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Concert for Nepal earthquake relief

A short optional description goes here.

Because we established a relationship with leaders of the Nepali Bhutanese community through the SOLE project [See the article on designing a program for work with refugees who are learning ESL], soon after the earthquake in Nepal we were able to plan and implement a fundraising event. The audience attracted members of the Indian, Bhutanese and Nepalese communities, University faculty and students, as well as many supporters to this cause who may have never attended a Symphony concert.

So how did we adapt to this situation? How would you plan a concert for this occasion?

Our concert began with Nepalese and Nepali Bhutanese joining together, in traditional dress, to sing the National Anthem of Nepal. An orchestral player introduced the melody on violin and a pianist quietly filled in the harmonies on piano. Following the Anthem, small groups of orchestra musicians as well as other freelancers performed short Western classical pieces. But this had the potential to divide the audience, since many were not familiar with the music. What element might be familiar to both these cultures? The drone, or sustained note. To bring the audience together, we had the audience sing two drone notes while a violinist played the bagpipe melody to Signal Mountain (a Tennessee mountain) Sunrise. They were accompanied by a Pitt ethnomusicology student of Nepali music on sarangi, the Nepali violin, and a cellist. We concluded with two traditional Nepali folk tunes, with both the Pitt student and a Nepali Bhutanese man playing madal, a Nepali two-headed drum.

Since the Nepalese music is played by ear rather than by reading from music, and none of the Nepalese adults were musicians, we were able to give the violin parts I transcribed from recordings to anyone who asked, so that their families would be able to pass on the songs.

We were able to support and enhance their efforts, and in the process learned about the wealth of culture and history that they bring to our community.

What resources could you combine for a parallel event in your community? Have you established any ongoing relationship to the refugees in your area? Who are the leaders? What do they do?

Through this experience working with members of the community, we have renewed respect for their success in making the difficult transition to living here, so very different in climate, language and culture. Our partnering was delightful and meaningful. It brought out the best in all of us. What wonderful, kind, warm people now live among us. I am grateful for this opportunity for us to work together. Our community is all the better for this experience.