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9/11 event in Andover promotes peace through music, dance

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011, at 6:54 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011, at 7:03 a.m.

More than 150 performers wish to convey hope and healing today through music as they commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, at a public interfaith performance in Andover.

"Our world has changed in the past decade, and a big part of that is 9/11," said the Rev. Sam Muyskens, president of Global Faith in Action, one of the sponsors of today's 9/11 Unity Gathering. "We believe that there is hope, and out of this can come newness."

Through the interweaving of Southeast Asian dance, prayer music, a brass and percussion ensemble and singers, the 70-minute performance will remember those who died and offer hope through the universal language of music.

"Music is powerful, and music is emotion," Muyskens said. Music also can express remembrance, struggle and hope better than any words can, he said.

Anthony Brown, founder of the Peacing It Together Foundation, another sponsor of the event, said his organization's mission is to promote peace and justice through movement.

"I travel the world using music as a force for peace," said Brown, a baritone soloist and professor at Hesston College who will perform an original composition.

Through his lyrics and the performances of others, he hopes to bring the community together.

"We all care about each other," Brown said. "Let's come together and emphasize our need for harmony and unity."

The performers, like the music, come from varied backgrounds and religions. As do the partnering organizations, which include the Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation, Midwest Hindu American Seva Charities, Muslim Public Affairs Council, People of Faith for Peace and the First Unitarian Universalist Church.

Performing for such a diverse audience and feeling comfortable with the prayers and melodies of many religious traditions is nothing new for the principal cellist of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and performer at this event, Jakub Omsky.

Omsky, who sets prayer to music, hopes to introduce others to the beautiful sounds of a variety of religious traditions.

"I'm inviting people to listen to a dialogue of sound traditions," Omsky said. "When I create dialogue concerts, I want to hear a culture related within its own sound."

Omsky hopes to inspire people to listen to their souls and to "hopefully listen to each other."

Along with the Jewish- and Muslim-inspired music that Omsky will perform, the Friends University Singing Quakers, Hesston College Bel Canto Singers and the Newman University Troubadours will perform Christian music. The Wichita State University Shocker Shakthi Dancers will perform both modern and traditional Southeast Asian dance.

"We perform a mix of traditional, jazz and Bollywood," said Ragini Venkatasubban of Shocker Shakthi. The group will perform two dances. One dance represents the triumph of good over evil. The other performance is based on Hindu mythology.

Through the use of intricate movement, vibrant costumes and wooden sticks, Shocker Shakthi hopes to introduce Eastern performance to the West.

"Our troupe strives to unite the world through dance," Venkatasubban said.

Rema Venkatasubban, Ragini Venkatasubban's mother and the coordinator of the Midwest Hindu American Seva Charities, said she wants to share her community service to the region as well.

"In the Hindu religion, we believe the whole world is one family," she said. "By showing diversity, it serves to get rid of prejudices and learn about other cultures."

Along with opening prayers and remarks by Muyskens and the Rev. Kent Hemberger of St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, three-minute interfaith expressions will be given by Rabbi Michael Davis of Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue, the Rev. Lois Harder of Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, Mahar Musleh of Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Rev. Gary Blaine of the University Congregational Church.

"We want to pray with our friends," Rema Venkatasubban said. "We want to remember, pray and hope for a better future so such things will not reoccur."

If you go>

9/11 UNITY GATHERING

What: 70-minute public performance to remember the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and offer hope through music and prayer

When: 3 p.m. today

Where: St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church, 123 N. Andover Road, Andover

Cost: Free. An offering will be taken. The proceeds will enable Haitian and Ugandan children to attend school this fall.

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