Portugal will have a deaf choir performing at World Youth Day
A choir of deaf people will interpret the liturgical music at the central events of World Youth Day. The “Mãos que Cantam” project has joined the WYD Lisbon 2023 Choir, promoting the integration of both hearing and non-listening people in a choir.
This weekend, 28th and 29th of January, another rehearsal for the WYD choir of Lisbon 2023 took place at the Rectory of the University of Lisbon. The great novelty of this rehearsal was the debut of the choir “Mãos que Cantam”, which will perform with the choir of listeners, interpreting in Portuguese Sign Language (LGP) the liturgical songs that will animate the main ceremonies of WYD.
“Mãos que Cantam” is composed of deaf people, and was born from the challenge of creating a choir with deaf students who could interpret the music not with their voices, but using Portuguese Sign Language. The “Mãos que Cantam” Choir is currently composed of 7 elements, including an interpreter, Sofia Figueiredo, and the conductor, Sérgio Peixoto, but during the week of WYD Lisbon 2023, the choir may grow to 15 elements.
António Cabral, one of the members of the “Mãos que Cantam” choir, feels “great satisfaction” with this challenge of being “in front of so many young people” so that “all the world know and see deaf people” as “models, of equality in communication, through sign languages, through writing, through reading, and we can all be in communion.”
The project originated in 2010, by initiative of some students of the Degree and Master in Portuguese Sign Language of the Institute of Health Sciences of the Catholic University, which began by performing together with the Choir of this University.
For the conductor Sérgio Peixoto, artistic director of the Catholic University Choir, who immediately embraced this idea, this project has shown that “there are no barriers” and they managed to “prove that deaf people can also make music”. Sérgio Peixoto also refers that it is “a new way of communicating” and of “letting the emotions of gesture pass allied to music”.
Questioned about what music means to a deaf person, Débora Carmo, member of the “Mãos que Cantam” Choir, highlights that “music is universal” and that “society needs to remove this label that deaf people cannot be in music.”
Also Cláudia Dias highlights that “having the songs in Portuguese Sign Language is a way for people to realize that, in fact, music, and through music, one can be in interaction and we can be equal to others.”
In addition to demonstrating that, in the context of social responsibility, deaf people can be part of a choir and even perform in different musical environments, Sign Language, complementary to musical language, enhances the expression of deeper feelings, thus making each performance a unique show.
During the rehearsal of this weekend, the choir of listeners also learned to interpret in LGP, part of the repertoire that will be presented before the Pope. Choralist Patrícia Carmo reveals that the greatest challenge in the preparation of such a vast repertoire in Portuguese Sign Language is the preparation: “normally what we do is prepare in advance [...] we adapt it, making the glosses of Portuguese Sign Language, adapting it to gestures, beautiful gestures, aesthetic gestures that really stand out in the songs.”
Referring to the preparation for WYD Lisbon 2023, Patrícia Carmo highlights that they have “now this task of teaching these young listeners and teaching them well, because it is often not easy to teach hearing people.”
This is an important step towards an increasingly inclusive WYD.