‘Choir for Peace’ will be community art, music event

In the spirit of Homer performances of Mozart’s “Requiem,” sung in 2001 and 2002 to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, a community music and art event to be held next weekend addresses a similar theme. How do we find peace in a violent and turbulent world?

“Choir for Peace” comes at the subject from a different direction, though, said Mark Robinson, who shares conducting the choral performance with Homer High School Choir Director Kyle Schneider.

“I don’t see this as a grieving thing,” Robinson said. “… I see it as more uplifting and sort of a call to our higher selves, individually and collectively.”

Sponsored by Pier One Theatre, the concert brings together the 45-member Homer High School Concert Choir and the 90-member Kenai Peninsula Community Chorus backed by the 32-member Choir for Peace Orchestra. Schneider conducts composer Paul Aitken’s “And None Shall Be Afraid,” a five-part cantata that concludes the evening. Aitken will visit Homer for a dress rehearsal and one performance.

There also is a special appearance by the Homer Children’s Choir, directed by Britny Bradshaw. Choir for Peace performs at 7 p.m. May 3 and 4 at the Mariner Theatre. Tickets are $18 general, $17 for seniors, $16 for members of the Raven’s Club and $10 for youth. They are available at the Homer Bookstore and at the door.

“This particular project has pulled a lot of people out of the woodwork,” said Laura Norton, production manager. “We have a very large group of new singers. It’s very exciting.”

The event also includes spoken word poetry and prose read by Rev. Lisa Talbott of Homer United Methodist Church. An exhibit of 4-inch by 6-inch art is on display in the Homer High School Commons, with work available for sale. Proceeds benefit the Global Arts Corps, a group that visits former war zones to tell the stories of people affected by conflicts.

“It’s also an event, a community event,” Robinson said of Choir for Peace. “… It’s about coming together as a community and appreciating ourselves and each other and our impacts in the world globally, personally and locally.”

Aitken’s “And None Shall Be Afraid” forms the anchor of the evening. Schneider met Aitken in 2016 when he visited Alaska with a touring group.

“That began the friendship,” Schneider said. “This is a piece he put in front of me and said, ‘Tell me what you think.’ That led to being inspired to find a spot for this.”

The director of music and worship arts and composer in residence at the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise, Idaho, Aitken also told Schneider about going to Belgium and France to perform for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and liberation of Europe.

“He (Aitken) just wanted to bring the music of peace to this area of the world, for those anniversaries, which brought me back to calling Mark (Robinson) and talking to Mark about ‘what would you think about doing a concert for peace?’” Schneider said.

Schneider and Robinson got together with a long list of 50 choral pieces they whittled down to an evening’s concert. As they looked at the works, Robinson said themes began to develop. The concert is arranged on the idea that peace begins first with personal peace, then community peace and, finally, global peace.

“The different messages and themes make a cohesive whole,” Robinson said. “… I think of it not just as wishing or hoping for peace, but a reminder that it’s all our responsibilities. It’s an active thing we have a responsibility to make happen.”

Out of the high school and community chorus, Schneider will lead an international touring group this summer to Europe, where they’ll perform in Belgium and France. Concerts will be held in Ypres, Belgium, and Flanders Field, the center of some of the most intense fighting in World War I. They also perform at the American Cemetery in Normandy, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium, and at the Louvre in Paris.

“For a lot of these kids, they’ve never been out of Alaska,” Schneider said. “To go to all these wonderful memorials and commemorations, it’s good they’re processing it for themselves.”

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

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