Stars line up for Daniel Pearl Music Day

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   Oct. 7, 2004 at 9:36 PM   |   0 comments

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Musicians around the world -- including jazz legend Herbie Hancock, fiddler Mark O'Connor and numerous symphony orchestras and choral groups -- are making final plans for the upcoming Daniel Pearl Music Day to honor the memory of the Wall Street Journal reporter who was killed in Pakistan in 2002.

Although the event -- also called Harmony for Humanity -- is called a music day, it is actually spread out over 10 days from Oct. 8-17. This year it will feature performances by symphony orchestras in Boston; Chicago; Amman, Jordan; Haifa, Israel; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Johannesburg, South Africa. There will also be performances by youth orchestras and music students across the United States and in Australia, Israel and Spain.

Sir Elton John will perform "Daniel" in Las Vegas, and R.E.M. will dedicate their Los Angeles show to Pearl. Sir James Galway will dedicate performances in Memphis and Cleveland.

The event is an activity of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, formed by Pearl's family and friends as part of their response to his murder at the hands of terrorist kidnappers. The foundation's mission is to fight the violence that led to Pearl's death, using "the spirit, style and principles that shaped Danny's work and character."

One of those principles is the love of music, and Pearl particularly loved playing the violin. Pearl's father, Judea Pearl, president of the foundation, told United Press International he sees Daniel Pearl Music Day as a victory for "humanity over savagery" and a victory for his son.

"It gives us a feeling of empowerment," he said. "It gives us a sense of comfort, but it's more gratifying for us to see that it gives comfort to the general public."

The Los Angeles Master Chorale will not perform its contribution to Daniel Pearl Music Day until Oct. 24, when it presents a program that will include the world premiere of "You Are (Variations)" by composer Steve Reich, along with Igor Stravinsky's "Symphony of Psalms."

The group's music director, Grant Gershon, told UPI he believes musicians have a "profound responsibility" to create music for its healing powers. It's a notion he picked up from Hasrat Inayat Khan, an Indian-born Sufi Muslim who lived in the late 19th century.

"His writings talk extensively about this subject of how far apart the peoples of the world have become, and how the inner power of music -- the harmony of music and also the harmony of people coming together to make music -- that that's one of the most powerful tools that we have in society to try to heal those differences of race and religion and ethnic strife," said Gershon. "To me it's so powerful that this comes from this Muslim philosopher and it's so applicable to the situation today."

Fiddler Mark O'Connor -- who plans to dedicate a performance at Dennison University in Granville, Ohio, for Daniel Pearl Music Day -- feels a personal connection with Pearl, although as far as he knows the two never met. After Pearl's death, O'Connor learned that Pearl had been a fan of his music.

O'Connor's involvement now extends to an annual presentation of a one-of-a-kind violin that Maine violin-maker Jon Cooper dedicated to Pearl when he heard about one of the first memorial concerts for Pearl. O'Connor told UPI that, at the suggestion of Pearl's family, the fiddle is presented each year to a student at one of O'Connor's fiddle camps "whose talent and character were along the lines of someone who could talk to people about this instrument and what it means to play on it and spread Danny's word of peace."

Because of harmony, music offers people a way to express themselves simultaneously without necessarily stepping all over each other, and generating the kind of spoken-word dissonance that is a standard feature of cable chart shows, for example. O'Connor said that helps account for music's civilizing influence.

"Music is still a dialogue and it only is music if people give way to each other," he said. "You can play a counterpoint but you have to understand and appreciate what I'm saying."

At the same time, music can also sometimes contribute to friction -- something that happens routinely in households where intergenerational musical tastes conflict. As the "Die Wacht Am Rhein/La Marseillaise" scene in the classic movie "Casablanca" illustrates, music even has its uses in propagating political ideology and nationalism.

"Music has represented revolutionary ideas historically," said O'Connor. "Music seems to be the background to a lot of movements and social progressions and so forth, and in those ways, to certain people music can be a line in the sand or a special marker for their own beliefs."

Daniel Pearl's mother, Ruth Pearl -- who is also CFO-Secretary of the Daniel Pearl Foundation -- said, however, that Daniel Pearl Music Day events are all about the harmony.

"I have heard people thanking us that we give them this opportunity," she said. "Otherwise it's very difficult to feel that we are totally helpless, that we can't do anything. When they see Arab-Jewish Youth Orchestra together, and when they see the response we're getting, it gives the audience a feeling of togetherness."

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(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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