Think for a moment about a time when you felt at peace during a performance. Do you remember the piece? Were you in the audience or were you a part of the performance? Could you begin to feel a weightless energy in the room as you listened? Perhaps you can’t articulate exactly what caused this welling up of calm and restfulness within you, but you were aware of the quietness in that instant. For at least one moment, you dropped everything else the stress from work or school, the election, the news and just listened to a beautiful piece of music.
It might be difficult for those of us outside the choral community to understand why some of us dedicate our lives and work to constantly seeking moments of serenity and peace in the music we create. And in times of recent violence, unrest, and cross-cultural turmoil to feel a sense of responsibility to share our music with as many of those who would listen, and to renew our mission as music-makers to that of the peace-maker.
To do just that, the international choral community is excited to present AVoice4Peace, a world-wide peace awareness project with choirs playing a starring role in pursuit of peace-making. The ultimate goal of this project is to have choirs and musicians from all over the world begin talking and singing about music as a catalyst for peace, and more specifically how choirs can be a part of this mission.
September 21st is recognized as the International Day of Peace by the United Nations General Assembly. All over the world people practice nonviolence and ceasefire on this remarkably significant day. AVoice4Peace and all of its participants will celebrate September 21, 2016 (and each year thereafter) by hosting a world-wide peace concert in Nairobi, Kenya.
For those of us at home, anyone with a smartphone or camera can record themselves singing the repertoire. Visit AVoice4Peace.org, for more information about hosting your own recording event. Spearheading the project are Ken Wakia, director of the Nairobi Chamber Chorus and Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the Festival Singers of Florida and choral faculty at Florida State University.
AVoice4Peace began as a result of the collaborations between their two choirs. ‘Ukuthula’, a traditional African peace hymn, brought the two choirs together in an immediate and exceptionally sincere way. As the two choirs rehearsed together, performed together, and eventually hosted one other other in their own nations, a dialogue about international peace began. In front of an audience following one of their concerts, Ken Wakia spoke directly to the crowd, and dared them to imagine a world wherein singers from all over could achieve the unity that they had shared. And like that, AVoice4Peace began.
“Any piece of music that talks about unity is really needed right now,” says Fenton. “Choirs are a community; that is the way they function. And maybe if choirs all over the world sing ‘Ukuthula’ and they think about ‘Ukuthula’, it could really make a lasting difference.” Since Ukuthula had such an enduring impact on both the Nairobi Chamber Chorus and the Festival Singers of Florida, the piece has become the focal point of the project, and will be the song that choirs all over the world will record themselves singing. Once recorded, choirs can submit their videos to AVoice4Peace, where all submissions will be edited together into a ‘virtual choir’, painting a picture of what a peaceful world could look like. It will be shared with the international choral community and will keep conversations alive, and be a starting place for future singing activities that will pave the way toward helping individuals achieve a peaceful mindset.
In addition to the peace concert and the interactive participation from international choirs, the project is also the focus of an upcoming documentary film of the same name. Bud Simpson, a filmmaker and faculty member at Florida State University was a previous student of Fenton’s and is directing the film. “The film will be a sort of legacy piece, and will give voice to the stories and songs of several musicians participating in the first ever AVoice4Peace Concert held in Nairobi,” says Simpson.
“Through the eyes of our characters, we’ll learn about the importance of international and intercultural musical collaboration, as well as the powerful effect that music has on listeners (and performers) when used as a catalyst for peace.” Simpson and his team are currently raising money to cover production costs for the film.
You can read more about this effort on their Kickstarter fundraising page HERE:
If you’re looking to support AVoice4Peace, donating to their Kickstarter is an excellent way to contribute to the legacy of this remarkable project. But be sure to submit your donation soon, the fundraiser ends on August 15! If you’re looking to get involved in AVoice4Peace, here are a few ways to make the biggest impact:
1. Register to host a recording event
2. Join an existing recording event
3. Donate to the film’s Kickstarter fundraiser, or organize a fundraising party at your home or office (contact Bud Simpson if you’d like to organize a fundraising event)
4. Subscribe to receive updates about the project
5. Share the AV4P website, Kickstarter page, and social media channels
~ Bud Simpson, Documentary Film Maker