Concerts Will Showcase a Dozen New Songs of Peace

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Byline: FRED CRAFTS The Register-Guard

Robert Kyr's strong words resonate like a call to arms.

"It is time to wage peace - not war," says Kyr, the professor who heads the composition department at the University of Oregon School of Music and runs the Oregon Bach Festival's Composer Symposium.

"The waging of peace is a dynamic process in which music has a crucial role to play. By performing and hearing music from around the world, we are taking an active part in promoting cultural understanding - and, ultimately, peace - between the diverse peoples of humankind."

With armed conflicts and terrorist activities breaking out everywhere, peace is certainly something the world could use more of. Kyr believes choral music "is an especially moving way to experience the unity within humankind, since it has the power to bring us together as peoples of all races, ethnicities and nationalities.

"At the beginning of the new millennium, humanity is faced with the global challenge of creating a just and sustainable peace,' Kyr says. `From the Mideast to the Balkans to the Himalayas to Central Africa, the world is inflamed with terrorism and numerous local and regional conflicts.

`In this period of war, it is more urgent than ever to wage peace."

To that end, Kyr is heading up the festival's "Waging Peace Through Singing" program, which a year ago invited composers of all nationalities to create choral music on peace-related texts.

By the project's deadline on Feb. 1, composers in more than 30 countries had submitted some 7,000 works. The program's Internet site had received more than 25,000 hits.

Many of the entries were selected for awards (the decisions can be found at www.iwagepeace.com). Of those, a dozen were chosen to be performed in three festival concerts: at 8 p.m. Monday and at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday in Beall Concert Hall, 961 E. 18th Ave.

The project also has invited three internationally renowned composers to address the symposium:

Veljo Tormis of Estonia - Kyr describes him as "a national hero for his work; he has endeavored to preserve the ancient song traditions of the Estonians and many of the Baltic peoples through his compositions.

`During the period of severe Soviet oppression (in the late 1970s and '80s), he created works which affirmed the cultural heritage and very soul of the Estonian people. With great courage, he waged peace through the creation and performance of music during one of the darkest times in the history of his people."

Alberto Grau of Venezuela - "He is considered to be one of the greatest living choral composers today," Kyr says. "His works celebrate the unity of humankind, such as the vision espoused in `Sing, Choirs of the World,' ' which took `highest honors' in the `Waging Peace' competition. It will be performed on Monday.

`He and his wife, renowned conductor Maria Guinand, have created several remarkable programs for youth music in their native Venezuela. They have created orchestras and choruses for `youth at risk' throughout the country, and these have inspired a virtual social and cultural transformation. …