Originally in CommonDreams.org
by Robert C. Koehler
And suddenly the music burst through the borders.
This was in May of 1999, in a city in the Netherlands called Alkmaar. Laura Hassler, an American woman who had been living in the Netherlands for many years by then — who was a choir director and, in essence, the “town musician,” the organizer of public music events — had put together a concert for the town’s annual honoring of the dead of World War II.
But the bloody war in Kosovo was then raging: Thousands had died; nearly a million refugees were streaming across Europe. Its horror dominated the daily news and Laura couldn’t ignore it. She couldn’t simply focus on the war dead of half a century ago, not when the hell of war was alive in the present moment, pulling at her soul.
She decided, “We’ll perform music from the people suffering from war now — folk songs from Eastern Europe,” she told me. Her impulse was to reach out, to connect, somehow, with those suffering right now, on the other side of Europe. And something happened the night of the concert. When it ended, there was a moment of profound silence . . . and then, as the audience stood, applause so thunderous that the rafters shook. It went on for 20 minutes.
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