Celebrating the universal language
We may be separated by wars, borders, oceans, and ideologies, but we’re all united by music. On November 2, singers from the Oakham House Choir Society, external link joined with singers from around the world to celebrate our shared humanity.
Twenty-two members took part in the World Concert for Peace in Berlin, where they performed Sir Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace” with 2,485 choristers from 30 countries. In a time of upheaval and xenophobia, the concert brought together singers from countries as varied as the Ukraine and Russia, Iran and Israel, plus the United States, France, England, the Philippines, and more.
“The interesting thing about music is, even if you don’t understand the words being said, you can feel it. It’s like a universal language,” says Elise Catibog, fourth-year social work student and member of the choir.
“The nice thing about choirs is, it’s everyone working together. No one is standing apart from each other—the goal of a choir is to blend beautifully, like one voice. It was very powerful, and very meaningful to me, and I’ll have this experience for the rest of my life.”
The piece, composed by Jenkins for the London millennium celebration in 2000, evokes memories of war while pointing towards peace, and uses texts from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other cultures.
“The sentiment of this music is about peace, and the devastation of war, and it’s very powerful,” says choir member Fran Greenbaum. “Just sharing that with 30 different countries—we all love music, we all love this particular work of art, and we all believe in peace or in somehow eradicating war. You felt so connected to everyone you were with, because you knew you shared that.”
As a setting, Berlin carried historical resonance. “I think one of the most moving parts for me was seeing the remnants of the wall,” says Catibog. “My family is from Europe, so the Soviet Union really impacted them. Just seeing the wall, and thinking about how my mom was there when they took it down—there is a lot of history in that city.”