Handbells for Healing Event - Ringing to Conquer Riverblindness

Handbells for Healing

HILLSBOROUGH, N.J.: A solo handbell concert on Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m., will benefit the United Front Against Riverblindness. Handbell artist Hyosang Park and pianist Akiko Hosaki will perform at Hillsborough Reformed Church at Millstone. A freewill offering will be taken. Call 908-359-3391 (http://www.hillsboroughreformed church.org.).

Ringing to Conquer Riverblindness

HILLSBOROUGH, NJ: "The music of handbells can heal one's spirit," says Hyosang Park, a solo handbell artist. She and pianist Akiko Hosaki will perform a benefit concert for the United Front Against Riverblindness (UFAR) on Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m., at Hillsborough Reformed Church at Millstone, on the corner of Amwell Road and Route 533. There is no admission charge; however, a freewill offering to benefit UFAR will be taken at the door.

"Akiko and I hope our concert will also bring physical healing to the people who suffer this disease in Congo," says Park, an East Windsor resident who is the music director at Princeton United Methodist Church. She has master's degrees in sacred music and piano performance from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and teaches at St. Jerome Catholic School in West Long Branch.

Of the 70 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 23 million are at risk of contracting onchocerciasis, known as riverblindness, says Lawrenceville resident, Daniel Shungu, founder of UFAR. A socially disruptive disease, riverblindness starts with an excruciatingly itchy rash, and when it leads to blindness, children must leave school to be full-time caregivers for family members. There is a drug for riverblindness, provided free by Merck & Co., but it is a challenge to get the drug to remote villages and ensure that every person takes the drug once a year for at least 10 years.

Hosaki, also a resident of Lawrenceville, is a collaborative pianist and vocal coach who frequently appears with singers, conductors, and instrumentalists throughout the United States. She holds a doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota in collaborative piano and coaching and is currently the head of vocal staff accompanists and pianist coordinator at Westminster, and serves as the organist/choir director at Hillsborough Reformed Church at Millstone.

Park and Hosaki will perform some of their own arrangements, including the Mallotte version of "Lord's Prayer." Also on the program are hymn favorites and folk tunes, including "Londonderry Air" and "Shenandoah," as well as light classics, such as the theme from "Finlandia" by Jean Sibelius.

UFAR is an African-inspired, US-based nonprofit charitable organization that aims, in partnership with other organizations, to eradicate onchocerciasis, a major public health problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo (www.riverblindnes.org). Call 908-359-3391 or go to http://www.hillsboroughreformed church.org.