By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – The United Nations Staff Relief for Syrian Refugees and the United Nations Staff Recreation Council are
pulling efforts to raise funds for the Syrian refugees, through music. On July 20, a benefit concert for Syrian Refugees will take place at the Dag Hammarksjold Library at one o’clock in the afternoon, in time for the World Refugee Day.
The fundraiser (tickets at $20) will feature the UNSRC Symphony Orchestra and Singers and guest Filipino-American classical singer Kay Habana.
The petite classical singer begun a career in music as a child in Montreal in Canada until she chose to migrate to the US. Today, Kay is well-loved in the circles of Filipino community in the east coast. Her singing for Syrian refugees is a step-up to her talent meant to be shared, she said.
Syrian refugees are now believed to have reached nine million since civil strife broke in March 2011.
1. How did you get to be involved in this event?
It was through the recommendation of my friend and JCI NY-Phil. President Zultan Bermudez. He submitted my name and bio to the UNSRC (United Nations Staff Recreation Council) organizers. Thankfully, Marilou Vicente, a fellow Pinoy, is one of the organizers. I’m just glad they picked me. I have been chosen among so many, I’m humbled and honored.
2. What songs are you singing?
I was supposed to sing three to five songs, and these are songs that speak of unity and uplift spirits. Due to time constraints, I will be singing 3 songs which are: Nella Fantasia (music by: Ennio Morricone/ from The Mission), Paraiso (composed by Ryan Cayabyab), and Somewhere (music by: Leonard Bernstein & lyrics by: Stephen Sondheim/ from West Side Story). These melodies have always been [a few of] my personal favorites, and they do just that—uplift, inspire.
I just knew I had to throw in a song in my repertoire that was composed by a Filipino and one no less than the great maestro, Ryan Cayabyab. Whenever I have to sing to a non-Filipino audience, I try to accommodate a Filipino composition, only if possible. It’s important for me not just as an artist, but for a Filipino, to inform the world about the beauty of and charisma in our music, even if I have to do it one crowd at a time.
3. What comes to your mind when you are part of a fund raiser like this, for a country that’s ravaged by war?
I believe that we are always given various platforms of opportunity by which we can bless others. In this case, I have my singing voice. So I’m using it. On the professional side of the spectrum, this is such a huge privilege! I have valued it dearly since I first learned about it, and I’ve been rehearsing like crazy. This is responsibility.
On the other end, considering the humanitarian vista, it saddens me that war indeed still happens. I had only hoped that this adversity improved since about nine million Syrians fled their homes. I see on television and read on the internet mere sketches of what goes on in that country and you realize, this is abridged information compared to the reality of things.
I imagine mothers and children trying to escape to “life” and it breaks my heart. It’s a complex and egregious circumstance, to say the least: the exodus from their county and their influx to the neighboring ones—it’s distressing and quite a challenge. Well, much as this situation is appalling, I can’t lounge around and do nothing about it. Taking part in this momentous concert is my way of helping in the littlest way I can.
If I can somehow experience their pain and agony through my songs, only to have better understanding on the affliction they now live, then so be it. I hope and pray that through this concert, we get to raise awareness that help is needed for the Syrian refugees. More funds toward this cause are still to be mounted. What may seem small to us is big for them.
Most of all, what really sticks out from being part of this fundraiser is that I am so blessed to have the life I live and the freedom I have, and that this freedom should not be taken for granted. Therefore, if and when I am given the chance to be an instrument of hope for the needing souls, I must forget about my selfish desires and push toward helping others.