“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
That is what exactly happened on 5 March when Ambassador of Sri Lanka opened her Official Residence to hold the concert by the HyVong (Hope) Choir, consisting of students of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for the Blind.
Initiated by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Viet Nam Hasanthi Urugodawatte Dissanayake, diplomatic community in Ha Noi came together to support the concert. The choir comprised of 20 talented visually-impaired singers and musicians who play Vietnamese folk musical instruments. They practice under the direction of the renowned and talented couple, Ton That Triem and his opera singer spouse, Nguyen Xuan Thanh.
Triem formed the Hope Choir over 10 years ago training the students to sing in many different languages. The current choir members sing in over 30 languages including Azerbaijani, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Malaysian, Polish, African, Georgian, Irish, Japanese, Welsh, Swedish, Polish, Armenian, Malay, Vietnamese, Sinhala, etc.
Addressing the audience the Ambassador explained that she had the opportunity to listen the Christmas Carols by Hope Choir last December and how heartwarming it was to see their perseverance to sing in many different languages. Having come to know the choir’s financial difficulties to continue with their good work, she had immediately talked to Friends of Viet Nam Heritage which arranged the Christmas Carol singing, to organise a fund raising event. Answering a question posed by a local TV channel, the Ambassador explained why she decided to organise this type of an event; she said that it is probably due to her Sri Lankan cultural background with giving donations and volunteering are part and parcel of the culture. She highlighted that Sri Lankan culture, enriched by religious diversity, values the concept of donations and sharing. Therefore, it is not surprising that Sri Lanka is in the 5th place in the World’s Giving Index (and it is also not to avoid tax), but going by principles of four major religions of the world, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, which talk much about good of giving and giving up of things.
She further recalled that in her school days, as a girl scout, taking part in volunteer and fund raising activities as well as similar experience while working in the NGO sector and in international organisations prior to joining the Sri Lanka Foreign Service. She further added that one does not need to be rich to engage in charity or volunteer work and emphasised that the concept of charity inculcated in Buddhist value systems in both Vietnamese and Sri Lankan cultures should be treasured. Although both countries people are struggling to make more money in order to improve their living standards, one should not forget those who have not been so fortunate, and support them, as lesser the gap between rich and the poor, better it would be for world peace. The event was a joint effort of the Embassy of Sri Lanka and the Friends of Viet Nam Heritage (FVH), while 15 Ambassadors and a few other diplomats and expats provided food and beverages. The guests included over 200, with diplomats including many Ambassadors, representatives of international organisations, Vietnamese as well as other expats. During the two intervals, audience was served with a wide range of refreshments and beverages provided by the Ambassadors of Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Poland, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, UK, Venezuela and other well wishers. Sri Lankan traditional delicacies and Ceylon Tea were served as well. The event ended with singing of the Sri Lankan National Anthem by Hope Choir and had unprecedented media coverage in main stream local media.
Together, Triem, Thanh, the choir and the orchestra, through personal perseverance and hard work, were able to overcome daunting barriers, to demonstrate convincingly, that potential of the human spirit has no limit. After all, they are not disabled, but ‘differently abled’.