Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, iSEE Vice President and Director of the Diversity Choir initiative, said, “Why a choir? I believe music is the glue for different communities to come together. We call our choir ‘Diversity’ because its amateur singers are different in age, from 7 to 70, and ethnicity. A number of them are LGBT members and disabled people. They are differentiated by their life philosophy, circumstances, and social status, so they are supplementary, making it easy for them to lend a helping hand.”
iSEE is a non-governmental organization that supports vulnerable people and social development. Director Huong said that as she worked for iSEE, she noticed a huge gap among different communities. Rarely did she see their interactions and connections. In 2018, the Asia Pacific Choir of Australia came to Vietnam for a concert in coordination with iSEE. Then she came up with the idea of a community choir.
|Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, iSEE Vice President and Director of the Diversity Choir initiative.
It didn’t come as a surprise that diversity means arduous effort to get in harmony. Diversity Choir singers are all amateur, coming just for their pure love for music, without any qualifications or professional training. So operating the choir is not an easy task.
Baton Ha Ni of Diversity Choir said, “Older singers in Diversity Choir find it extremely hard to sing in English. They transcribe the lyrics to sound like Vietnamese to learn by heart. The young singers pose another difficulty in mixing backup vocals because of their immature voice. Meanwhile disabled singers were very reluctant to show off.”
Following a successful concert with the Australian choir, Diversity Choir has participated in a number of similar events, most of them for social development purposes, such as a concert in April for a worthy-living Hanoi where they sang classic songs about the capital city. The pieces that may look completely different from the outside can perfectly fit a puzzle. They self-fund the choir to meet, to share, and to sing.
|Diversity Choir brings to the stage classic songs about Hanoi at a concert in April, 2021.
Director Huong said, “Diversity Choir was funded by iSEE until the concert with the Asia Pacific Choir. As we all wished to retain Diversity Choir, we have contributed our own money and, of course, talents. We are all happy with this. We want to have a choir of our own.”
In the hustle and bustle of life, members of Diversity Choir have managed to make quality time with their loved ones by singing together. Moms, dads, and kids harmonize their voices in different vocal groups for the same song. Among them is Tran Cam Huyen and her two sons Tuan Linh and Phuc Hai.
“My two sons and I have been participating in Diversity Choir for three years now. I believe that Diversity Choir inspires positivity and a love for music in not only the members, but also families and the society as a whole. Our family is busy with work and study but thanks to Diversity Choir, we have a lot more time together. We sing when we are in the car or at home. It is so memorable," Huyen said.
"The Diversity Choir initiative grabbed my attention the very first time I heard about it. I want to involve my sons too. It’s a place for them to learn empathy for the underprivileged, learn acceptance of others, and spread their love for everyone equally,” she added.
|Diversity Choir members practice.
According to Director Huong, Diversity Choir is like a family. “Our members always care for others. Some old women often bake cakes and bring them here to enjoy together at break time," said Huong.
"Meanwhile the young singers teach them English songs. They are really calm and patient when guiding others through difficulties. The way they care for others is a meaningful life lesson for me,” she said.
Nguyen Thi Yen, a small woman with limb paralysis, is one of the main vocalists of Diversity Choir. She has always dreamed of becoming a singer.
“Yen has a very special voice that sounds suitable for epics. Her singing reminds me of African choir singers who are always full of life,” said Director Huong.
“She always smiles when she sings. Though she is physically incomplete, I feel like she loves this life with all her heart,” said baton Ha Ni.
|Nguyen Thi Yen is a main vocalist of Diversity Choir.
Yen has been a member of Diversity Choir for over two years and has been joined by her husband Nguyen Trung Kien in the practicing room on the 6th floor of a building with no elevator. They got to know each other via charitable activities. Kien is inevitable to Yen’s dream of singing on the stage.
“My wife is profoundly passionate about music. She once told me that she wants to be a singer but she can’t because of her deformity. I replied, just do it our own way! So I took her to several music cafés in Hanoi to sing and also to a vocal class and some singing contests for amateurs. I just want to give her as much assistance as I can,” said Kien.
One way or another, love always transcends differences and flaws at Diversity Choir, said Yen.
"Diversity Choir is a wonderful family of mine. I loved it immediately when I learned about it. As its name implies, I think diversity is the unique part of this choir that captivates me and all other members. I want to inspire others with my love for music and do something for society," said Yen.
"It’s lucky for all of us to sing, perform, and shoot videos together and gain popularity. I believe love and equality are the principles that Diversity Choir embraces and delivers to its audience."
The song “Hello Vietnam”, accompanied by a music video, was released in July this year right before a stringent lockdown was imposed.
In the video, Diversity Choir members are seen wearing “Ao dai” (the traditional long dress) and face shields while playing their instruments and singing in popular scenic spots in Hanoi. Its caption reads that almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has disproportionately impacting all aspects of life. "Grief, loss, then hope, we have them all and we have each other, too. From the darkness, love and humanity rise and shine brighter than ever before."
Their song “Hello Vietnam” delivers a message of positivity and treasuring all that we have at the moment.