Yale singers bring music to mourners in Brussels

During their visit to Belgium, the members of the Yale singing group Magevet gave an unscheduled performance — one that, according to a witness, “was meant to be.”

The 13 members of Magevet — who perform Hebrew, Jewish, and Israeli a cappella — are on tour through June 2, with stops at Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam.

The group’s planned concert at the International Jewish Center (IJC) in Belgium on May 25 had to be moved hastily to another venue, due to security concerns in the wake of the fatal shootings at the nearby Brussels Jewish Museum on May 24. The performance was held instead in the garden of a private home.

The next day, the Magevet members were among the thousands of people who gathered at the Jewish Museum in a show of support for the victims. Suddenly, from deep within the crowd, the Yale students began to sing “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”).

“No one could see them, just hear them,” wrote Diana Kanter of the IJC in an account of the impromptu concert. “Their sweet voices rose and reverberated off the walls of the narrow streets and brought everyone to the same reflective moment.

“When the last chord died away, there weren’t many dry eyes left — including in the choir,” said Kanter, adding, “One young choir member started sobbing uncontrollably, and several of us patted him on the back to offer support. I was one of them, sandwiched — quite by chance and for a few moments — between Vice Prime Minister Joëlle Milquet and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. They offered pats too.”

Kanter concluded her account of the “magical moment” by saying, “This was meant to be, for all the wrong — and right — reasons.”