Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bosnian Interfaith Choir Completes 17-Day U.S. Tour

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bosnian Interfaith Choir Completes 17-Day U.S. Tour

Article excerpt


They sang their songs of peace before audiences in 11 U.S. cities and towns from Boston to Chicago. They performed in St. Mary's Chapel at Boston University, in a sunset-lit grand hall at the Kennedy Center in the nation's capital, and at a tiny theater in "little Washington" in the state of Virginia. Their voices filled the radio waves or television screens of ABC, PBS, NPR and the Voice of America.

"It could not have gone better...a dream come true," said Washington resident Amy Gopp, tour organizer and until last year a program director at the Face to Face interfaith peace center in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Throughout the tour, choir members encountered sights and sounds they'll never forget:

A standing ovation as they sang an encore of African-American spirituals in the fading light of dusk on the Millennium Stage of the Kennedy Center.

Singing on the rain-swept steps of the U.S. Capitol the next day, after a warm welcome by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). The umbrellas were up, the crowds were down, but a television camera recorded the event and brought it into thousands of homes back in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Standing on the deck of a ferry in New York Harbor as it chugged past the Statue of Liberty, some choir members had tears in their eyes at a sight they until recently had only dreamed of seeing, and

Gazing at the huge marquee at Wrigley Field, Chicago, during a Cubs game, and seeing up there flashed before a crowd of thousands: "Welcome, Pontanima Choir of Bosnia and Herzegovina."

The choir (Pontanima is Latin for "spiritual bridge") was founded about 10 months after the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war by Father Ivo Markovic, an accomplished musician, linguist and internationally renowned peacemaker. Franciscan priest Markovic saw the choir as one of the many ways the Face to Face center he established brings peoples of different religious faiths together. The goal: to create a much-needed dialogue in Bosnia in the aftermath of a horrific conflict which cost an estimated 250,000 lives and forced more than a million people from their homes.

Now, nearly four years after its establishment, Pontanima has become one of the best known musical groups in southeastern Europe. Under the direction of Bosnian National Opera producer and singer Josip Katavic, the choir--over the years--had toured Croatia, Austria and Italy before its March 30 through April 15 premiere in the United States. …

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