Battell Chapel was filled to capacity on Sunday night for a two-hour charity concert to support refugees and immigrants in the New Haven area.
The concert, which has been planned since before Christmas, coincided with President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders banning immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries and refugees from entering the United States. Many attendees came directly from a candlelight vigil in support of these groups held on Cross Campus at 6 p.m., and the line to enter Battell Chapel before the show extended for an entire block.
Battell Chapel, which can hold about 1,100 people, opened around 6:30 p.m. and a crowd composed of mostly of New Haven residents packed the chapel within minutes. The benefit concert, featuring a plethora of Yale and New Haven-based musical ensembles, aimed to raise funds for Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, a local nonprofit dedicated to refugee and immigrant resettlement.
Jeffrey Douma, a professor at the Yale School of Music, co-hosted the event with Stephanie Tubiolo, a music school postgraduate fellow of the Music in Schools Initiative, and Matthew Cramer GRD ’17. Alongside musicians and artists, Tubiolo said the group came up with the idea of hosting a charity concert soon after the November election.
She added that when she started planning the benefit concert before Christmas, IRIS seemed to be the group that would need the most help from the community.
“It seems that we are right unfortunately,” Tubiolo said. “I think that for a lot of people, the idea of welcoming those in need from other countries is kind of a tenet and a belief that transcends politics. So we thought this was a cause that would resonate with so many people in this community.”
The concert raised $14,000 and all proceeds will be donated to IRIS, Tubiolo said. The event had little cost given that all artists and participants agreed to perform free of charge and Douma, the director of Yale Glee Club, secured Battell at no cost.
The concert commenced with a short address from Chris George, the executive director of IRIS, who was welcomed on stage by an ovation from the crowd.
George spoke about “the dark days” of immigration crises in the U.S., along with the growing refugee problem in the Middle East, especially in Syria. He praised New Haven as a “symbol of generosity” that set an example for the rest of the country, referring to the Elm City’s involvement with IRIS in the past.
“Prepare for the battle ahead, stay fit — for the upcoming race — and let the music tonight inspire you,” George said.
The concert began with a performance by the Duke’s Men followed by the Yale Glee Club and an assorted range of soloists.
In an email to the News, Douma said singers understand how music can help connect people and build understanding. He added that the benefit concert is only one small effort in letting refugee families know the support they have from their community.
“When you sing for people, you don’t know what they need to feel — joy, reassurance, love,” said Rachel Okun ’18, president of Redhot & Blue, an a cappella group that performed at the concert. “We’re singing tonight to make people feel what the news isn’t making them feel. It gives me hope that we can outnumber those giving us these reasons to resist.”
Most attendees came with their families and a large percentage of the crowd present still held signs from the vigil before. Due to Battell Chapel’s limited capacity, people shuffled in and out between performances and many expressed a sense of solidarity and hope regarding the status of immigrants and refugees in the country.
Those present also voiced an excitement towards IRIS’s annual race, the Run for Refugees — a five kilometer run/walk being held in New Haven on Super Bowl Sunday.
Joi Prudhomme, a longtime Woodbridge resident who won the race last year, said she is terrified of Trump’s executive decisions and that her family cares deeply about the ongoing tragedies in Syria.
“[My daughter] is little but we want her to grow up in a community like New Haven that is so full of love, peace and hope — against the almost tyrannical ways that are being promoted by this man,” she said.
Among the audience, there were also several teen refugees who work with the Yale Refugee Project, an undergraduate group devoted to aiding refugees and immigrants. According to Danilo Zak ’18, the YRP’s direct assistance head, he became aware of the concert from its Facebook event and tried to organize a group trip for the adolescent refugees that YRP helps.
Zak said that normally YRP events would draw around 30 to 40 participants, but that Sunday’s outing was scheduled too hastily.
“Usually we try to plan out events during the day so it is easy for them to come and go home,” Zak said. “Parents aren’t super comfortable with refugees being around after dark.”
According to Zak, the YRP works closely with IRIS by connecting to local refugees and offering a platform of services. He characterized the past four months as “exciting times,” because New Haven had just welcomed an influx of Syrian refugees.
To service the increasing refugee clientele, IRIS was expecting an uptick in funding, Zak added. However, with Trump’s indefinite ban on Syrian refugees entering the country, Zak said the additional funding is on hold.
IRIS was founded in 1982.
Correction, Jan. 30: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Stephanie Tubiolo’s role.