Bradley Blackburn, WFAA
DALLAS — Every Wednesday at 9 a.m., the line starts to form downtown outside The Stewpot in Dallas. The crowd files in, heads up the steps, and warms up — getting ready to sing. In minutes, music fills the room, singing tunes like “The World’s Greatest,” “Where We Belong,” and “Beautiful City.”
“‘Beautiful City,’ that’s my favorite song. I love it,” said choir member Dasha Jefferson. “I sing the song to myself out in the streets, when I’m on the bus, on the train line — wherever I’m at.” Jefferson and the others here make up the Dallas StreetChoir. The faces and voices are all touched by homelessness.
About a quarter of the member sleep out on the streets, while many of the rest stay in shelters.
“To just see that people out here on the streets, homeless, can all come together and all be on one tune, that’s good to me,” said Shaterica Asberry, 26. Asberry is a new member of the choir. She’s been homeless for the last few months since she lost her apartment. She’s sleeping in a park near the American Airlines Center until she can get things back on track.
“At this point in my life, I’m in this situation,” she said. The choir has grown under the leadership of Jonathan Palant. He’s a professional choir director who founded the group in 2014. More than 75 members now show up weekly for practice, and they’ve performed at the Winspear Opera House, the City Performance Hall, and even have an invitation to sing at Carnegie Hall next year.
“I can’t help them find a job. I can’t help them find housing,” Palant said.
“But what I can do is make their day better.”
That’s visible on smiling faces in the choir room, and members say the chance to sing out loud takes them away — at least briefly — from the struggles of life on thestreets.
“I feel a release of stress. I feel a release and comfort when I come in for that one hour,” said Kevin Lee, who’s been attending rehearsals for the last nine months.
“I think what makes this choir unique is their unbridled passion for the music,” Palant said.
“I wish more singers had that courage to just sing. And let the music run through their blood.”