Isaac Shiner

Members of the UMD Symphony Orchestra perform Adagio for Strings (Screenshot from Youtube)

Students and guests gathered at The Clarice last Monday in response to the war in the Middle East. Through music and community, the School of Music allowed the opportunity to process the war and tragic loss of life. 

The University of Maryland’s School of Music, and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with the Arts for All at Maryland initiative, hosted a “Music and Community in Response to War”’ program to provide community support and a space for reflection and mourning for the innocent lives lost to violence. 

Held in the Smith Performing Arts Center, the event featured student-led music, a solo performance by singer and faculty member John Holiday, and a recorded performance by the joint Israeli and Palestinian Jerusalem Youth Chorus.

Arts for All Director Craig Kier felt that “an evening of music created by School of Music students and faculty would serve as a fitting focal point for our gathering.”

“It is the arts — through music and other artistic forms, that we are brought together as a community,” expressed UMD President Darryll Pines, who attended the event. Pines referenced how music helped people cope during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent episode of tragedy. 

Jennifer King Rice, the university’s Senior Vice President and Provost, mentioned that this program emphasizes the university’s “shared commitment to investing in the well-being of one another and creating a community of care.” 

The performers chose the music and melodies, both employing the theme of peace, to reflect the situation in the Middle East. The UMD Chamber Singers performed “Verleih uns Frieden” (Grant us Peace) by Felix Mendelssohn, a German song for peace. Chamber singers also performed “Peace” by Horace Silver, an instrumental jazz piece with intentional ebbs and flows, perfect for reflection. 

John Holiday, a School of Music faculty member, performed three songs: “Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol, “Fix You” by Coldplay, and “Lean on Me” by William Harrison Withers Jr.

Holiday explained that he chose to start with “Strange Fruit” because Meeropol wrote the lyrics to that song “in protest of the horrendous racism that was going on” and Holiday “could not think of anything else to represent [his] feeling of what is going on right now in the world.”

The Jerusalem Youth Chorus’s recorded singing of “Reason to Love,” an original composition, was played during the event. 

Jerusalem Youth Chorus founder Micah Hendler explained that this song was inspired by the group’s executive director, Amer, a Palestinian graduate, who was stopped by Israeli police on the way to rehearsal and asked to sing in order to prove he was truly part of the group. 

The program pamphlet describes the Jerusalem Youth Chorus as “an Israeli-Palestinian music and dialogue project that has been providing a space for young people from East and West Jerusalem to grow together in song and dialogue since 2012.”

“The program was a beautiful and meaningful way to process and grieve. I am very thankful for this evening of music,” expressed sophomore Noah Hill, who attended the event.

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