Singing Deaf? How can the deaf sing? It’s quite simple really. They use music, various expressions and American Sign Language.
For over a decade, the LDS Deaf Community in the greater San Diego California area has produced an annual musical event called “An Evening of Sign”. Persons who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as their families and friends have participated in this free event, which breaks down several stereotypes that hearing people think about the deaf. Even though a person cannot hear, they still can enjoy music and on-stage artistic performance. And even though a hearing person may not understand ASL they still can understand the meaning of the performance through the signs and the music.
This year’s “Evening of Sign” was held at the Mt. Abernathy Stake Center May 14th and 15th in the Claremont Mesa area in San Diego. It involved a cast of over 60 deaf and hearing people, ranging in age from 3 to the “well seasoned”. Joyde Lee Marrow, this year’s program director, oversaw the supervision of the entire 90-minute production. “A lot of people gave their time and talents to help make this program a success,” said Marrow. “Working with talented individuals and personalities, the show takes on a life of it’s own.”
The entire cast, small groups or individual soloists, performed the 24 different musical numbers. Songs included Primary favorites like, “I’m Trying to be Like Jesus”, where a Primary Teacher signs and instructs her students, to Johnny River’s 60’s hit “Secret Agent Man”, where several youth sign and act out the James Bond type lyrics. The audiences were moved by the signed solos of Man of La Mancha’s “Impossible Dream” as well the song “His Hands” which describes the life of the Savior. This year’s production ended with the ensemble signing Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be An American”
“This program has been a great tool for helping people learn sign language and communicate with the deaf,” said Michelle Hinton, one of the coordinators of the weekly free classes in ASL at the University City meetinghouse. “The program started small, teaching a few families ASL and then grew to where we have many LDS and non-members participate in the classes and the performance.”
Sister Hinton also said that the program and the classes have been a great educational and missionary tool. “Several people in the Church and in the community have gotten their ASL Interpreters certification. Others have been called to Deaf Missions as a result of the program, and a few non members who have participated in the classes and performance have even joined the Church.”