The September Concert

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Having lived in New York City through the events of 9/11/2001, I feel particularly close to the people there. Though the city has rebounded with enormous enthusiasm, the effects of that day still haunt many of its inhabitants.

So I was particularly moved to discover the September Concert series. The September Concert was created by fellow resident Haruko Smith, who felt the skies over New York City had filled with grey following that tragic day. "How do you change the sky," she asked herself. Aldous Huxley, the intellectual essayist had said, "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." Inspired by that quote, on the first anniversary of 9/11, Ms. Smith and a handful of volunteers organized the September Concert.

Concerts were held throughout New York City under the banner of the September Concert, and were created to bring people together, reaffirm hope for peace, celebrate life and embrace our universal humanity.

The first year was trying, as humble beginnings often are. Concerts were organized in galleries, in restaurants and in private homes. But after 2002, word began to spread. By 2005, prestigious groups like the New York Choral Society were offering September Concerts at St. Patrick Cathedral on 5th Avenue. Last year, over 225 concerts were given on September 11. Last week, over 10,000 performers participated in September Concerts, in cities around the world including Beijing, Rome, Casablanca, Paris, Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg, and London, among others. New York City held over 100 concerts alone, and though over 60 US cities participated, not one was Los Angeles. Perhaps LA musicians will find a way next year.

A KCRW staff member was in Rome last week on September 11 visiting a museum across from the Coliseum, when she heard, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? song by a group of musicians. She wandered out to the courtyard, where bands were amplified and organized for a day of remembrance. For many Americans there that day, it was both unexpected and unforgettable. It was only one of the concerts held in Rome that day as part of the September Concert Series. The city was alive with many others.

In a world where politics often define principles, it's very reassuring to see an organization try to unify the human experience through the language of music. It's even more impressive when you understand that the September Concert organization runs primarily on donations of $100 with a staff of two part time employees. Everyone involved volunteers, and on principle, no money is generated from the concerts or for the foundation. It is a true labor of love, serving only the best interests of public.

While the music industry squabbles about what margins they're losing, there's something deeply satisfying knowing that someone out there is more committed to changing the color of the sky for us, with the healing sound of music.

This is Celia Hirschman for On the Beat on KCRW.