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Speaking with feet, hearts, and voices

Two very Philly responses unfolded Sunday afternoon to Donald Trump's heartless ban on the admission of all refugees to the United States.

The soloists of LyricFest and Singing City Choir perform “Music in the White House.”
The soloists of LyricFest and Singing City Choir perform “Music in the White House.”Read moreDimitrios Diamantaras

Two very Philly responses unfolded Sunday afternoon to Donald Trump's heartless ban on the admission of all refugees to the United States.

The first mobilized American feet to the scene of injustice. The second strengthened American hearts for the future fights that just such compassionate action requires.

Both did this city so, so proud.

At Philadelphia International Airport, thousands of protesters in the International Arrivals Hall offered thunderous chants of support to refugees who had taken seriously the message of compassion we've enshrined at the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

The president's refugee ban mocked that message on Saturday when two Syrian families were sent back to their decimated homeland, just hours after their legal arrival in Philly. It was despicable.

I hope to God that the protesters' primal screams of "Refugees are welcome here! No hate! No fear!" were heard around the globe. The world needs to know of the fierce pushback in Philly against a president whose actions are a grotesque perversion of American ideals.

While the protesters kept it real at the airport, about 250 Philadelphians on the other side of town were moved to tears during a Rittenhouse Square concert called "Music in the White House." Produced by LyricFest, the local arts organization, the program paired the company's magnificent soloists with the Singing City choir to present songs that were performed in the White House from the early 1800s to the Obama administration.

Given the events of this weekend, many of the songs brought the audience to tears, including "Take Care of This House," by Leonard Bernstein. LyricFest described it as a tribute to all that the White House represents: "its hope and promise and, for its inhabitants, the inherent responsibility to protect it."

Take care of this house, protect it from harm,

If bandits break in, sound the alarm

Care for this house, shine it by hand And keep it so clean the glow can be seen All over the land...

Take care of this house, be always on call For this house is the home to us all.

When Lyricfest co-artistic director Suzanne Duplantis at last let go of its final note, the rapt audience would not stop cheering until she took a second bow.

The show's final song, "American Anthem" by Gene Scheer, was written in 1958. But its lyrics were a cautionary tale for today:

All we've been given by those who came before,

The dream of a nation where freedom would endure.

The work and pray'rs of centuries have brought us to this day,

What will be our legacy? What will our children say?

Let them say of me I was one who believed In sharing the blessings I received.

Let me know in my heart when my days are through America, America, I gave my best to you.

If there was a dry eye in Church of the Holy Trinity, the glorious sanctuary where the concert was performed, I didn't see it. But my eyes were so blurred by tears maybe everyone else's eyes looked watery, too.

LyricFest first presented "Music in the White House" in 2008, says Duplantis, right after Barack Obama's inauguration. But 18 months ago, she and co-artistic director Laura Ward thought this would be a good year to reprise the show, whose premier had received rave reviews.

"We had no idea who'd be in the White House in 2017," says Duplantis. "We didn't imagine the tumult."

Nor the poignant backdrop it would bring to this year's production.

These are raw, exhausting times. In the week since Trump was inaugurated, Philadelphians who are justifiably terrified of our new president have marched on the Parkway for women's rights, protested outside the Loews Hotel during Trump's visit here on Thursday, and stampeded to the airport to support refugees in dire need. That's a lot of legwork.

The challenge for all will be staying fueled for the next mass gathering.

On Sunday, LyricFest reminded its audience of who Americans are at their best, through beautiful songs that transported us over this country's arc of time. And the audience, instead of needing to give even more physical energy to the cause of American decency and justice, was able to just sit back and refuel their hearts for the next fight.

"I really needed this," said Klaus Volpert, 57, after the concert. "These songs reaffirmed to me what the true soul of this nation is. Through a tapestry of songs, it described the undercurrent that runs through our nation's history-decency, strength and love. The soul of our nation feels battered. But it's strong. And it can still be a beautiful thing in a beautiful world."

Sounds like a song to me.