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Peace Concerts in Japan
In Japan there are many classical music events that come under the category of “peace concerts”. The date of the concert (on a key anniversary) is usually more significant than the particular piece being played. Much of this activity is connected to Hiroshima, such as the Non-Profit Organization (NPO) Music Brings Peace or the The 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombing Concert for Peace and Hope III.
Watanabe: Journey to Peace
This choral piece blends the spoken testimony of hibakusha (A-bomb victim) Watanabe Chieko with her impassioned anti-nuclear activism. It is one of the most significant pieces inspired by the Nagasaki A-bomb, about which there are fewer pieces than about Hiroshima. I learned of this piece because I found the sheet music and CD on sale in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum shop. “Journey to Peace” is notable for having two composers (it is mostly by Sonoda Tetsumi, but one movement is by Matsunaga Shinji), which indicates the primacy of Watanabe’s story/message (itself adapted by three lyricists) over the music by a particular composer.
Oshima: A Thousand Cranes
This song by Nagasaki-born classical/film composer Oshima Michiru is the de facto anthem of Nagasaki A-bomb commemoration. The piece was composed for the 50th anniversary of the A-bomb in 1995. It is performed at the ceremony of commemoration (as in the YouTube video below), but is also played across the city’s loudspeakers at 11:02 am on the 9th of every month, and at 11:02 am every day in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.
Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem
Vaughan Williams (himself a witness to the horrors of war in the World War I trenches), wrote “Grant Us Peace” in 1936 as the war clouds gathered again. This performance, by the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, has moving visuals from conflicts in the Middle East.
Lyatoshynsky: Symphony No. 3
The original version of the 1951 symphony by Ukranian composer Borys Lyatoshynsky subtitled “Peace Will Defeat War”.
Rutter: A Ukrainian Prayer
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, John Rutter composed a Prayer for Ukraine.
Seaton: The Spirit of Christmas Past (2014)
Finally, please allow me the indulgence of putting in one of my own pieces here. “The Spirit of Christmas Past (1914)” is an adaptation of the famous Holst (music)/Rossetti (words) carol “In the Bleak Midwinter” as part of my 2017 work A Christmas Carol, which is a modern rendition of the classic Dickens story. In this movement, the ghost of Christmas past visits the World War I trenches …
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