Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In Desperate Times, a concert for Peace

Great story on yesterday's concert for peace at the National Cathedral.

At Washington Cathedral, Pop Music, Politics And Prayers for Peace

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; C01

"Thanks for coming to give peace a chance," David Crosby told the crowd of more than 2,500 at Washington National Cathedral, before he and Graham Nash launched into "Lay Me Down."

To kick off last night's Pray for Peace concert, John Bryson Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington and the evening's emcee, quoted Nash: "No person has the right to take another person's life in the name of God." Churches and religions should be instruments of peace, not war, he said.

When people gather to pray for peace, "what you are praying for is an end to war," Chane said. He said it was not an antiwar event, but a moment to call on nations to lay down all arms. "War," he said, "is the ultimate declaration of human failure. What we are saying is: Enough is enough."

With white hair and dark clothes, and flanked by pulpits, Nash looked a little like a singing televangelist. "I would like to congratulate Bishop John Chane for being brave enough to do this," he told the gathering.

It was a little weird, seeing rock musicians stand under the crucifix in a cathedral where magnificent sermons have been delivered and where dead heads of state have been mourned.

"This house wasn't built for the blues," Kevin Moore, known as Keb' Mo', said during a sound check.

But the church folks did the best they could. The sound was top-notch and the walls behind the musicians were splashed with lava-lamplike lights. The atmosphere was enhanced by red- and yellow-robed Buddhist monks moving about the cathedral.

Jackson Browne and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls also performed on the raised platform in the sanctuary. Tibetan monks chanted, leaders of various faith communities spoke of peace and others prayed publicly and privately.

Before the service, Browne said he was singing in opposition to the war in Iraq and the proposed war in Iran. Many people feel the Iraq war "has been a huge mistake," he said.

"These are desperate times, calling for desperate answers," Nash said. The first step to peace, he added, is dialogue. "I'm 65 years old. . . . My time is passing." He said his activism now is on behalf of his three children.

Music can be a form of prayer and both transcend regions and religions, the performers pointed out. Keb' Mo' exhorted the crowd, in song, to "hand it over" and "get on your knees and pray."

There was a guitarist and a hand drummer. Crosby's son, James Raymond, played keyboards. Crosby and Nash sang "Jesus of Rio" and a new Nash song, a musical prayer titled "In Your Name." Then Crosby picked up a guitar and they sang the heavenly "Guinnevere."

Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.), who once belonged to the Top 40 band Orleans, appeared in a dark suit and tie and fit right into the strange melange of politics, pop music and prayer. He led the congregation, with inspired guitar work and vocal help from Nash, in a song: "We are all one tribe."

Browne and Nash performed a haunting version of "Crow on the Cradle" and were joined by Crosby for "Lives in the Balance." And many of the night's entertainers gathered for the finale, "Teach Your Children."

The story behind the music: The Dalai Lama was speaking at Washington National Cathedral in 2003, when Chane looked down from the dais and recognized Nash and Crosby in the congregation. He invited them to his office after the event. A former professional musician himself, the bishop plays drums in a midlife-crisis band, the Chane Gang. Nash saw Chane's drum set in the office and the two began talking about the power of music.

As part of the celebration of the Dalai Lama receiving the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush today in recognition of his resistance to Chinese rule, Crosby, Chane, Nash and Browne planned the concert for peace. Proceeds will benefit the Cathedral Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation and the International Campaign for Tibet.

Before the concert, Crosby was asked why they had chosen to perform in the cathedral instead of a larger venue. "This isn't about being big," he said. "This is about something very unusual -- energizing the churches to stand up for their flocks. We need churches to stand up for us, and say stop the killing."

In the grand sanctuary, Crosby appeared small. "I have a lot of trouble with organized religions," he said, but his faith has been renewed by Chane. "He's got real courage, to say war is not the answer. I feel comfortable here," Crosby said.

Singing for peace, Moore said, "is what we are supposed to do."

Music has power, like religion or speech, he said. "And with that power comes responsibility."

1 comment:

Liz said...

I spoke last night with the African musicians who accompanied Archbishop Ndungane on his tour around the diocese. We talked about how music is a human thing, not a trained musician thing, and how more people in this country than else where are told at some point in their lives that they "can't sing," so they don't, ever. Which is a bit like never laughing. I love knowing that bishop Chane has drums in his office. Maybe "everyone deserves music" can be part of our witness.