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Local Performers Join a Global Remembrance

September 10, 2002|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Grieving in private over acts of terrorism was not enough for three Southland artists, who chose to reach out to their communities in acts of remembrance.

Conductor Rachael Worby decided to participate in a worldwide event. The artistic director of Avaz International Dance Theatre, Jamal, made a dance available to all comers in six cities. Composer Sharon Farber sent an unsolicited new work to the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the ensemble's conductor, Grant Gershon, was so taken by it that he added it to the opening program of his season.

Worby had been looking for something to do to commemorate Sept. 11. "I'd been pursuing ideas that involved music and people and community," she said, "but had not really embraced one notion that I thought would be powerful enough."

That's when she discovered an idea that got its start in Seattle: a "rolling" global performance of Mozart's Requiem.

"The entire world wrapped in the arms of Mozart's Requiem--I couldn't imagine not being a part of such an extraordinary tribute," she said. "Musicians all over the world have been hungering to be able to touch people with what they do best, which is quiet the soul and heal the spirit."

So Worby signed on to lead her Pasadena Pops Orchestra and more than 200 singers in Mozart's work, outdoors at Pasadena City Hall. (At least one other local choir, the Santa Clarita Master Chorale, will participate as well, at the United Methodist Church in Valencia.)

All the performances will begin at exactly 8:46 a.m. in each time zone on Wednesday--marking the time that the first airplane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

The concept originated with members of the Seattle Symphony Chorale, who were approached after a January performance of the work by a patron who envisioned a choir singing the Requiem at ground zero in New York, with one singer for each person who died.

"The logistics of that were impractical," said Madeline Johnson, a chorale singer and chairwoman of the Seattle Rolling Requiem committee, established in February. "So we thought another good idea would be to ring the Earth. We began e-mailing and snail-mailing invitations to choruses around the world.

"Within 24 hours we heard from Riga, Latvia: They're going to have 19 choirs singing in their cathedral. By late June we had 30 choruses lined up. Now there are more than 180 choirs from 25 countries, and 21 time zones are represented and we continue to hear from people daily."

The Requiem will start in New Zealand and end in Samoa. The California performances will begin 20 hours after the first performance.

Jamal, who was born in Iran and has been in the U.S. since 1976, has been mulling a Sept. 11 response from the day the towers were attacked. The head of a folk dance troupe that focuses on Central Asian and Middle Eastern dance, he says the attack changed his life, in part because of the "way I look."

"I saw a few but direct reactions from people," he said. "The terrorists gave people all the reason for that, but I was devastated for days.

"Even though that evil act wasn't crafted in Iran, I was hoping for some sort of comfort for myself and felt other people should know that we Iranians are basically part of the sorrow that the victims are going through, too.

"I thought it would be great if I could create a piece. Then I realized I already had a piece, which I choreographed early in 2001. It was an evocation of a mourning ceremony that I saw many years ago in Iran."

He started calling friends in the L.A. dance community; the idea was to schedule a performance for as many dancers as were interested.

Dancers from companies run by Ramaa Bharadvaj (Angahara), Gema Sandoval (Floricanto/Danza USA), Gustavo Gonzales (AguaLuna) and Linda Yudin (Viva Brazil) quickly took it up. As word spread beyond L.A., Jamal sent videos, dance notation and a recording of the music to dancers in San Francisco; San Jose; San Diego; St. Paul, Minn.; and Washington, D.C.

Now his "Funeral for a Fallen Hero," based on a traditional Muslim ritual, will be performed Wednesday at noon in L.A. and the other cities. He estimates that at least 200 people will perform the work, a six-minute procession of dark-clad men and women walking slowly, dropping to their knees and performing stylized gestures such as reaching up or out or crossing their arms across their breasts.

"The whole thing translated from a personal feeling to a community feeling," said Jamal. "It's not my piece anymore."

Though not directly responding to the World Trade Center's destruction, Farber's "Haem Hashlishit" (Mother's Lament) commemorates another heinous event: the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Farber, who lives in Burbank, is a composer who has arranged music for the Los Angeles-based choir LA Shir, which Pearl's father, Judea, conducted for eight years.

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