SINGING AMBASSADORS ----------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org email@example.com 2013 December 14
Introduction ---------- On and off during spring thru fall of 2013 I was tapped to attend assorted meetings at the United Nations. I describe these invites in an earlier piece 'www.nyskies.org/articles/pazmino/un-open.htm'. Until now the meetings covered concerns and issues under care of the UN, but this instance the meeting was an entertainment and social event! On Thursday 5 December 2013 I, with Myrna Coffino and about 100 other community folk, sat a singing performance put on by -- I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP! -- a band of ambassadors from five UN countries! The band, the 'Singing ambassadors', gave their show in an off- campus auditorium in a branch of the Salvation Army. This is the same place as for the UN's 'Women in space' symposium in April 2013.
Singing Ambassadors ----------------- Here I relate what I heard at the reception and read from the handout, which probably is not the full story. It seems that by general dialog five ambassadors learned that they do singing. They probably do it for the native country or for outside interests. They got together in summer of 2013 to form a team to sing for UN tenants. The Singing Ambassadors staged their premiere on 10 September 2013 at an internal UN entertainment session with a 'Sing for peace' theme. Several hundred UN officials and staff attended. The group arranged to let the public to hear it as a yearend holiday treat. Their show was entered into the UN's current program of neighborhood relations, in which local leaders are incited to sit certain UN functions. The show on December 5th was the first ever presentation to an audience outside of the United Nations circle. I remind that the 'ambassador' of a country is the highest ranking official representing the country at the United Nations. Above that rank are ministries and departments of the home government. In the United States, as example, the American ambassador to the UN works within the US Department of State.
Arrival ----- Ms Coffino was in the field for her business and went to the Salvation Army house, on 52nd St between 2nd and 3rd Av, on her own. I took the 6th Av local train to Lexington Av/53rd St station and walked around the corner to the Salvation Army. Because the session started at 5PM it was already quite night in the street. The Salvation Army house blended into the palisade of other buildings on the block and was not obvious at first. In the stead of hunting for the place I spotted a derelict pawing thru bags of garbage. I asked him. 'Yo! Where about is the Salvation Army building around here?' He gave the sincere answer that it was some 100 yards (about 90 meters) farther along on the block. He added that I have to wait until after 7PM for its supper serving because the place is used until then for some other function. Did I look THAT much in need? Upon entering the house I stopped at the lobby desk, where the clerk checked off my name and passed me downstairs to the reception. All was so very retro, from the last century, when you were casually admitted to a premises on your say-so! There was no bag or person screening, no request for ID or other papers. I had the printed invite with me just in case, but it was not needed. I asked if Ms Coffino arrived yet. Clerk looked for her name in the roster, saw that it was ticked, and noted she's here. I thanked the fellow, took a handout, and did the stairs.
Reception ------- Some UN functions I attended have food and drink. This is served at a reception either before the main event or after it. The reception now precded the main show. I found Myrna, chatting with an other delegate. The reception was in a large open-floor room with serving tables in the middle and chairs against all of the walls. This could be the room where later the supper will be served to folk like the derelict. I stashed my jacket and shoulder bag behind my chair, next to Myrna's. Then I hurried to fill a plate with assorted finger food and took a glass of white wine. The others at the reception were almost all middle-age to seniors and all seemed with it in the world. They seemed to come from various civic and action groups in the surrounds. This is apparently the 'market' for the UN's ongoing community program to show off its work. Recall that the UN is under a full-press rebuilding, activity that usually creates a nuisance to the neighborhood. The outreach helps to alleviate the tension between campus and town. The banter and chatting covered both local and world affairs. Those working at the UN discussed assorted business relating to it.
Main show ------- At quite 6PM we were sent upstairs to the auditorium on the street floor near the lobby desk. It reminds me of the bullpen for jury duty, at least in Brooklyn courts, with its rows of continuous wood benches rather than individual seats. After a few opening remarks, the chair made a sad announcement. Nelson Mandela died from his illnesses a couple hours earlier in the day. She asked all to stand in silent tribute for him. The show was performed by four of the full five ambassadors: Cabo Verde, Canada, Costa Rica, Roumania. The fifth ambassador, from Auru, was called away in the afternoon for some business for her country and had to miss the show. The remaining four carried the program and, as a makeup, added an extra number to the card. The ambassadors stood at music stands with the printed songs mounted on them. The chair stood at a podium to the left of the stage. Between songs the ambassadors could sit on chairs by the stands.
The songs ------- All the songs were neutral in culture, politics, ethnics because of the varied countries associated with the ambassadors and the diverse audience. Altho the show was for the 'holidays' I can assume that certain nations have no holidays near the end of the civil year. Some countries do not count our December as the end of their native calendar year. There no, for instance, Christmas or New Year carols.. The ambassadors sang the words accompanied by music played thru a CD or tape. The music started first to lead into the singing a second or two later. A couple ambassadors said they dedicated their singing to the memory of Mandela. I forget the titles of the songs but for two. Some were solos by one ambassador and others were combos of two or three. The song 'What a wonderful world' was, to me, out of timing and weak in voice. Maybe that's because I know the Jerry Vale version> The ambassador did note that English was to him a foreign language. The song 'Make a better place for you and me' provoked audience interaction. It started to clap in step to the singing! Each song was a couple minutes long, about the length on one side of a old 45RPM phonograph disc. The entire card was finished about 6:45PM, including audience applause and intro to the next number.
Way out ----- After the final applause the chair released us. Many in the audience migrated forward to greet and thank the ambassadors, shake hands, collect autographs, pose for pictures. Then the room quickly emptied into the street. It was then 7PM. Myrna took a 3rd Av bus to her crib. I popped into the subway on the corner of the Salvation Army building. Trains and then my local bus in Brooklyn came quickly. I was in my house by 8:30OM under an overcast and misty sky.
Conclusion -------- I know, from talking among associates, that I do not get invites to anything close to a major fraction of the open UN events! I don't know how the invites are issued, so I can not 'get you on the list' or even inquire how to do that. I should be appreciative, as I really am, to have the occasional admittance to what are normally off-limits activity of the United Nations. This meeting was for me the first of a purely entertaining value. Except for the coincidence of Mandela's death shortly before the show, there was no specific UN issue or agenda associated with it. It did illustrate, like at some astronomy conventions, that people you think of under one hat can wear other hats, new to you. Some AAVSO meetings, as example, have a music segment by its astronomers. When will I get the next invite? I have no idea. If I am blessed with one every few months, say four in all of 2014, I should give thanks for the chance to learn how other countries and cultures respond to human problems and concerns.