By CAROL ANNE BLITZER
Advocate staff writer
January 11, 2013
In an effort to address violence in the local community, the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge is undertaking a new area of focus, a movement to “wage peace.”
Thursday’s Community Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the federation, will feature Robert Kyr, an American composer, writer and filmmaker whose life work is waging peace by bringing people together to overcome violence through words and music.
Kyr, who is Philip H. Knight Professor of Music and president of the University Senate at the University of Oregon in Eugene, has created 12 symphonies, three chamber symphonies and a wide range of works for vocal ensembles of all types. He will be spending Thursday through Oct. 29 in Baton Rouge listening to people and collecting “words.”
Kyr will be working with members of the community to express their feelings about violence and to submit words and phrases about their experiences with violence and healing. “I will take all that they have written and, as a writer, I will take what they have written and weave it into a text,” Kyr said. “The text will come out of their own words.”
From that text, Kyr will then create a musical work for a soprano soloist, a baritone soloist, a chorus and instruments. Hopefully this musical work will be presented to the Baton Rouge community in the spring at the federation’s annual Sounds of CommUNITY concert.
“Many who will be singers will have given words,” Kyr said. “It is a very deep journey for everyone.”
Kyr is “a peacemaker who understands the power of music to wage peace, provide healing and bring people together,” said the Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, executive director of the federation. She first met Kyr in 2011 in Santa Fe, N.M., where he was composer in residence for the Desert Chorale.
McCullough-Bade and her family met Kyr for breakfast. “It turned into a three-hour breakfast,” she said. “I said, ‘How could we co-create some of his music in Baton Rouge.’”
While he is in Baton Rouge, Kyr will visit with several groups and talk with people from all walks of life. His finished work will reflect his experience here and the past experiences of the people he meets.
“For me, the text is a collaboration between myself and all of those who contribute their words,” he said. “We will be talking about violence and waging their peace.”
Kyr has a wealth of experience with projects of this sort in America, Europe and Asia. He worked with the Oregon Repertory Singers shortly after the 9-11 tragedy with projects for the middle school, high school and adult choruses.
“I had a dialog with each of these choruses based on their experiences of 9-11,” Kyr said.
From these dialogs, he created his work, “Three Hopes for the Future.”
Kyr took the middle school chorus to New York City to perform his work.
“We felt that it was very important for us to go and take a youth choir,” he said. “We wanted to show those hopes that had to do with peace and waging peace.”
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, the Nagasaki Peace Museum commissioned Kyr’s work “Ah Nagasaki: Ashes Into Light.”
“This work is not political. It is not ideological,” Kyr said. “It is about Nagasaki as a city after the bombing saying make us the last.”
The work was first performed by the Minnesota Chorale.
“We brought two choruses from Nagasaki to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Together, they sang this work,” Kyr said. “It was a very moving journey we all took together. It was bringing together the Japanese people and the Americans.”
This will be Kyr’s first visit to Louisiana. “I will be creating a new text that will work really well with music to be sung by the community,” he said. “It’s important that the chorus include people from all parts of the city on a journey of waging peace.”
It is also an ambitious undertaking for the federation, which is hoping to get donors to help with the expenses of presenting Kyr’s work to the community.
“We have to be bold. We have to be creative,” McCullough-Bade said. “We have to be finding ways to take back our neighborhoods.”
She is enthusiastic about the project. “Someone asked me how we came up with this musician,” she said. “I said that I think we are being blessed by God.”