Music Returns To Port-au-Prince

Amid the desperation and despair in earthquake-ravaged Port-au-prince, musicians from Haiti's national chorus, jazz band and philharmonic gave their first post-quake concert. The musicians were able to rescue some instruments from the rubble, and they held the concert in the devastated neighborhood of Bell Aire to bring hope to the displaced.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

Artists around the world have been helping to raise money for earthquake devastated Haiti, but last night Haitians living in one of the hardest hit areas of Port-au-Prince were treated to a live performance by members of their national chorus, jazz band and philharmonic.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this report.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: As the sun was setting last night, the music arrived to a devastated Haiti.

(Soundbite of chorus singing)

DEL BARCO: The remaining members of the Petits Chanteurs, Haiti's renowned boy's and men's chorus, began the first post-quake concert by serenading Bel Air, a downtown neighborhood that's still choked with dusty debris.

(Soundbite of chorus singing)

DEL BARCO: In this disaster zone, people are living in overcrowded tents or hastily made shacks on the streets, surrounded by mountains of rubble from massive buildings that collapsed. Like them, singer Bernie Anderson(ph) says he and the other musicians also lost everything - their family members, their friends, their homes.

Mr. BERNIE ANDERSON (Member, Petits Chanteurs): I'm homeless. I live on the street at the (unintelligible) camp, and I know most of people who have been Haiti, Port-au-Prince, is without a house.

DEL BARCO: Instead of celebrating the chorus's 50th anniversary, 20-year-old singer Felipe Adien Emanuel(ph) says they wanted to give Haiti some hope for the future.

Mr. FELIPE ADIEN EMANUEL (Singer): Haiti will survive. Maybe 10, maybe 30 or, I dont know, many years but Haiti will rebuild.

(Soundbite of choir singing)

DEL BARCO: The choir sang a Haitian song of solidarity. After that, the surviving members of Haiti's national jazz band took the stage. They treated the audience to Michael Jackson's song, "Man in the Mirror," and a song often played at jazz funerals in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: Musicians managed to rescue some of their instruments from the rubble of their destroyed music school. Teacher and trumpeter Jean Poseyus(ph) says the brass band had been rehearsing on stage when Haiti's one and only concert hall collapsed around them.

Ms. JEAN POSEYUS (Teacher, Trumpeter): One side of the auditorium came down so completely that all it is, is a pile of rubble. The stage had been on the fourth floor with another floor above it - came down to street level on the Rue de Miracle, the street of miracles. Beaucoup, lots and lots of miracles in the last few weeks.

DEL BARCO: She says one of those miracles was a French horn player nicknamed Scandler(ph), Emanuel Leshoun(ph), who also performed last night. It was Scandler who went back into the player to rescue a fellow horn player from beneath a heavy concrete column.

Mr. EMANUEL LESHOUN (French Horn Player): I told him if you die, I will die with you but I can't leave you. I have to take you.

DEL BARCO: Scandler's friend survived but others from the music school did not, including several singers, jazz musicians and members of Haiti's national philharmonic orchestra. Conductor David Cesar(ph) says it was his idea to bring the concert to Bel Air. His musicians have been teaching at-risk children in this rough neighborhood controlled by gangs.

Mr. DAVID CESAR (Conductor, Haiti National Philharmonic Orchestra): To let them all know Haiti will rise again.

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: As the philharmonic performed several Haitian compositions, children and their parents came out from their shelters to listen.

Mr. JAMES EMILE(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

DEL BARCO: The music is nice, said James Emile, but it's difficult to listen when our stomachs are empty. He said Bel Air hasn't seen much relief, food or shelter. But Fordron Jacques(ph), who is also listening from outside a tent, said the concert helped her relax after so much stress.

Ms. FORDRON JACQUES: (Through translator) I know the earthquake happened but it doesn't mean that Haiti is going to destroy for that. So, I started thinking that the country will survive.

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: As night fell on the eerie disaster zone, the concert ended with a lively Haitian number. For the first time since the earthquake forever changed Haiti, the music had everyone, including the musicians, on their feet dancing.

Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

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