The Refugee Camp
Gregory Page had never been so nervous before a gig, not even when he played for 12,000 at London’s O2 Arena. He loaded up his guitar, not knowing what to expect. Gregory had been asked to play at the largest refugee camp in Europe, near a town called Nijmegen in Holland, not far from the German border.
It was one of Gregory’s fans who had the idea. This young wife and mother had opened her home to two young Syrian refugees and brought them to one of Gregory’s shows. The young Syrian men had never heard that type of music before, and they loved it. Besides hosting refugees in her home, Gregory’s fan also volunteered at the camp, and camp officials decided a concert might be a small respite to the refugee’s sorrowful plight. They invited Gregory to play, billing it “A Night Out.”
Gregory walked into the camp on a cold, wet January evening and saw large metal structures hosting the families, one structure for sleeping, one for eating, and one for recreation. No one was allowed access without official permission—no press or news cameras, despite the fact it was the biggest story in Europe and in much of the world. “My guitar gave me a pass to witness this experience,” says Gregory. “You become desensitized by the daily news but when you hear accounts face to face it’s heartbreaking.”
Once Gregory was in the camp, refugees began greeting him and asking him about his music, and he became less nervous. “The guitar on my back was the great equalizer,” Gregory says. “I was there an an ambassador of music.”
Gregory was led to the recreation structure, where a refugee who had been a professional sound engineer in Syria had been tasked with setting up a PA system. Many refugees were sitting on the floor—there were no chairs—and typing on their phones, trying to connect to families back home. Gregory started playing. “It was a little confusing,” says Gregory. “I wasn’t connecting.”
Except for the children. The small children gathered close to Gregory and formed a semi-circle around him. Gregory went with the moment and started playing upbeat songs, trying to get the kids to clap along and sing—difficult to do with a language barrier. One boy kept pointing at Gregory. Finally, Gregory gave him the microphone, and the boy started rapping in Arabic. That’s when people stopped and listened. After his song, the boy handed the microphone to his friend, who also rapped in Arabic. More and more people started lining up for the microphone. Gregory went into the audience and started to clap along. Most sang or rapped. One girl simply took out her phone and played an Arabic song. One man recited a poem. What the refugees seemed to need most at the concert was to have their voices heard.
The Old Man
Amir, an older man, didn’t take the microphone, but he told Gregory the story of his life in Damascus. “My life was so ordinary,” Amir told Gregory. “It was practically boring. If people told me a year ago that I’d leave, I wouldn’t believe them. I had no choice but to leave. It was between life and death.”
Gregory talked to Amir for a long time, until he had to rush off and catch a plane back home. On the plane, he started to write, and twelve hours later, he had his song, “Say A Prayer.” A couple of months later, he came to Studio West to record it.
With its heartfelt emotion and its call for love and understanding, it’s clear that “Say A Prayer” was born out of first-hand experience with refugees. The song’s lyrics and the images that accompany them are moving, and they have a sincerity that’s deeply touching. In fact, “Say A Prayer” is as much a poem as it is a song, and the lyricism of the singer’s voice—complemented perfectly by cellos and violins—matches its serious but hopeful mood. “Say a Prayer” is soulful and thought-provoking, reaching across political boundaries to send a sincere message of compassion and love.