Interfaith groups plan 9-11 memorial concert


Two co-sponsors, 11 collaborating organizations and dozens of musically gifted individuals from many religious traditions are working together to help the St. Louis metropolitan area mark the anniversary of the terrorist attacks 10 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.

“An Interfaith Memorial in Music,” an hour-long program of sacred songs from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu faiths, will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd. Doors open at 4:45 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.

The Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council and Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls are co-sponsoring the event.

“I believe in the power of art to illuminate issues,” said Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “Obviously, Sept. 11 will be a time for reflection and for sorrow, but so many words have been said. We thought we needed to keep words to a minimum, and let music speak.”

Christine Brewer, the world-renowned soprano who makes her home in Lebanon, Ill., is the featured performer, presented by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Celebrated St. Louis pianist Peter Martin will accompany Brewer. Senator John Danforth will speak, and the Pipe and Drum Corps of the St. Louis City Fire Department and St. Louis County Police Department will present the colors.

Timothy O’Leary, general director of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, is coordinating the musical elements of the program. “We will have a wonderful mix of music, everything from Christine Brewer to Cantor Ronald Eichaker from United Hebrew Congregation to groups from the Hindu Temple of St. Louis, Christ Church Cathedral and the Islamic Foundation, all performing sacred music with the theme of peace,” said O’Leary.

A string quartet from the St. Louis Symphony and the Symphony’s In Unison Chorus will perform, as will Patrick Nigh, a police detective who is a former professional opera singer. “This program will be a wonderful ‘only-in-St. Louis’ event,” said O’Leary. “I feel so privileged to participate in this expression of unity and togetherness.”

Brewer echoed O’Leary. “When Tim asked if I would be willing to do this concert, I jumped on it immediately,” said Brewer. “This is the kind of multi-cultural thing I love to do, and I have always felt that music is the most healing art form.” Brewer will sing Aaron Copland’s arrangement of the Shaker song “Simple Gifts,” composed in 1848, and she will perform “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” with the In Unison Chorus. She added, “I hope on that last one we can get the audience to sing along.”

Leigh Greenhaw, president of the board of directors for Interfaith Partnership/Faith Beyond Walls, also is looking forward to the concert. “I think it’s going to be a fabulous event. It seemed nice to do something that was not preaching or teaching, but saying instead that you can have sorrow and regret and still end up with a positive direction for your feelings.”

Greenhaw added, “Whatever your religious background, you could come to this concert and feel a sense of renewal and shared community, feel positive toward other faiths and toward peace.”

Abramson-Goldstein noted that when the event planners first reached out to the top educational, religious and cultural institutions in town, interest was exceptionally high. “The enthusiasm with which we were greeted was so validating,” she said. “It’s difficult to have a direct impact on the search for peace in the global sense, but this shows that we do have the capacity to have a direct impact on peace in the St. Louis community.”

The 11 collaborating organizations are the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, Eden Theological Seminary, the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the Sheldon Arts Foundation, the St. Louis Metropolitan Clergy Coalition, Saint Louis University, the St. Louis Symphony and the Hindu Temple of St. Louis.

If you miss the concert, the Nine Network of Public Media will broadcast “An Interfaith Memorial in Music” at 8 p.m. Sept. 11 and at 2:30 a.m. Sept. 12 on Nine PBS (KETC-TV).