Vermont Sings for Peace (Sept. 24, 2011)

Peter Yarrow will join Counterpoint and four other Vermont choruses in the fourth annual Sing For Peace concert on Saturday, September 24, 2011, 7 p.m. at the Ira Allen Chapel on the University of Vermont campus in Burlington.

Hosted by Counterpoint, Vermont’s professional a capella classical vocal ensemble, and the brainchild of its former director, Robert De Cormier, this annual concert draws together some of Vermont’s finest choruses to raise their voices for a just and peaceable world. In addition to Counterpoint, Sing For Peace 2011 will see the return of the Grace Church (Rutland) Festival choir, House Blend, a “democratically-governed party of self-professed singing addicts” from Saxtons River; and Maiden Vermont, a women’s chorus from the Middlebury area. New to the concert will be the Young Singers Chorus of Vermont, from the Montpelier area.

A natural choice for the first guest artist in this annual program is Peter Yarrow. He is a long-time colleague and close friend of Mr. De Cormier. And, both as part of Peter, Paul and Mary, and as an individual, Yarrow has devoted his life and talents as performer, songwriter and organizer to promote a message of humanity and caring, whether it was being in the frontlines in the 1960s’ protests against the Viet Nam war and for Civil Rights and through the political/social issues of each decade since, or addressing more personal issues such as hospice and colonoscopies.

Mr Yarrow is donating his services for Sing for Peace, and the concert will benefit Operation Respect. Yarrow found inspiration to establish this non-profit organization from a song he often performs, “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin. Operation Respect addresses peace at its most intimate person-to-person level, promoting a respectful, safe and compassionate climate for children and youth, so that academic, social and emotional development can take place free of bullying, ridicule and violence. More than 150,000 “Don’t Laugh at Me” curricula, that use music, video and guides, have been distributed to educators free of charge. Under the aegis of Operation Respect, Yarrow has taken his message to school children of Israel and Palestine, bringing them together in song with their families.

The Sing for Peace annual concert series was the brainchild of Robert De Cormier, founder and Director Emeritus of Counterpoint. He has always believed strongly in the power of song and that people coming together to sing can inspire us all to work for peace. He acted on that belief as a high school teacher in New York City, as Artistic Director for Harry Belafonte in the 1950s and for Peter, Paul and Mary since the 1980s, and as leader for more traditional choral organizations such as the New York Choral Society and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus which he still directs.

In 2008, distressed by the U.S. warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, De Cormier asked Counterpoint, and they agreed, to host the first Sing For Peace in Burlington. On September 27, 2008 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Burlington, Governor Madeleine Kunin introduced the concert and a special greeting was read from Pete Seeger. The concert featured Counterpoint, Bella Voce, Maple Jam, Social Band, Syrinx, Sounding Joy and the Pumpkin Hill Singers. The tradition was quickly established to include audience sing-alongs and conclude with the haunting round, “Dona Nobis Pacem.”

In 2009, when Social Band was unable to participate again, the Essex Children’s Choir became be part of the event. Proceeds from free-will donations went to Kids 4 Peace Vermont.

Given all of the wonderful singing groups that grace Vermont, it was decided in 2010, that Sing For Peace would invite new choruses and limit each chorus’s participation to two consecutive years. The 2010 Sing For Peace welcomed the South Burlington Community Chorus, House Blend, Maiden Vermont and Rutland’s Grace Church Festival Choir. Proceeds from the free-will donation went to the Center for Peace & Justice, headquartered in Burlington.

After three years of standing room only audiences at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Burlington, Sing For Peace now moves to Ira Allen Chapel on the UVM campus for its 2011 gathering. Robert De Cormier may no longer be Director of Counterpoint, but his passion and commitment will continue to be a driving force as Vermonters once again Sing For Peace.

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