Monday, December 21, 2015

Can singing together bring about world peace?

The world can be a terrible place sometimes as we’ve seen in the news lately. It’s hard to imagine how a single person can make a difference.

Chór aleksandrowa 2009 by Loraine

Can singing together or being in a choir bring about change?

Most of us ask ourselves at some point: am I contributing to the world, how can I help others, am I doing enough?

It can be overwhelming to think of all the troubles in the world and how you, just one person, can possibly make a difference.

I sometimes feel like I’m putting my head in the sand when I am leading a singing workshop or a choir. It all seems so frivolous and irrelevant compared to the horrors of the world.

But it’s what I do and I have a passion for it. I know that singing and music has the capacity to heal and to connect people, but is it enough to change the world?

Here is what I’ve come up with.

play to your strengths

As individuals we can’t do everything. We have to focus on one or two things and do them well, whether that be driving provisions to refugee camps in Calais, or manning phones for humanitarian funding appeals.

We should play to our strengths. Some people are great at logistics — organising supplies and volunteers — whilst others are brilliant to persuading people to donate to good causes.

My strengths are as a teacher of songs and choir leader. They may not seem to be practical skills that can help the world directly, but it’s what I have to offer and I think I can justify it.

I am constantly reminded by participants in my choirs and workshops of the joy that singing together brings. Participants are truly lifted by the communion and community and by building something together without any barriers of gender, class, race, religious belief, etc.

Singing together helps to ground, relax and uplift the participants. They get to take a break from the everyday and can’t help but be in the moment.

I take solace from the fact that they then take some of that joy away with them and are re-energised to do what they do best and so it gets passed on.

A similar sentiment is expressed here more eloquently:

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed...because people are changed by art - enriched, ennobled, encouraged - they then act in a way that may affect the course of the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” Leonard Bernstein, composer and conductor (1918 – 1990)

some inspiring quotes

Here are a few inspiring quotes from musicians about how music can help to bring about peace.

“People who make music together cannot be enemies, at least while the music lasts.” Paul Hindemith, composer and violinist (1895 –  1963)

“Songs won’t save the planet, but neither will books or speeches.” Pete Seeger, singer and activist (1919 – 2014)

“Radicalism and intolerance are the products of ignorance … This is why the best way to fight radicalism is to turn ignorance into knowledge by giving the ‘other’ a name, a face and a voice. Singing in a foreign language enables us to do just that.” María Fernández-Toro of Multilingual Singing.

“In times of totalitarian or autocratic rule, music (indeed culture in general) is often the only avenue of independent thought. It is the only way people can meet as equals, and exchange ideas. Culture then becomes primarily the voice of the oppressed and it takes over from politics as a driving force for change.” Daniel Barenboim, pianist and conductor, co-founder of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (1942 – )

“Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.” Playing For Change

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas.

Chris Rowbury



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Chris Rowbury


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