May this year began and ended in The Salvation Army in Latvia with music, as these next two blogs will explain.
At the beginning of the month the last of the children’s musicals was produced. Thanks to a legacy from an Australian lady with Latvian roots it’s been possible to bring children together from around the Region to give them opportunity to make music and be creative in other ways as well. There have been six productions altogether, four major ones each summer since 2012 and two Christmas productions. Each of them has followed a Biblical theme and this year the Children’s and Youth Section at the Regional Headquarters very cleverly linked the theme of the Musical with the theme of the Day Camps (Holiday Clubs to the UK reader) that were held in 2014.
The title of the production this year was ‘Are we there yet?’ and featured the story of the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. About 40 children took part from all over Latvia and met for rehearsals on a regular basis from the new year onwards. During the Spring school holidays they met together for a weekend camp and enjoyed a mix of rehearsals, creative work and fun. The venues for the performances of the musicals are always carefully chosen. This year, Talsi, in the west and Smiltene in the east of Latvia were the towns where the performances took place – both places where there is no Salvation Army presence. The productions, as always, were very, very well executed and a joy to watch.
There are several things which have impressed me about the musicals. One is the range of ages and children that the performances attract. It can’t be easy to juggle small children and teenage boys at the rehearsals but the musical seems to appeal to them all. At the final performance this year, it was quite moving to see teenage youths visibly upset at the thought that this was the end of the road and there would be no more opportunities for them to meet up with their friends in this way again.
The commitment of the adults to the production has impressed me. It is no mean feat to cater on a regular basis for such a large group of children, to teach them to act and dance, to engage them in creative activities and then to ferry them by bus from one end of Latvia to another for the performances. The leaders of the corps (churches) have also gone ‘the extra mile’, making it possible for their children to be part of the project by bringing them by car to rehearsals and often staying to help whilst they wait to take the children back home again. Perhaps one of the best examples of this commitment was the fact that a female Children and Youth Worker from one of the corps was willing to be Moses in this year’s production!
I’ve been impressed by Darta’s skills. She has been the leader of the Project since it began. Not only is she a fine musician (she has perfect pitch!) but she also has a unique gift for translation. She has sourced all the musicals from English-speaking countries overseas, so before ever the rehearsals could begin she has translated, not just the script, but also the poetry of the songs in such a way that they would fit with the music. This alone has been a mammoth task and a considerable achievement.
The word ‘investment’ comes to mind to summarise this whole Project – the investment of the generous Australian lady and her legacy, and the investment of Darta, her team, and all the supportive adults in the Project. Above and beyond all that, though, the ‘investment’ has been in the lives of so many children on so many levels. It may well be that the return on the investment will not be seen for a number of years. I’d like to think that the return on the investment would be about creating good memories, and that one day in the future when a group of young adults get together they will say to each other ‘Do you remember when we were in the Musicals?’ I’d like to think that the return on the investment would be a young person coming back to say ‘thank you’ for giving them, for perhaps the first time in their lives, a sense of being valued, encouraged and feeling loved. I’d like to think that the return on the investment would be a young Christian giving testimony to the fact that their spiritual journey began, or was nourished through their participation in the Musicals. If all or any of those things happen, then that unknown Australian lady’s legacy will have been well spent.