Turning Land Mines into Potatoes
It was a movie screening like no other. There were no limos, no bright lights, and no paparazzi at Portsmouth’s Frank Jones Center on the evening of March 8th, 2014. Instead, there was a sharing of stories, music, and pride in accomplishment as more than 300 people—including current and former Voices From the Heart members, family, friends, and supporters—gathered for an evening of celebration and a showing of Nancy Pollack’s Many Voices, One Song. Watch the trailer.
An Unforgettable Journey
“Nancy’s film documents the trip that 130 members of our chorus made to Croatia and Slovenia in 2007,” said Laura Donovan, president of the Voices board. “Over 10 days, we gave 5 concerts in connection with local singing groups in both countries.”
One of the emotional highpoints of the 21-minute film is the visit the group made to Perusic; a tiny Croatian farming village surrounded by land mines planted during the 1990’s Balkan wars. Even ten years later, parts of the village were uninhabitable and the fields lay fallow because it was too dangerous to go there. Voices members gave an impromptu concert, along with a promise that those minefields would be cleared.
Clearing Mines, Making Music, Touching Hearts
“Adopting a village and getting rid of land mines was a goal from the beginning as we planned our trip,“ recalled Voices President Emerita, Becky May. “Including matching funds from the International Trust Fund of Slovenia, Voices members raised $140,000, with much of that coming from people right here in the Seacoast community.”
“That’s why the movie event at the Frank Jones Center was so important,” added Laura. “It enabled us to thank our donors and share the results of their gifts.”
Those results are quite impressive: the filmmakers returned to Perusic at harvest time in October 2011 and captured scenes of those revitalized fields, now full of potatoes, instead of mines.
Before the screening, Voices Founder and Director Joanne Connolly talked about the power of using music to bring a message of peace and joy to other lands; while chorus members shared personal reminiscences. There were also video greetings from Josko Paro the Croatian Ambassador to the United States, and from renowned Croatian musician—and Voices friend and supporter—Nenad Bach.
“A Song of Peace, for Lands Afar and Mine”
After singing a moving version of the song, Sarajevo, Joanne saluted all the Voices travelers in attendance; the 75 who had gone to Croatia/Slovenia, the 45 who went on the 2001 trip to Ireland, and the 80 who had visited Cuba in 2012. Special mention went to the 25 singers who had made all three trips!
As the lights came up after the film, more than 125 current and former Voices members gathered at the front of the room. Accompanied by musician Randy Armstrong, they sang what has become a signature song: Finlandia. “This is our special song of peace,” said Joanne. “We sang it all over Croatia and Slovenia, on our trips to Ireland and Cuba, and at the Portsmouth 9/11 commemorations.”
Peace. There’s already a song about turning swords into plowshares. Maybe someone will write a song about turning land mines into potatoes. Voices would sing it.
To purchase a DVD of Many Voices One Song, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org OR send a check for $24.65 made out to “Friends of Voices from the Heart”, care of Voices from the Heart at P.O. Box 926, Portsmouth, NH 03802-0926.