Concert for Japan strives to answer “What can we do?”

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Maija Anstine

(Photo by Minh Nguyen)

Fifteen conservatory faculty members performed at the Concert for Japan in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel Sunday, April 17.

Assistant Professor of Music Steven Paul Spears organized the event to raise awareness and money for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Spears said he heard a March 20 interview on National Public Radio saying that the Japanese Red Cross still needed donations and was struck by the question, “What can we do?”

The concert itself raised $2,043 for the Japanese Red Cross, according to Spears. “The fact that our faculty all just jumped on board, so willing to contribute time and talent to this was another wonderful thing that happened here,” said Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl. “What a fantastic thing to do… really successful.”

Senior Derrell Acon also “found it very touching to see those professors come together to present the concert.”

Faculty who performed came from the vocal, keyboard, string, music history and world music departments.

Junior David Besch commented, “I think the event was a very good way for the performers as well as the audience to show their support of Japan in the wake of this natural disaster.”

For Pertl, the concert emphasized “the notion of compassion through music and [created] a shared space for reflection about some of these terrible things that happen.”

Programming included readings of poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay and John Donne, songs by Mozart, Vivaldi and Brahms and other works by Rachmaninoff, Schubert, Massenet and Laitman, among others.

“The poetry and music worked really well together, and I feel the overall presentation really conveyed the right message during this time of worldly need,” said Acon. “For me, it especially emphasized a sense of common humanity — when Japan suffers, so suffers America and the world at large.

Besch agreed that “it is important that we assist others when they are in need.”

The program order “went from more contemplative into action,” said Pertl, who noted the importance of “not just being bummed about it, but moving into ‘what can we do to help?’ How can we be engaged and not just passive mourners?”

“It really fits in with Lawrence trying to be more engaged with the community,” continued Pertl. “Bringing the community together and, in some sense, the world community. It’s important to do that through the arts and music and poetry. That’s what we do, so that’s our vehicle to make it happen.”

Lawrence has held similar events in the past, like the January 2010 “Concert for Haiti” and the “Concert for Humanity” in 2006, held in response to both Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2005.