Samantha Norton

Equinox Staff


The simplest luxuries in life are ones easily taken for granted — food, water, and even a home.

However, for some, these luxuries are ones not in their possession.

The Hundred Nights Shelter is a sanctuary for those left without a warm bed in which to curl up.

Working with the shelter to help provide food and clothing to their guests are the Keene State College Chamber Singers.

The Chamber Singers have been working with Hundred Nights since the beginning of September.

“This semester is the start of a tradition that we hope to continue, where the Chamber Singers collaborate with a local organization every semester, so it’s a semester long partnership. Although the semester is over, I don’t see us shutting the door on that,” Assistant Professor of Music Education, Dr. Sandra Howard said.

This partnership has allowed Howard and her students to visit with the shelter and offer music as a way to escape reality.

On Dec. 3, 2011, the Chamber Singers presented a campus concert where 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the shelter.

“Not only are we going out just to perform, it’s contextualized. We’ve gone out and visited the shelter in September, we had the introduction to the mission, and we talked about how that sort of connects to the music we are doing. So the music has a secondary meaning and hopefully that will impact how the students approach the performance and hopefully it will impact how the students go on from here and being contributing members of society,” Howard said.

The performance, which focused around Hundred Night’s mission statement – “To be a community working together to meet the needs of our neighbors. To be a source of hope and respect for everyone, working toward a day when no one is homeless” – possessed a repertoire that is based on the theme from sunlight to twilight.

“There’s beauty in sunlight, there’s beauty in twilight, but there can also come fear or uncertainty.”

She went on to say, “So I wanted to explore the beauty of both where we hope that you can find shelter in both, but it is not always the case,” Howard said.

This performance will allow music to be focused less on rhythm and pitch; rather, the music will represent a community of people and defy the stereotypes held against this group.

This partnership is one that has been an eye-opening experience for all. Deb Chambers, CEO of Hundred Nights, believes that because of the Chamber Singers’ involvement some of the stigma has been squashed.

“You think of a homeless person as the guy standing on the street corner in rags and begging for money, smelly, and dirty. But if you go downstairs, you don’t see any of that,” Chambers said.

This shows that the portrayal of homeless isn’t the hobo depicted in Hollywood films.

“Deb told us a story about a man who walks from here to the airport down in Swanzey, back and forth a couple of times a night, just to stay warm and then he sleeps during the day. There’s this perception that people who are sleeping on the sides of the street are drunk or that’s part of it. But there’s another reason, people have to move to stay warm,” Howard said.

For the guests at Hundred Nights, this partnership is one that provides them with a sense of belonging.

Saturday presented the opportunity for these guests to take part in an event they usually cannot afford, Chambers said.

“We had another group come in here last summer and perform Chamber music for our guests, and they just loved it! It’s something different. The people we serve here don’t have a lot of money so they can’t afford to go to events like that. To bring it here is great,” Chambers said.

However, this event is one that does not just solely benefit the shelter; it is one that benefits all parties involved.

This partnership instills a sense of awareness among students and the rest of the Keene State College community.

It gives everyone a sense of hope- a hope that some will be able to find shelter in the darkest of times.

“We do so much learning in the classroom, but some of the best learning is when we step into the community and see live, in person, and what’s going on. I think it was a very humbling experience to go to the shelter,” Howard said.

The Chamber Singers will not just be giving the shelter, which opens on Dec. 21, a check for 20% of the proceeds; they will also be conducting a non-perishable food donation.

This partnership allows for everything to be put into perspective and up for interpretation.

“I know for me it kind of refocused my priorities. I started to purge things from my house and bring weekly drops over to the shelter. It makes you kind of contextualize whatever problems we think we have,” Howard continued.

“In the grand scheme of things is it really a problem? Maybe it’s a stressor, but there are bigger problems in the world.”


Samantha Norton can be contacted at

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