Fiery Hope chorus entering 35th season, invites requests for outdoor shows

  • Members of Fiery Hope, directed by Eveline MacDougall, serenaded neighbors in Greenfield recently as part of their ongoing program of bringing live music to people who request musical visits. Contributed Photo/Gillis MacDougall

  • Greenfield resident Lindsey Stormo and her dog, Roo, are serenaded by members of Fiery Hope. The serenade was requested by her neighbors. Contributed Photo/Gillis MacDougall

For the Recorder
Published: 6/22/2022 2:50:32 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 2:50:13 PM

When Eveline MacDougall founded what is now the Fiery Hope chorus, as a 23-year-old new Greenfield resident, she “couldn’t imagine 10 years into her future, let alone 35.”

Yet, the chorus has persevered, even during a global pandemic that led to a shift to more outdoor performances — a trend that is continuing as Fiery Hope enters its 35th season.

“I want to keep people as safe as possible,” MacDougall said in a press release. “If that means singing outdoors, I’m happy to do it.”

Fiery Hope — originally named the Amandla Chorus — all started with one song.

According to MacDougall, while getting together snacks during a meeting of the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters that she was hosting, she found herself humming a South African freedom song. Her friend, Rosie Heidkamp, took notice, having heard the song when she was living in South Africa.

At the time, the global backlash to the Apartheid regime was at its height, and many traditional South African religious songs had been adopted by the anti-Apartheid movement as music of resistance. MacDougall offered to get people together to sing some of these songs.

“I didn’t even know that I was starting a chorus,” MacDougall recounted. Thus, she was genuinely surprised to find that 40 people showed up to the initial meeting on Jan. 31, 1988, saying that, “The appetite for justice and learning was very high.”

While originally referred to as the Amandla Chorus after the Zulu word for “power,” the group changed its name to Fiery Hope in 2019. The singers, who come from across the Pioneer Valley and beyond, have performed for many luminaries, including South African prisoner-turned-president Nelson Mandela, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and union organizer Cesar Chavez. They’ve sung in concerts large and small, “with audiences of as few as 10 and as many as 150,000,” MacDougall noted in a press release.

When the pandemic arrived, the chorus had to overhaul its operations. When the group returned to in-person rehearsals, members stayed outdoors to give the COVID-19 virus less of a chance to spread through singing. With members including everyone from people in their 20s to those in their 70s, some also have health conditions necessitating extra caution.

Fiery Hope intends to perform outdoors for the foreseeable future, as, despite understanding the “the yearning for so-called normal,” MacDougall finds the idea of singing with a mask on to be “quite unpleasant.” She added that she and her singers have donned masks to sing in hospice or other indoor situations, but in general, they stay outdoors.

“People’s social patterns have really changed,” MacDougall added, noting that many people seem less accustomed to interacting with others after the lengthy isolation. Initially, some people were scared of singing out of fear of spreading COVID-19, while others were more than happy to have a social outlet.

Fiery Hope often rehearses on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings outside Temple Israel in Greenfield. According to MacDougall, the group’s next big show will be an outdoor concert at Lathrop Retirement Communities in Northampton sometime in July, but the singers also hold private events for people at their homes.

Gill resident Maryanne Gallagher invited the chorus to perform for a neighborhood gathering last October.

“We invited people from households along River Road,” she recounted in a press release. “The singers entertained many neighbors ranging in age from 1 to 80.”

Neighbors had felt isolated for months, said Gallagher, and the opportunity to gather gave the event a festive atmosphere.

“Folks set aside apprehensions to share joy,” she said. “Fiery Hope reminded us of the beauty that happens when people come together.”

Florence resident Dave Roitman, 74, said he finds Fiery Hope membership to be “one of the most fulfilling and joyful activities I’ve ever experienced.”

“We hear so much positive feedback from our listeners,” Roitman said in a press release. “For me, Fiery Hope is about bringing people together and making the world a better place, one loving gathering at a time.”

One of those listeners, Lindsey Stormo, was serenaded by Fiery Hope earlier this month. Having moved to Greenfield from Montana to escape wildfire devastation, the serenade helped her feel at home.

“The land in this specific place spoke to me first, as well as the loving community of kin,” Stormo explained. “I also came here for the music, which is a beautifully rich beginning to my new life in Greenfield. This feels like a regenerative place to heal, to dig in roots and dream big. ... I am so thankful to this budding community and also to the Fiery Hope choir who serenaded me.”

Fiery Hope is planning more outdoor shows for individuals, families or neighborhoods, as well as broader community events. MacDougall welcomes inquiries from singers who wish to join the chorus, as well as from people interested in hosting a concert of any size. She can be reached at


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