Going Places, Far & Near

Judy Collins, Jason Robert Brown, US Premiere Among Highlights of New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at St John the Divine

The traditional candlelighting that is so inspirational and concludes the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine as people sing, “This Little Light of Mine.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

One of my favorite ways to bid adieu to the year and begin anew is the annual Concert for Peace at the magnificent Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine,. This is a signature New Year’s Eve event that was founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984 with the idea of bringing together New Yorkers and visitors from around the world for an evening filled with uplifting music.

This year’s concert, the 33rd Annual Concert for Peace, honored the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth with a performance of two selections from his MASS, Almighty Father and Simple Song, sung by Jamet Pittman, and the magnificent Cathedral Choir and the Cathedral Orchestra under the direction of Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music.

Kent Tritle, Director of Cathedral Music, leads the Cathedral choir and the Cathedral Orchestra © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A highlight was the U.S. premiere of “See the Wretched Strangers” by composer Lucas Wiegerink who came up for a bow. The text, written by Shakespeare, is an impassioned commentary on immigration and refugees. “Imagine that you see the wretched strangers./Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,/Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,/And that you sit as kings in your desires…And this your mountainish inhumanity. Imagine.”

It was performed by Amit Farid, piano; Arthur Fiacco, violoncello; Jamet Pittman, soprano; Katie Geissinger, mezzo-soprano; Lee Steiner, tenor; and Enrico Lagasca, bass.

A series of choral songs about our shared Earth continued the theme that has been integral to these concerts of neighborly compassion, inspiring a renewal of hope for the coming year. “Earth teach me to remember kindness./As the dry fields weep with rain./Earth teach me.”

Jason Robert Brown, Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist, performs “Hope,” which he wrote the day after Election Day 2016 © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Jason Robert Brown, Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist, performed a new piece which he described as “disco go go girl power anthem” written for an 11-year old named Gabby, called “Invisible.” He was joined by Jesse Warren-Nager, soloist, Gary Sieger, on guitar; Randy Landau on bass; Gabe Violett and Jessica Vosk, back-up vocals.

He also performed, “Hope,” the title and the longing message of a piece he wrote the day after Election Day 2016, out of despair. “When life is crazy and impossible to bear-/It must be there./ Fear never wins./ That’s what I hope,/ See? I said “hope.” The work begins.”

That sense of despair emerged from Judy Collins, Artist in Residence at the Cathedral Church, who fought back that despair by urging “Resist. Resist. Resist. Keep resisting.” She led a mournful, “To Everything, There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Amazing Grace.”

Judy Collins leads singing of “Turn, Turn, Turn.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, the Interim Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, urged, “Pray no one takes for granted out gifts of speech, though, art. Do not take for granted the gifts given by those who came before, or our responsibility to preserve those gifts for the next generation.”

The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, the Interim Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, urged, “Do not take for granted the gifts given by those who came before, or our responsibility to preserve those gifts for the next generation.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Harry Smith, who has hosted these events for many years, contrasted the celebration of “great leaps forward, when we felt we were moving the earth and its people toward more egalitarianism,” versus other years when there was the backward movement of war and poverty. This year, he added to the list the national scourge of opioids, epic natural disasters, homelessness, refugees.” But a highlight was that women’s voices have been heard as never before, when men were held to account…” But, he said, “Workplaces may be safer, but not equal. But we made an important step forward this year.”

Harry Smith intones, the antidote to despair “is action.” © 2018 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He added, “We fret, worry, obsess over every tweet and prevarication.” But then he described people he met in his travels who have taken matters into their own hands, who are taking action. “People of varying politics and persuasions determined to make lives better. The antidote… is action.”

The New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace concludes with the light of thousands of candles held aloft © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

The evening always concludes with an inspirational lighting of candles – it starts from the back of the enormous hall, and the firelight comes forward until the entire cavernous space glows in the warmth and light.

Candlelight at The New Year’s Eve concert for Peace at Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Cathedral itself is a marvel. Originally designed in 1888, with construction beginning in 1892, the cathedral has undergone radical stylistic changes and the interruption of the two World Wars. It started out in Byzantine Revival-Romanesque Revival style, but the plan was changed to  Gothic Revival in 1909. A major fire on December 18, 2001 caused the cathedral to be closed for repairs until 2008. It remains unfinished with construction and restoration a continuing process – which inside, only adds to the mystique of the place. It boasts being the largest Gothic cathedral, and may be the world’s largest Anglican cathedral and church; it is also the fourth largest Christian church in the world.

Judy Collins, artist in residence at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine and a fixture of the New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, with Tony-Award winning composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown who also has become a regular © 2018 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The cathedral houses one of the nation’s premier textile conservation laboratories to conserve the cathedral’s textiles, including the Barberini tapestries. The laboratory also conserves tapestries, needlepoint, upholstery, costumes, and other textiles for clients.

There are concerts by the Cathedral Choir and other artists and events throughout the year. Check the website for details.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (at 112th Street), New York, NY 10025, 212-316-7540, info@stjohndivine.org, www.stjohndivine.org.

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© 2018 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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