Category Archives: Music

The Cellist of Sarajevo

It was the longest siege of a capital city in modern history, and produced the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.
Sylvia Poggioli

And everyday he made me wonder
Where did he ever find
The music midst the madness
The courage to be kind
The long forgotten beauty
We thought was blown away
– John McCutcheon
In the Streets of Sarajevo

61ZpqI2PvnL._SS500April 5, 1992 saw the first casualties in what became a 1,425 day siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.

More than 10,000 residents died because of shelling, bombing, the blockade, sniper fire, and other aspects of the siege.

In the midst of the siege, “the madness” to use John McCutcheon’s word, Vedran Smailović, of the Sarajevo Philarmonic Orchestra, played his cello in publuc. He played in ruined buildings, often performing Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. He played at funerals during the siege, even though snipers often targeted by snipers.

After mortar fire killed 22 people as the stood in a bread line, Smailović played for 22 straight days in their honor. This part of Smailović’s story has made its way into writings and song. In an article in The Australian, Smailović expands on his experience:

I didn’t play for 22 days, I played all my life in Sarajevo and for the two years of the siege each and every day. They keep saying I played at four in the afternoon, but the explosion was at 10 in the morning and I am not stupid, I wasn’t looking to get shot by snipers so I varied my routine. I never stopped playing music throughout the siege.

Twenty-two days, two years, all his life. The time frame is unimportant. What matters is that Smailović found music and courage and grace and love to make a witness in the face of war and horror.

I give thanks for the Cellist of Sarajevo, and I look for others who, to paraphrase McCutcheon, “do not stand aside … refuse to be defeated … and rage against the tide.”

See you along the Trail.

P.S. After leaving Sarajevo, Vedran Smailović collaborated with Irish singer-songwriter and peace activist Tommy Sands to create an album Sarajevo/Belfast.

P.P.S. I use the image of the CD cover because it is a photo I took of a copy of the CD I own.

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The Until We Meet Again Tour – 29 July 2016, part 2

The Until We Meet Again Tour involved an evening walk from the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations to New York City Center. There my son Sean joined me to see God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, a musical based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel of the same name. James Earl Jones played the role of Kilgore Trout.

During the intermission, I noted to Sean that once again I had chosen a play that might be described as non-traditional. He replied that at least this one had a somewhat linear plot. He further noted that this was the first collaboration by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken with the result that the music and lyrics were well done.

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See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Family, Music, New York, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

The Until We Meet Again Tour – 20 July 2016

The Until We Meet Again Tour took a couple of days off. Saturday and Sunday involved cleaning at the Shire and sleeping in. Monday and Tuesday brought a couple of work presentations.

The Tour kicked into high gear again tonight. I spotted information about an Eileen Ivers concert at the Sheen Center, purchased a ticket, and had a great evening.

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See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Music, New York, Photo

The Until We Meet Again Tour – 12 July 2016, part two

During the Until We Meet Again Tour‘s visit to the United Nations with Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Elisabeth Lee, I had the opportunity to see my favorite exhibit.

An escopeterrainvented by Colombian peace activist César López, stands a sign of hope and peace.

They shall beat their AK-47s into guitars.

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See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Friends, Music, New York, Photo, Uncategorized

The Until We Meet Again Tour – 9 June 2016

The Until We Meet Again Tour took an unexpected and delightful turn. John Gingrich invited me and about half the Presbytery of New York City to attend a concert by violinist Jinjoo Cho at Carnegie Hall.

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See you along the Trail.

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Favorite Christmas songs

Lion and lamb

Each year, there are three songs I make a point of hearing several times during the Advent and Christmas season. While they may not appear on the list of classical Christmas carols or music, they speak of the hope and possibility and peace of the season.

Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon

The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne

Like the First Time It’s Christmas Time by Tommy Sands

What makes your list?

See you along the Trail.

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Glory, Selma, tears

On Sunday, at the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, I quoted the song “Glory” by John Legend and Common from the movie Selma.

The young people of the congregation helped lead the service. Not too long after the sermon, the dance troupe provided a liturgical dance.

As the notes to their opening song sounded over the PA system, Darnell turned to me and said, “It’s your song. It’s ‘Glory’.”

The moment led me to the conclusion I had to see Selma. When my friend Hazel proposed tea; I counter proposed we go to the movie. She agreed. We did.

I do not offer a review here, simply three observations.

  • Selma is a powerful, profound movie about the struggle to end racism in the United States. Many of the issues addressed in the movie remain with us. Some have morphed. Some stay the same. We have work to do.
  • I have been to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I was in Greensboro, Alabama to help rebuild the Rising Star Baptist Church. It had been burned in an arson fire. The rains came. Work stopped. We went to Selma to visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. After viewing the exhibits, the group went to the bridge. Some walked quickly and easily on to the bridge. I paused for prayer and reflection before I joined them on that holy ground.
  • I wept as I viewed Selma. Several times. Interestingly enough, my tears did not come during the scenes of brutality and hate, racism and violence. Those moments made me wince and broke my heart. Painful as they were, they did not elicit tears. Tears came as I watched moments of unspeakable courage, unbreakable love, and astounding grace.

I give thanks for those who lived the story told in Selma. I give thanks for those who retold the story of Selma. I give thanks for those who give of themselves today to finish the work begun so long ago.

To those who worshiped at the First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway, I gave homework. Listen to “Glory.”

To anyone who has read this far, I give homework. If you have not done so, listen to “Glory” and go view Selma.

See you along the Trail.

 

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Filed under Antiracism, Movie, Music