Before chaos and sounds of political warfare filled the New Haven Green at a white nationalist event Saturday (as sampled in the above video), a different variety of sounds spoke of a city rising to meet the day, of a city whose pulse is not always measured by the loudest or most obvious sounds.
One group arrived to spread “the good news” through acts of kindness; free food, hygiene kits, and the gift of song intended to raise spirits for all within listening range. Emanating from a deep internal place, there’s something about gospel music that is always hopeful, if not inspirational.
At the beginning of the program of outreach, which they do a couple of times of year on the New Haven Green, members of the Bible Gospel Center at 143 Leeder Hill Ave. gathered in a prayer circle. An individual who was not a member and was unknown to church members decided he wanted to enter the prayer circle. The stranger was welcomed and quickly clasped hands with those flanking his sides.
Not long after that, a small choir with members sporting yellow T-shirts began to lift their voices; words of praise, melodies for a world desirous of a better way forward. The music signaled a sometimes forgotten message: love conquers hate.
On the lower Green facing Temple Street came the sound of buzzing power saws and parks department workers felling a dead Elm tree. That was part of the cycle of birth and decline of the grand trees that have framed our Green for generations and inspired our city’s second name,The Elm City. The high-pitched, whirring sound lent some assurance that society is functioning as it should; people go to work, do their very best, and take satisfaction in their service for the greater good.
Branch by branch, the tree was taken down, its sections dropping to the ground with solid thuds. Later, thinner tertiary branches would be ground in a wood chipper. Not a pleasant sound, but one made bearable because of its short lived status.
At the Green’s center, a circular fountain surrounding a flagpole sent up jets of water, which arched back into frothy pools of bubbles, providing the rejuvenating sound of moving water, a soothing sound which can also be calming for those who pause to listen. Above, a faint aerial din as a small plane flew over the city’s ninth central square.
A soft, barely audible shuffling sound was created by the rubber soles of visitors from China as they strolled down Elm Street during a university tour; more evident, was the sound of the group speaking in relaxed, undecipherable syllables as they made their appointed rounds along the green’s edge.
City traffic always adds some noise, a kind of audible wall paper that is the hallmark of an active town center, a place where sounds are sometimes jarring and disturbing, but where quite moments also have their place.