An Indonesian choir stuck in Cincinnati after a traveling mishap forced them to miss the World Choir Games was embraced by city residents determined to open their hearts and wallets to get the singers to perform and then to return them home.
The effort to help the 49-member Gema Chandra Cendrawasih University Choir from Papua, Indonesia, included impromptu performances, thousands of dollars in donations, and, finally, a 2,400-mile bus ride, all so the choir can catch a flight home.
The group had purchased round-trip tickets between Jakarta and San Francisco, where it planned to buy round-trip tickets to Cincinnati but had only enough money for one-way tickets. The choir missed its scheduled performances at the games because of travel delays in Jakarta. It arrived in Cincinnati shortly before the closing ceremonies Saturday with little money, nowhere to perform and no way back to San Francisco.
Knowing how far the choir had traveled to sing, organizers arranged for it to do just that on Sunday, at a church and in the lobby of a downtown convention center. Social media helped spread the word, and a few listeners grew to an audience of several hundred people.
The generosity extended to people’s wallets. The donations brought the singers to tears.
A performance at the city’s downtown Fountain Square on Monday brought out several hundred more people, organizers said. The group at one point chanted “Cincinnati” on stage.
“They’re just thankful for everything. Just happy. That’s all they want to do is perform,” Anastasia Ross of Batavia, who volunteered to help as a translator for the group, told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “I think they were really surprised.”
There were other acts of kindness. An off-duty bus driver helped shuttle the group, and the Cincinnati Reds donated tickets for them to get a taste of American baseball, watching Sunday’s victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s the best experience ever in my life and in my team’s life,” Ningrum Sayida of Papua, Indonesia, told WCPO-TV. “It’s the best experience.”
But there was still the issue of getting back to San Francisco.
Games spokeswoman Julie Calvert said donations were also making it possible for the group to depart Tuesday for California by Greyhound bus. The 54-hour journey will get the group to the airport in time for a Friday afternoon flight home.
“People have just demonstrated an enormous amount of generosity and concern for this choir,” Calvert said. “For that, we’re very grateful and appreciative.”
The head of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau told the Enquirer that the city has shown its character in embracing the choir.
“Even after the games close, Cincinnatians are still stepping up and welcoming these choirs from around the world,” president and CEO Dan Lincoln said. “It’s overwhelming.”