WASHINGTON, D.C.: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, was the theme for eighth annual Interfaith Concert ‘on ‘November 17, at the Washington Hebrew Congregation.
When Egyptian bom Shaikh Fathy Mady of the Islamic Center Sounded the Muslim call to prayer, it signaled the start of Washington area’s most diverse Interfaith Concert ever.
The 400 choir members of the Islamic, Jewish, Mormon, Roman, Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox, Sikh, and Protestant faith communities sang music of their faith’s tradition in this Unique music and worship event which was attended by more than 2000 people. A combined choir of 250 voices, symbolizing unity in diversity, joined for the opening and closing selections under the leadership of Dr. J. Weldon Norris, director of the Howard University Choir.
Elaine Parness, director of the Children’s Choir at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School led 130 children from grades 16 in singing four Chanukah songs in Hebrew.
The 25 hanbell singers in the combined Protestant Handbell Choir were outstanding. An impressive 110 voice Mormon Choir of Washington was particularly moving as choir members used sign language to accompany the words of the song. The Ukrainian Choral Ensemble, consisting of ten female vocalists in colorful native dress, presented Ukrainian Liturgical music. The Ave Maria was sung by the Choir of Saint Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Sacred music, including Handel’s “Praise the Lord” was sung by the John Calvin Presbyterian Church Choir.
The Chancel Choir of the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church captivated the audience as everyone in the sanctuary clapped hands in accompaniment to a gospel song. It was unique to see and hear the Choirs of diverse faith groups, many in colorful dress, participate in the finale, a black spiritual.
Perhaps the most unusual sound mentalist singing of the Universality Jatha, 23 singers and three instrumentalist singing of the University of Human Kind,” remarked the Washington Post.
The Sikh Kirtani Jatha composed of 23 singers organized by the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, was the only eastern religious group which participated in the concert.
Rajwant Singh, director of the Kirtani Jatha said, “Although majority of the hymns in Guru Granth Sahib gives the message of equality and brotherhood of humankind, the verse sung by our group in Raga Manjh composed by Guru Arjan was the most suitable for this event”. The verse said, “O Lord, the provider of all… All hope upon your grace, in all hearts flow your mercy, all are partners in your grace; you are alien to no one”.
Rajwant Singh further added that Kirtan, or the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib is an integral part of the religious worship of Sikhs which maintains the 500 years old tradition started by Guru Nanak. He said that our group practiced for two months for this event,
Dr. Surjit Kaur, secretary of G.GS.F,, said it was the first time the group had sung for an Interfaith Celebration. “We really felt great about it,” she said. “It was beneficial to be part of a larger group consisting of different faiths and we hope it will bring us together and help us understand one another”.
‘The concert is sponsored by the Intefaith Conference of Washington, an organization of 29 religious groups and aims to open dialogue among various faiths and grapple with a host of social issues, from the sanctuary movement to Aids.
It provides a wonderful opportunity to experience our diversity as people of faith and our unity is worshipping the one God”, said the Rev. Clark Lobenstein, executive director of Intefaith Conference,
After travels in the United States, Europe and the Middle East where he saw other interfaith conferences, Mr. Lobenstein said such cooperative music celebration is hard to find.
“It’s the best developed interfaith concert in the world”, he said.
Rey. John V. O’Connor, President of the Interfaith Conference, summed up the evening saying “we came to worship in song our ears opened to beauty. Our ears opened to new sounds, and our hearts opened to inspiring spirit”.
Rabbi Joseph Weinberg of Washington Hebrew Congregation said, “This celebration of the human spirit”, noting that “Music emerges from the rhythmic pulse beat of the human heart and forms the thread that weaves us into one human family children of one God”.
The InterFaith concert is the only fundraising event for the Interfaith Conference of metropolitan Washington; proceeds support the year round work of the conference,