, Salem, MA

April 19, 2013

Swampscott student sings at healing service


---- — BOSTON — A Swampscott High sophomore lent his voice in song with fellow members of the Boston Children’s Chorus to help the city and the nation heal yesterday.

Khamari Barnes was one of the singers who took part in the group’s emotional performance at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross during an interfaith healing service as the region tried to recover from twin bombings at the finish of the Boston Marathon on Monday. Three spectators along Boylston Street were killed, and more than 170 were injured in the blasts Monday afternoon, many losing lower limbs from shrapnel. The FBI yesterday released photos of two suspects in the bombings.

As part of the healing service, the chorus sang the Patty Griffin ballad “Up to the Mountain,” a song inspired by the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech that civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Memphis the day before he was assassinated.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma accompanied the chorus. In the audience sat President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Gov. Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and many others.

“Sooner or later/It’s there I will go,” slowly sung the chorus in a chilling and uplifting moment at the end of the performance. Some members fought back tears as they sang, a video of the performance posted on the Boston Children’s Chorus website showed.

Khamari, who turns 16 tomorrow, lives in Dorchester and attends Swampscott High as part of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity program.

“This week has been hectic because of the events on Monday,” Khamari said in a telephone interview yesterday.

On Wednesday, the Boston Children’s Chorus performed on “Good Morning America.” The performance meant the chorus had to travel overnight on a bus and be at the studio at 3 a.m. to rehearse.

Later that day, the chorus got the call to perform before the president at the interfaith healing service. That meant getting up at 6 a.m., heading over to the Boston Children’s Chorus office, going to the cathedral, then going through security, Khamari said.

“Of course, everyone was excited to do that,” Khamari said about the performance.

He has sung with the chorus, which was launched in 2003, for five years. The chorus has a mission to unite the city’s diverse communities through music, and it has 450 singers that represent 50 of Boston’s urban and suburban neighborhoods, with 11 choirs in four Boston locations, according to the group’s website.

“There was a feeling we really wanted to represent the communities well,” Khamari said. The chorus also wanted to help people deal with the horrific events on Monday through music. “We wanted to be a support system.”

The chance to perform in front of the president was tempered by the thought that it was the result of what had happened.

“It came up in the group,” Khamari said. “We would rather not have it happen at all.”

The ballad, he said, reflected the mood of the service. It’s a slow and sorrowful song, but it also comes with an uplifting message at the end.

Chorus members knew they had a heavy responsibility to represent the city well, Khamari said.

“We were all so anxious to do it,” he said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.