Clare, UK, Creative Writing Hi, I’m Clare. I’m originally from London and I came to New York in 2012 to start an MFA in creative writing at Columbia. I didn’t know anyone in the city, and that was daunting for a while. I live at International House, where I joined Ubuntu. It really was a turning point for me as the choir was incredibly welcoming and I began to feel part of a community.
Most of my time is taken up with writing and reading and, whilst I love these things, they are inherently solitary activities. Ubuntu has been a great place for me to experience creativity in a social way. Not only have I met some wonderful friends, I also have more confidence in myself and have discovered whole new genres of music to enjoy. Being part of a choir was not something that I had envisioned when I moved here, but the past year would have been very different without it and I feel lucky to be a member of Ubuntu.
Judy, U.S.A. Hi, I’m Judy. I’m a New Yorker. I’ve just retired from the graduate school faculty of Bank Street College of Education in New York City. In other parts of my life, I’ve led spiritual retreats, worked with young children and their families, served as a health care chaplain, and trained in the teaching of mindfulness, trauma healing and stress reduction. I have always loved to sing, but the last time I was in a choir I was in middle school.
The Ubuntu Community Choir is an amazing experience. During the first rehearsal that I attended, our director said something like, “You should be happier when you leave here than when you arrived tonight.” And I always am. This is very much the culture of the choir—welcoming and generous and playful, encouraging and engaged. Emily’s beautiful, intelligent direction of the choir inspires us to work hard together to learn songs from all over the world—gorgeous South African harmonies, a wonderful syncopated Latin round from Colombia, a beautifully complex Bengali song from a line of the poet Tagore, Appalachian folk music, British sea chanties, winter carols, and more. Each week I learn something new, something I never knew I could do. Each week I am heartened and inspired and filled with joy.
We also hang out together casually, and have tons of fun!