By Megan Malamood
Arts & Entertainment Co-Editor
A little over a month has passed since the tragic day of Dec. 14, when 26 innocent lives were horrifically taken at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Although time heals, no time can fully heal the wounds of the victims’ families and the Newtown, Conn. community. The pain is still raw, the issue of gun control is as prominent as ever and the sorrow has not faded. However, strides have been taken in order to ease the pain and make the grief just a little more bearable.
While it would be easy to wallow in the devastation of the Sandy Hook shooting, the Newtown community is finding ways to bounce back from the unthinkable, as they continue to prove their strength and unity.
Their inspiring vitality can even be found among the children whose young hearts have been broken by the inexplicable violence. Many of these children felt the desire to help their community, and that is how the Newtown Music Project evolved.
Folk/indie-pop singer Ingrid Michaelson collaborated with children from Newtown to form the Newtown Music Project and together, they have recorded a touching version of the well-known song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Musicians Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, from both Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, invited Michaelson and the 21 Newtown children, many from Sandy Hook Elementary, to their Connecticut home. There, they recorded the song in their home studio, known as “The Clubhouse.”
On Jan. 15, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was released for sale on iTunes and Amazon, labeled as “The Children of Newtown featuring Ingrid Michaelson.” All proceeds will benefit the Newtown Youth Academy and United Way of Western Connecticut. Since its release date, the track has received widespread acclaim, with many reviewers stating that the cost of the song is worth every penny and more.
In order to introduce their project, Michaelson and the Newtown children appeared on Good Morning America on Jan. 15, kicking off their song’s release. Waving children with smiling faces appeared on screen surrounding Michaelson, immediately capturing hearts, but also breaking them.
Although their excitement shines through, onlookers know that beneath the surface lie the minds and hearts of children whose lives have been changed forever. However, these children wanted to find a way to help console their community, and with that goal, their song is proving to be a success.
Before the performance, “Good Morning America” featured a highlight video of the Newtown Music Project that displayed how and why the project came together. The video included Sabrina Post, a Newtown music teacher who said, “So many of the students came to me and all I could see in their eyes and from what they were telling me, was how do we help?”
A few children explained their own reasons for being involved with the music project, yet they all reflected the same overwhelming wish for their community that was articulated well by one boy—“to help them, any way we can, to feel better and not alone.”
Another young girl said, “I really want to be kind to the people who have lost their loved ones and help them to recover from their sorrow.”
A 10-year-old explained that she was singing for her lost friend, Jessica Rekos. She said, “Singing makes me feel like she is with me and she is inside me singing along.”
The video, which has received countless views online since the “Good Morning America” appearance, begins with footage of singing at the recording studio and then segues to live footage of the performance on the talk show set. The tune starts out with Michaelson’s soulfully ethereal voice and is quickly joined by the sweet voices of Newtown’s youth.
While performing, the children appear so passionate—striving to hit every note, visibly putting their hearts and souls into the song. Their eyes are brilliant, and they shake their heads with purpose and understanding, as if they are dreaming and longing for a world in which no one feels the type of grief and heartache their town did.
“Even if it makes these kids who have been through so much—if it brings them even an afternoon of joy and excitement, then that’s what I’ll do,” Michaelson said. Difficult to watch or listen to without misty eyes, the song is unspeakably moving. The evocative power of it continues to expand and bring happiness, just as the children hoped it would.
The children of Newtown forcibly lost their innocence and witnessed the atrocity of murder in a way that no one ever should. Nevertheless, with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” featuring Michaelson, they are spreading messages of hope and comfort.
They are proving that although you can never forget loved ones who were lost, it is possible to rise above tragedy, to make a difference and to continue on.