The Beacon Herald: Refugee choir coming to Stratford

Refugee choir coming to Stratford

A children’s choir comprised of Syrian refugees who recently settled in Canada that had to cancel a trip to the U.S. due to the country’s travel ban is coming to Stratford instead.

Terry Bridge 
Published on: August 7, 2018 | Last Updated: August 7, 2018 2:56 PM EDT

The Nai Children’s Choir will be the opening act for a Stratford Summer Music performance called Origins on Aug. 19

A children’s choir comprised of Syrian refugees who recently settled in Canada that had to cancel a trip to the U.S. due to the country’s travel ban is coming to Stratford instead.

The Nai Children’s Choir was supposed to attend a youth choral festival at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, according to Stratford Summer Music artistic producer John Miller. But after the Supreme Court upheld U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban prohibiting residents from seven countries, including Syria, from entering the country Miller said it was “too precarious” for them to try to cross the border.

Which is why he invited them to join his summer music lineup.

“I just felt badly (for) these young people, who are the children of refugee families – real recent refugee families,” he said. “I just felt that we should take it upon ourselves as Canadians to let them know that they were welcome and that we would work and support them.”

Now the Nai choir will be the opening act for a performance called Origins on Aug. 19 at The Avondale. Featuring the Canadian Arabic Orchestra, it will combine Indigenous Canadian music with Arabic music and culture, highlighting “the similarities between these two cultures when it comes to self-expression through the medium,” according to the festival’s website.

The choir, created in 2016, is comprised of over 200 refugee children and focuses on healing, learning and rejoicing, according to a press release. It’s overseen by a three-person team through Toronto-based CultureLink Settlement and Community Services.

Miller said he went to the city and invited the choir personally through team leader Fei Tang.

“We aren’t the Kennedy Center, but we are Stratford and we do want to be hospitable to new Canadians,” he said. “Most of us are first- or –second-generation Canadians ourselves.”

Tang did not respond to an interview request as of press time, but Miller said the invitation was “a very welcomed idea.” He added area residents are also planning on making the group feel welcome. Frank Herr of Avon Boat Rentals is planning to offer them free boat tours on the Juliet III, and Jenn and Larry’s Ice Cream Shoppe will dish up complimentary ice cream.

“And I think other local people may come forward and provide them with little treats,” Miller said.

tbridge@postmedia.com

Media Stories