Students and community find harmony

Bethany English

Despite the recent reports of violence in Kent, students and community members still came together for a celebration promoting an inclusive idea of peace Friday night.

In a concert named “Widening the Circle,” local singer and songwriter Hal Walker used music to express his hope of a general tolerance, understanding and peace throughout the world.

“Music has the potential to bring us together,” Walker said.

Walker used this unifying power of music to create the International Peace Choir that performed with him. The group got together for this one-time concert to sing three songs about a shared hope for future peace.

The thirty-person choir, which included eight international students, spanned across all ages and backgrounds. Some of the international students wore traditional clothing from their home countries for the performance.

The idea for an international choir came to Walker after he performed a concert for a group of new international students in January. He said he encourages people to participate in his music, and one student from Africa moved Walker with the beauty of his voice as he sang along.

“I want to tap into that energy of diversity,” Walker said.

Walker demonstrated this diversity not only in the choir but also in the several foreign instruments he played during the evening.

Among these instruments were the African banakula, two balls tied together with a string, and the Thai khaen, a vertical harmonica.

Hasanthi Widanagamage, international student from Sri Lanka, sat in the audience, smiling throughout the whole performance.

Widanagamage said she is fond of music and the evening helped her to relax. She added that although the diversity of music was not something she was expecting, it was “amazing and appreciated.”

One member of the choir, Dani Beale, a Kent alumna, explained how music is one avenue toward achieving peace.

“Music is a good connector, because it can connect across languages,” Beale said.

Don Munro, who sings with the choir Walker directs at Unitarian Universalist Church, came with his wife Betty to hear the songs and support the cause for peace.

“If you get everybody singing, then you don’t have anyone fighting,” Munro said.

In the middle of the concert, Walker performed a song that summed up the main point of the event.

“In every shade of life,” Walker sang, “there is a heart inside, and it beats the same color.”

Contact honors and international affairs reporter Bethany English as [email protected].