The Concert for Peace
by Charmie Gholson
Once a year Michigan Peaceworks throws a fund-raising party at the Ark. When I arrived last year, I found a gaggle of local singer-songwriters and musicians lining the back halls, waiting to play their one song each. Engineers scurried about, helping each performer do a sound check.
"This is the last peace concert show we'll have to do," MC Chris Buhalis told the standing-room-only crowd, "because the Democrats are in control now, and they would never vote for a war." The audience groaned.
Storyteller LaRon Williams, decked out in vibrant, living colors, pulled folks from the audience to help act out a folktale. The story was one I'd heard before, about a peasant weary of his creaking floors and leaking roof. He seeks counsel with the local wise woman (played by a young girl), who tells him to bring his pig, cow, and chicken into the house. When the man is at wits' end with the critters, she instructs him to remove them, one by one. Now he has gratitude for his imperfect lodging.
LaRon is dedicated to redefining peace as more than simply an absence of war. Peace, he said, is a set of social skills that need to be practiced all the time, so we can create a peaceful society and planet.
Laz Slomovits and his wife, Helen, joined Lori Fithian and Sepideh Vahidi to perform a Gypsy-sounding prayer/chant, calling for "truth we can all believe, dreams and hopes that remain alive, and the Earth renew herself." Joe Reilly urged us all to sing with him and "create some peace, everybody, right here and now, and send it out into the world." We all sang with him, "Eliminate the silence. No war. No violence."
While singing these prayers, I wondered what are we doing? What does the manifestation of our united voices look like? Are we lighting up Michigan on the wall map in the Spirit conference room?
And is there a surveillance
system of lights that go off in response, to rouse the attention of warmongers? "Alert! Alert! People singing about love and light! Take action!!"
Not all the songs were about light and love, though. Dick Siegel performed a rocking Christmas song, and Annie Gallup did her usual charming, funny storytelling about a circus performer who makes things disappear.
Near the end, Buhalis sang a poignant Pete Seeger song, "Bring 'Em Home," but first he shared a story about a phone call he received. Someone told him that he's going to "burn in hell with Hitler, Stalin, and Gandhi." Ah, that simplifies things. Thanks, hostile caller, for reminding us of our job as peacemakers. Ya gotta love everybody especially the warmakers. Love wins.
This year's Concert for Peace is at the Ark on Sunday, December 16.
[Review published December 2007]