Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Skies Are Weeping

ON Tuesday November 1, I'll be attending a concert. Not just any old concert but one featuring a World Premiere, indeed a double premiere. It's called The Skies are Weeping, a concert for Justice and Peace, it's on at the Hackney Empire, and will be the world premiere for a Cantata for Rachel Corrie. Rachel was the young American peace worker who was crushed to death as she stood in the path of an Israeli army bulldozer pleading with the occupiers not to destroy the home of a Palestinian family. Before she met her death, the 23-year old American had written an e-mail to her family, describing what she had seen in the occupied Gaza strip. She wrote: "I have had nightmares about tanks and bulldozers and you and me inside. Tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses -the livelihoods for 300 people. I really can't believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry against it."

The cantata, Opus 75 by Philip Manger, was inspired by, and woven around, a poem, The Skies Are Weeping, by Thushara Wijeretna:

The skies are weeping,

The birds have flown away,

With rain-sodden flowers in hand,

I wait for you, Rachel

The second movement is dedicated to British photographer Tom Hurndall, shot dead by an Israeli sniper, as he tried to snatch two Palestinian children from the firing line.

Philip Manger has had his music performed in major venues, and often addressed environmental and humanitarian issues. He had wanted to premier this work in the United States, in Alaska, where he lives. But it seems no concert hall in "the Land of the Brave, Home of the free", Rachel Corrie's homeland, was prepared to stand up to pressure from supporters of the State that killed her. There were threats to the composer and performers.

So Hackney next Tuesday will have something to be proud of.

Besides the cantata, the concert will feature the UK premiere of The Singer of Wind and Rain, Palestinian lyrics by Gregory Yountz. The soprano is Debbie Fink, with Dominic Saunders on piano, Caro Cervantes and the London Percussion Ensemble. In addition, the Debka group Al Hurrya will perform Palestinian dance, and Tsevi Sharret's TS Ensemble will provide a pot pori of Israeli, Palestinian and Yemenite songs stirred into jazz.

Tuesday's concert, is dedicated in memory of all who have lost their lives during the long Israeli occupation. Should it make any money over costs, this will be divided between the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

All this might seem perfectly commendable and respectable. Indeed besides support from people like the Jewish Socialists' Group and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the concert is backed by a number of personalities from the arts, and has obtained grants from the Arts Council and the Holst Foundation. But to add a sharp discordant note to the occasion, we hear the Zionist Federation of Great Britain is calling on supporters to mount a protest opposite the Hackney Empire.

So, do they only support the killers of Rachel Currie and Tom Hurndall, or are they scandalised by the thought of money going to Israelis who oppose house demolitions, and people working for mental health in the Gaza communities? The protest call - only so far seen in an e-mail, perhaps the Zionist Federation did not want it displayed on its website - accuses the concert organisers of being "haters of Israel".

The Zionists say they will remember "all the Rachels killed by Palestinian terrorism". That's just to psych themselves up and give themselves a pretence of decency. Nobody, except, I suspect, the Israeli embassy, has asked them to put on such a provocation. More than one relative of bombing victims has blamed the occupation and Israeli policies for the tragic spiral of bloodshed.

Tuesday's concert, supported by the families of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, is dedicated to "the memory of all the people lost during the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank".

Maybe the Zionists hope to frighten the Hackney Empire into cancelling the concert? Whoever they dupe into taking part, the aim of their demonstration will be that killing and oppression continue.

The concert is for justice and peace, they are for injustice and war.

This is all the more reason to go along to the Hackney Empire next Tuesday, to enjoy the night, and make sure the concert succeeds. Be a good idea to book in advance.

Tickets: £17.50, £15.50, £13.50, £10 Hackney Empire, Mare Street, E8 1EJ

Box Office: 020 8985 2424

For more information, go to: or email Donations If you would like to donate towards putting on the concert, cheques should be made payable to ' 'The Skies are Weeping' Project and sent to'The Skies are Weeping¹ Project, PO Box 34265, London NW5 2WD. Surplus funds will go to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Anyone sending donations of £100 or over will be listed in the programme and invited to our reception afterwards. Transport Train: Silverlink (North London Line) to Hackney Central. One West Anglia to Hackney Downs/London Fields Tube: Central Line to Bethnal Green, then 106/254 bus Victoria Line to Higbury and Islington, then 30/277 bus or Silverlink train. Bus: to Mare Street: 30, 38, 48, 55, 106, 236, 242, 253, 254, 276, 277, 394, D6, W15, N38. N55, N106, N253 Car: Free parking Tescos, Morning Lane.

Patrons and supporters include: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Prof Noam Chomsky, Julie Christie, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Sir Richard Eyre, Moris Farhi MBE, Uri Fruchtman, Jeremy Hardy, Miriam Karlin, Dr Jane Manning OBE, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Susie Orbach, Roger Lloyd Pack, Dr Ilan Pappe, Anthony Payne, John Pilger, Harold Pinter CH, Lynne Reid Banks, Afif Safieh - former Palestinian General Delegate to the UK, Richard Rogers, Sir Antony Sher, Prof Avi Shlaim, Clare Short MP, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Andy de la Tour, Frances de la Tour, Susannah York, The Corrie Family, Jocelyn Hurndall, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Musicians Against Nuclear Arms, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Socialists' Group, Just Peace UK, International Solidarity Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Council for Arab-British Understanding



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