The Portland-based all-female Pihcintu Chorus released a new song last week called “Somewhere” for World Children’s Day.

The song is sung by Shy Paca, an 11-year-old former refugee from Namibia, which is one of nearly two dozen countries represented by members of the chorus that has been active for 15 years. Paca was one of two girls who earned acclaim after singing the Alicia Keys’ song “Girl on Fire” at the inauguration of Gov. Janet Mills back in January.

Natalia Mbadu, left, and Shy Paca, students at the Reiche Elementary School, performed Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire” at the inauguration ceremony for Gov. Janet Mills last January. Staff photo by Derek Davis

According to a press release from the United Nations Refugee Agency, the song “Somewhere” was written as an anthem for universal tolerance and acceptance.

Pihcintu comprises refugees and immigrants who have made Portland their new home.

“When I hear the voices of the Pihcintu Chorus, I’m filled with such hope for their futures,” said Anne-Marie Grey, executive director of USA for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the U.N. Refugee Agency, said in a statement. “Through song, these young women and girls are ensuring their voices are heard in their communities and they are doing it in such a beautiful manner.”

The song also speaks to the chorus’ mission. Pihcintu is a Passamaquoddy word that means, “When she sings, her voice carries far.”

Con Fullam, a producer, musician and songwriter, founded the chorus in 2004.

“From Syria to Central America, UNHCR works tirelessly to provide the helpless with hope. The members of the chorus hope that this video raises awareness of the dire circumstances of so many and encourages those who view it to take action for their fellow world citizens,” Fullan said.

Members of the chorus have sung before the United Nations and have performed across Maine as well. In 2017, the chorus sang at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of John F. Kennedy.

For members, Pihcintu is a safe place for new Mainers to meet others and improve their language skills. Since it began, more than 300 young women have taken part. Of them, 100 percent have graduated from high school and 85 percent have gone on to pursue postsecondary educational opportunities.


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