Husum is just one of many places in Germany that have been asked to accept a number of the refugees who have flooded into the country over recent months. Between last December and May this year between 1000 and 1500 will be accommodated in a village of adapted shipping containers, near the Congress Centre at Seeth, just north of the town. This ‘village’ is planned as a reception centre, with its own health facility, school, job centre, security and so on; refugees will go out from here into the community as they find accommodation and jobs.
The following article from the Husumer Nachrichten shows how our twin town choir, and other choirs, have responded to this situation. Pauline Geddie kindly supplied the translation.
Music books and note pads are the work tools of every choir. However, at the most recent joint practice evening of the Theodor Storms Chor and the Husumer Gemischter Chor (Mixed Choir of Husum), the choristers did not just bring their music.’Where are we going then?’ was the joking comment going the rounds that evening, as many of the choir members had brought along suitcases, bags and rucksacks.
Michael Schwarz, a member of both choirs, was able to solve the puzzle: ‘This is all about a fundraising drive for the refugees,’ the man behind the idea explained. More than 50 cases arrived on the evening destined for the asylum seekers in Seeth.
Schwarz’s idea was well received by the choristers. ‘By getting involved in this project, I want to make a bold statement and to make the refugees feel welcome’, said Gerda Friedrichsen from Schobüll. 75-year-old Eugen Kelch also brought along a big suitcase. He has been singing in the Theodor Storms Chor for well over 40 years. Today he came to choir practice in his car for the first time, ‘Because I couldn’t carry my case on my bike’.
According to Joe Kreis, the refugee co-ordinator for the German Red Cross in North Friesland, many refugees arrived in only the clothes they stood up in. ‘They were carrying all their possessions in plastic bags’. Now they will have something to put their clothes in. ‘So should they have to move from the reception centre to another possible place to stay, then, at least, they will have a case to be able to pack everything in’.
Both singing groups have received the support of the town choir in St. Peter-Ording. All three choirs are practising together at the moment for a concert that is scheduled to take place in May at the Nordsee Congress Centre. ‘As the ambassadors of musical culture we are happy to promote a welcoming attitude towards those who are in need of help’, said Christoph Jensen, the church music director and musical director of the Theodor Storms Chor. In addition, Oliver Schulz-Etzold, music teacher at Friedrich-Paulsen Gymnasium in Niebüll and leader of the Gemischter Choradded: ‘This can be seen as encouragement for our further involvement; similar things are happening a great deal in the area.’ And for Michael Schwarz there is no doubt: ‘Integration into the society of North Friesland can only succeed in this way.’
The exceptional fundraising drive is not the choirs’ first such enterprise. Previously dress-making fabric, wool and working sewing machines were collected and donated to the recently opened Frauencafé (Womens’ Refuge). As was seen there once donations had been made, they were immediately put to use – often for the women to make clothes for themselves.
The original of this article, and a picture of choir members with their luggage, can be found here.