Baha’i concert honors harmony of spirit
Some 200 voices will take part in the Sixth Annual Baha’i Choral Festival.
Baha’i Choral Festival
Baha’i House of Worship for the North American Continent, Sheridan Road and Linden Avenue, Wilmette
9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, May 27
Information at www.bahaichoir.org or (847) 853-2330
Updated: May 22, 2012 8:48PM
The Sixth Annual Baha’i Choral Festival Sunday promises a multi-cultural experience celebrating the spiritual harmonies of the world’s religions.
Featuring 200 voices from Germany, Italy, Bermuda, Barbados, Uganda, Trinidad, Finland, Hawaii and Canada, the Choral Festival will feature 10 choral compositions by Baha’i followers sung with no musical accompaniment. The 1,200-seat, architecturally dynamic Baha’i House of Worship in Wilmette is expected to fill for each of the two concerts Sunday.
“Black and white faces, brown faces, people whose cultures are vastly different, we come together to share the music in the Baha’i faith,” said Van Gilmer, Baha’i House of Worship director of music and internationally known performer. Quoting from Baha’i scripture, Gilmer said: “Music reaches the heart and souls of men and it lifts them to the realm on high. Many people say it is the common language we can share.”
Honoring the Baha’i tradition, there will be no instruments accompanying the singers who begin gathering this Thursday for rehearsals and workshops in preparation for Sunday’s performance.
“The voice is the finest of the instruments,” Gilmer said. “In all of the houses of worship, only the voice can be used.”
There will also be an occasional reading of scripture from where the songs originated, Gilmer said, and the concert is expected to last one hour. The singers will perform on the main floor of the exquisitely designed, cylinder-shaped building with high ceilings which offer “unbelievable acoustics,” he said.
There are a total of seven Baha’i Houses of Worship internationally including the Wilmette building. Germany, Uganda, Panama, Samoa, Australia and Chile also have Baha’i Houses of Worship. These are not for the Baha’is, Gilmer said, but for the people of the world.
“It is always open to people of all religions for meditation and prayer,” Gilmer said.
According to Gilmer, there are three main principles of the Baha’i faith: there is only one God and all Baha’is look to that God, the Supreme Being; there is only one religion; and, religion comes to man through God’s messengers who also bring a set of social teachings of their time.
All of the messengers are mouthpieces of God and the messengers include Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ, Muhammad and the latest messenger, Baha’u’llah (which means Glory of God, and founder of the Baha’i faith 149 years ago).
“The music is based on the sacred writings of all of the religions,” Gilmer said. “We can sing a song based on a Bible scripture old or new, or the Koran, and we don’t just sing classical. We sing Hebrew songs, Christian songs, a Negro spiritual, a Shaker song and Gospel songs.”
In the program this year, the singers will perform Randall Thompson’s “Peaceable Kingdom,” based on Christian scripture, the Negro spiritual, “I Open My Mouth to the Lord,” and the Shaker hymn, “Not one sparrow is forgotten; even the raven God will feed.”
“One of the very different things this year, there are several songs with a cappella harmony; it makes for a very rich sound,” Gilmer said, noting there are eight vocal parts for many of the compositions.
“It will be a variety of music,” Gilmer said. “Even people who come who only sing Gospel, only sing classical, but when we come together, we all sing each other’s music. We’re coming together, sharing music and culture.”