This article is written by Polly, a Grade 11 student at WAB, who actively participated in the services associated with the Rainbow Angels Bakery.
"What? Are you sure? Performing music to deaf people?" This question was a common refrain that we encountered during the planning process of the concert, an enigma that puzzled many people and performers alike. Traditionally, music is most commonly associated with auditory experiences, with many thinking that its essence lies solely in the appreciation of sound. However, with the “Autumn, with Love” Charity Music Concert at Rainbow Angels Bakery, we aimed to challenge these perceptions and carve out a space where sound and silence embraced, creating an experience that not only spoke to the ears but also resonated with hearts and souls.
On what seemed like an ordinary fall afternoon at Beijing's quietest café, a gathering of high school students alongside a cadre of volunteers converged at the store’s entrance. And what proceeded, was nothing but ordinary. With instruments in their hands and smiles on their faces, they transformed the city’s most noiseless haven into a bustling nexus of harmonies and love.
On October 29, 2023, the Rainbow Angels Bakery club at WAB organized a charity music concert at Rainbow Angels Bakery, a unique café nestled on the corner of Changping. More than just a place for delectable handmade treats, the bakery is home to numerous hearing-impaired individuals, offering them an opportunity to step into the broader society, achieve financial independence, and support them with every step they take.
The decision to organize a music concert for the hearing impaired stemmed from the desire to bridge the gap between sound and silence and integrate the two different communities we live in. Together with Felicia Lee, founder of Rainbow Angels Bakery, the Rainbow Angels Bakery club at WAB began the planning process of the concert. When considering the theme for the event, we found ourselves drawn to the essence of “Autumn, with Love.” The choice of this theme was deliberate, rooted in our shared belief that autumn, with its warm hues and gentle transitions, embodies the very spirit of love – a love that is warm, harmonious, and unifying, just as we hoped was the kind of love the concert would foster.
Amidst the lingering questions concerning the perceived contradiction of organizing a music concert for hearing-impaired individuals, Ms. Felicia shared a perspective that verbalized the core of our efforts: "Some people listen more attentively with their eyes than those who use their ears."
And sure enough, as soon as the bakers and audience members were seen as one – enjoying the music, sharing smiles, and applauding in harmony – the uncertainties that hung in the air quickly dissipated.
The day of the concert featured a diverse array of performances from WAB students, the bakery’s volunteers, and the bakers themselves. From the Rainbow Angels Bakery club at WAB, club member Lily performed a heartwarming piano piece, and together with Trinity and Sophia, the three treated the audience with two beautifully rendered song covers while Sophia played the ukulele.
Reflecting on the experience, Lily shared, "I'm really grateful that I got to work with these amazing people who deserve to have their voices heard, and to play music on their behalf not only gave me a chance to express my love in forms other than spoken words but also helped me regain my passion for piano that I previously had."
Adding on to the repertoire, Trinity, Sophia, and I performed two hip-hop dance pieces. Trinity shared her enjoyment, stating, “I really enjoyed performing in such a simple and open setting. It made our interactions with the audience more casual and heartfelt.” Sophia felt the same, "the people there were incredibly kind, and their joyful expressions filled the space with positivity."
Besides performances from WAB students, other volunteers from the bakery also added their unique touch to the concert. Among the performers were children as young as 7 years old, fearlessly strumming guitars and singing with their hearts, bringing an adorable charm to the stage.
Taking center stage, the hearing-impaired bakers of Rainbow Angels Bakery wrapped up the concert with the mesmerizing rendition of two original songs performed in sign language. Among them was YunFeng Xue, who aspired to become a singer, and wrote the moving piece titled “Rainbow Angel’s Love.” As the lyrics unfolded, Ms. Felicia and other volunteers joined the performance, lending their voices to the original music, creating a seamless and harmonious blend of visuals and sound that left us all profoundly moved and inspired.
With each chord struck and every beat resonating, Rainbow Angels Bakery vibrated with a unique energy on that ordinary fall afternoon— one seasoned with love and an undeniable sense of unity.
After the music concert ended, the performers, audience members, and bakers all gathered inside the coffee house, filling the air with joyous chatter amidst the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and the anticipation of hot, homemade pizza. The bakers assembled at our table, stretching out their arms and hands, moving their thumbs up and down as the words thank you flowed through their fingertips.
With a performance of our hands and a shared smile, a silent symphony of gratitude and friendship echoed between us, unspoken yet so resounding.
As the echoes of music faded and we exited the silent world, we were reminded that every note played and every smile shared during the concert was not just a melodic cadence, but a step towards bridging the gaps between our two worlds.
Although the concert has ended, our story with Rainbow Angels Bakery is far from over. With the Rainbow Angels Bakery club at WAB, we plan to organize more activities that connect our communities in the future, fostering connections that extend beyond the barriers of sound.
What’s more, Rainbow Angels Bakery will soon come to WAB on November 25, 2023, at the Community Market, sharing their handmade treats and warm embraces of inclusivity with all!
As we move forward, our experience from our visit to the silent world will follow us, a quiet but reverberant reminder that learning to listen with our eyes and hearts, is a step towards a world where unity is not just heard but felt—a world where, in the silent language of love, we continue to build bridges that connect us all.