‘What I’ve Been Looking For’

The Musicals Choir was started by Cristina Colomer, director of the Escola de Músics in Raval, for young people experiencing difficulties in school. In four years, it has grown to include about 60 singers, all lovers of songs from the musicals. Last night, they welcomed a small group of Traction project members to their weekly rehearsal, performing several pieces for us. My video offers a glimpse of what they can do, despite the need for face masks and social distancing. It was a joy to be there, feeling their pleasure in music, in an almost tangible atmosphere of happiness and friendship.

Musicals Choir rehearsals, 24 April 2021, Barcelona

We also had time to talk about what had attracted them to the choir, and some of the experiences it had brought them. Listening to them was an object lesson is the transformative power of participation in community music-making. More than a dozen of the young people spoke about their feelings, situations and difficulties, and how this second family – a phrase used more than once – had strengthened and changed them. They talked about acceptance and understanding, of themselves and of others, about coping with illness and disability, identity, belonging and families, and finding confidence in themselves and their future. One young woman said that in the choir she had found her best self, another said it had taught her how much she loved her sister. More than one person had made life decisions, including come home from abroad, so as to remain part of the choir. But more than what they said, it was how they said it that moved me. Without hesitation, they spoke to me – a stranger who didn’t know their languages – directly and openly about some of the most important things in their lives. Several even made the effort to speak to me in excellent English. Whatever they had come to this choir in search of, they were some of the most impressive young people I have met.

The choir has no funding or external support: it is only the commitment of Cristina and her fellow musicians that makes it possible. Next year they will be among the singers that perform as part of the La Gata Perduda, the community opera that the Liceu Opera House is co-creating with its neighbours in Raval. They young people will be in their element and I cannot wait to see them shine.

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