.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And that's why the group is not performing at this week's Serenade! Choral Festival here in Washington.

FEI TANG: It's just too much risk for children's choir to take.

CORNISH: That's Fei Tang. She's referring to the Trump administration's travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. She manages the group.

TANG: We knew that travel ban was still in effect. And there are so many issues going on right now, and it's just impossible for us to pass the border without major issues.

KELLY: So instead, they submitted a video. Classical Movements, the festival organizer, wanted to help get the choir into the U.S. but understood the risks. Neeta Helms is the organization's president.

NEETA HELMS: The world has such fantastic culture and so much to give in terms of music and the power of all these languages. And we wanted this choir to come because of friendship because we wanted to welcome them, and we wanted them to gain from what this festival is about.

CORNISH: The free festival showcases choirs from around the world. The goal is to educate both the singers and audiences about different cultures.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE CHILDREN, RISE TO PEACE")

NAI SYRIAN CHILDREN'S CHOIR: (Singing) Le, le, le, le, la (ph) I'm singing for peace.

CORNISH: Fei Tang with the Syrian Children's Choir in Canada says she hopes that one day they'll be able to perform in the U.S.

TANG: Whenever the immigration policy become more tolerant and our kids safety and their well-being can be guaranteed, we would definitely want to come. We definitely - we love our neighbors south of the border. We love to sing for them.

KELLY: For now, they'll sing on video at the Serenade! Festival's finale that is Sunday at the Kennedy Center.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RISE CHILDREN, RISE TO PEACE")

NAI SYRIAN CHILDREN'S CHOIR: (Singing) Le, le, le, le, le, la, le, le, le, le, le, la, le, le, le, le, le, la...

CORNISH: This is NPR News.

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