Sunday, March 25, 2007

Music from the heart

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

These were the last speech lines of Nancy Rivera, Executive Director of the Hispanic Christian group Sembrando Flores. She inaugurated the two-hour “Tsunami Relief Benefit Concert” at the Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach last Valentine’s Day. She recalled the moment when Paul the Apostle said the aforementioned quote before the Corinthians thousands of years ago. The response to her speech was a thunderous applause from the audience who enjoyed a good musical piece, as well as to support Southeast Asian victims.

Cellos, violins, trombones, bassoons, a piano and hundreds of other instruments are the components of the world famous New World Symphony, one of the most important orchestral institutions in the world. More than 85 selected young artists from the United States and other nations began tuning their instruments to offer a free performance sponsored by the American Red Cross and Save the Children, a nonprofit child-assistance organization

At least 500 people enjoyed the presence of Polish violinist Piotr Szewczyk and his Lament for the Tsunami Victims, a worldwide exclusive interpretation. It was a truly lament; the song’s slow tempo evoked the terrible waves that destroyed the coasts of Indonesia, India and Thailand. When he finished his musical interpretation, there was a minute of silence, followed by a soft applause.

In the mezzanine section of the theater; Rivera sat next to her boyfriend, the American Red Cross Greater Miami and the Keys CEO Sam Tidwell. They both enjoyed the concert as they shared kisses and hugs. Tidwell and Rivera believed that the best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day was to come and support this event, instead of going out and have dinner at Lincoln Road.
In effect, they share one special affinity: love for people. Six months ago, Tidwell and his American Red Cross crew visited the devastated area of Punta Gorda after Hurricane Charley, in the western coast of South Florida. He and his team made gave assistance to the victims while he was evaluating all material damages along the area. Meanwhile, Rivera did some community service for the elderly and homeless. Suddenly, they’ve met at one hurricane shelter. “When I saw him for the first time, I felt I had butterflies on my stomach, and I loved the fact that he shares the same sensation of helping people,” said Rivera.

After their mission in Punta Gorda, they continued in their endeavors to help the local community. Rivera created “Sembrando Flores” and its mission to bring HIV prevention education in order to reach the less fortunate, as well as other marginalized communities in Homestead. “My mission is to build a bilingual ministry for those neglected populations. All I know is that the cure for AIDS and discrimination is love,” she said.

On the other hand, Tidwell left his hometown for a challenge. “I left Omaha, Nebraska , to come here and be in charge of this wonderful team. I have had served the American Red Cross for almost 20 years and am excited about doing great things in Miami, and the fact that I can help people makes me happier,” he said.

In the meantime, Tidwell and the rest of the audience listened to Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel [mirror to mirror],” played by Bulgarian pianist Anna Stoytcheva.

Other presentations came along, from the finest interpretation of Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds, to Czech cellist David Popper’s Requiem. Both songs paid tribute to the Tsunami victims, but the most astonishing presentations were from Piotr Szewczyk’s Rebirth of Hope and British music composer Edward Elgar’s Nimrod from Enigma Variations. The softness of the cello sound, the strength of the trombones and the invigorated movements of the music director’s baton impressed Rivera. “When I listen to this music, it gives me the sensation that we can raise from our ruins just like the phoenix. There’s hope and there’s a bright for all of us, as the bible says ‘the sun rises for everyone’,” she said. The outstanding presentation of Elgar’s Enigma Variations received a long standing ovation.

After having enjoyed New World Symphony’s performance, many of the attendees went directly to the American Red Cross and Save the Children’s booth to give money. The donations ranged from $1 to almost $500. “The fact that people are here to help is just a sign of love. People are aware that we need one another at one point. You never know if you are going to be the next victim of a natural disaster,” said Tidwell.

Volunteerism was also a sign of love. Students, retirees and other Red Cross volunteers helped all night long. One of those who granted cooperation for free was Violist Kathie Wyatt, 25, who was grateful because she has helped Tsunami victims through her number one passion: music. After she has finished her Elgar’s Enigma Variations performance, she came to the Save the Children booth to raise money. “Today was not about us. It was about raising money and raising awareness to the community, and let them know what is going on in Southeast Asia,” she said.

In total, the American Red Cross and Save the Children collected more than $2,000. This money will go directly to the victims of Indonesia, India and Thailand who have lost everything, including their families. Tidwell and Rivera pointed out that the concert’s achievement was the powerful combination of generosity, talent, passion for music, and vehement care for humanity. When they finished counting the money, the couple exchanged “I love you’s” as they both sealed the night with a tender kiss.

That Valentine’s night proved Paul’s infinite meaning of love, and music proved to be the most effective ways to express this feeling. It also proved that music does not only captivate lovers, but it can also be a valuable tool to make people unite for a cause.

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