Unification News for January 2003

New Hope Singers International Reunion

By David Pelton

The 25th anniversary of True Parentsí dedication of the Washington, DC, Church provided an opportunity for a reunion long sought by alumni of the New Hope Singers International (NHSI).

The choir, approximately 50 members strong in 1977, not only performed at the church dedication, but had helped renovate it beforehand. They spent the following year living out of the church performing at Sunday services and the Kennedy Center, and doing home church and fundraising. They raised over $400,000 to help pay for the purchase of the church during that time.

Given all of the special memories of that time and place, alumni responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to see deeply missed brothers and sisters and to sing together again for True Parents in Washington on such a special occasion.

Led locally by Carol McCarthy and Susan Osmond, with support from David Pelton, host families were found and a New Hope Singers International alumni reunion was held from December 6-8. About 20 alumni participated, along with several invited "Honorary New Hope Singers" from the Washington church community. Alumni came from the east and west coasts, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, and from as far away as Vienna, Austria.

The two rehearsals (Friday at the church and Saturday at the Sheraton National Hotel following the Blessing) were deeply heartwarming. Some had not seen or even heard from each other for 26 years! Choir members had spent years of their spiritual lives working, performing, traveling, and living together with the same group of brothers and sisters before moving on to other missions and family lives.

The idea of a reunion had brought out such a dormant flurry of enthusiastic internet correspondence, evidence of a deep yearning for renewing old friendships of faith. The gatherings, meals, socializing, and rehearsals could barely contain the joy all alumni felt at being together again. Some brought their spouses and children, photo albums, music of previous NHSI recordings, and even made pitches for their older teen children "to find a match" among alumni families!

Former conductors Randy Remmel and Brian Saunders sent warm greetings, with Jeff Benson attending the reunion.

It was a very happy and proud group that after only two rehearsals gathered at 4 a.m. to perform for True Parentsí Hoon Dok Hae gathering on Sunday morning, December 8. Singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and a beautiful arrangement of "Let There Be Peace on Earth" moved True Parents, the performers, and all who attended. Under the excellent baton of conductor Susan Osmond, the choir received many compliments of how good it sounded "after so long"!

A special mention has to be made of Maryland church member Otmar Wiemann. He not only served as NHSI pianist, but was responsible for ensuring the technical sound and A/V equipment were set up properly for the entire Sunday morning event. He didnít sleep much at all for two days, yet did an admirable job, which the alumni truly appreciated.

After meeting one final time to set up an informal NHSI alumni association, 130-plus names of all NHSI alumni were compiled from the collective memories of those present, who committed to contacting those who had not yet been contacted. Carol McCarthy was elected to be NHSI Alumni Association Coordinator, given the outstanding job she did in organizing the first reunion. Plans were made to expand the alumni e-mail and home address database, and to prepare to have a larger NHSI 30th anniversary reunion in 2003, possibly in late August (stay "tuned" -- sorry).

It was decided to seek out and invite all alumni to participate, whether active in the church or not, if they wished to in a spirit of friendship and wanting to meet old friends again. You may contact Carol McCarthy at M or 703-730-8532.

After that, who knows? The possibilities are exciting.

Nearly an equal number of alumni wanted to come, but could not this time. They sent e-mail greetings from all over the world that were shared. Many alumni who attended have found it to be a great event of renewal and new inspiration in their lives. Many expressed in reflections that the opportunity the reunion provided to renew friendships of faith with those who know you better than anyone is a life-long treasure. Many felt they got a significant part of their life and passion back!

With renewed appreciation, all wish to thank True Parents for the incredible opportunity membership in such a truly unique performing arts group provided in their youths. Our hope is to find a way for alumni to make a contribution to the Providence through music again in the future.

A special thanks was given to Rev. In Hoi Lee, North America Region 1 Director, for his support of the NHSI reunion event.

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