The year 2020 was one of adjustment for most people and organizations around the world. Community events that support SafeHouse Denver were no exception, as the third installment of the Sing Out For SafeHouse (SOFS) benefit concert in March of last year was postponed mere days before its performance due to the pandemic. Thankfully, with the dedication of its participants and a willingness to adapt, the event will return as a virtual livestream on Sunday, March 14.
“Domestic violence is the dirty little secret that no one wants to talk about,” Leah Peer, co-founder of SOFS, said. “Engaging musically through meaningful texts makes it easier to shine a light on this blight on our society that affects folks at every socioeconomic level.” Peer is also the founder and music director of Kol Nashim, the women’s choir of the Colorado Hebrew Chorale – both of which are among the five choirs participating in the newly virtual event. They will be joined by members of the Denver Children’s Choir, the Denver Chorale and the Denver Women’s Chorus.
As a survivor of domestic violence herself, Peer emphasized the need for community programs that address the subject. “When I founded Kol Nashim (which means ‘women’s voice’ in Hebrew), I envisioned a mission of raising awareness of issues of domestic violence and giving voice to women’s issues,” she said. Kol Nashim’s early annual concerts supported a shelter in Jerusalem, but audiences wanted to see more local support as well, forming the basis for the choir’s relationship with SafeHouse Denver. In 2017, Peer reached out to Leslie Britton, who at the time was directing several choirs in the Denver area. Their collaboration resulted in the first SOFS concert with three participating choirs, a number that has since grown.
The planned 2020 concert was generously funded through grants, but after the postponement, all of those sponsors approved the transition to a virtual event. These funds also allowed Peer to retain production services from Denver Open Media and livestream the event instead of prerecording it. Though joint pieces, which Peer describes as “a central component to performing live,” can’t be performed with singers in multiple locations, she is still optimistic about the impact of the concert.
“We try to focus on pieces that empower and reach out, and I know that all of the performers feel that they are communicating meaningful support to the survivors who may often feel hopeless and unseen,” she said. “If the only thing we accomplish […] is to make those survivors who are in the audience (and we know they are there) feel less alone, we have already accomplished a lot.” Among its other musical selections, the concert will feature the world premiere of “Baruch She’asani Isha (Blessed Who Made Me A Woman),” composed by Kol Nashim pianist Nili Abrahamsson using text from the work of renowned Israeli poet Esther Raab.
With 100 percent of the donations collected being matched by an anonymous donor and given to SafeHouse Denver, the success of SOFS is truly reliant on the participation of the community. “I feel that the more we get the information out into the open – and especially to younger women and girls – the more we increase the ability of sufferers of domestic violence to reach out for help, and for younger people to avoid those relationships,” Peer said. “The challenge of the virtual event is that we cannot see our audience, but I hope that our attendees will be numerous, and that they will open their hearts and pocketbooks.”