Teenager Asha Parkinson will see her vision come to life at St James’, Piccadilly, London on Thursday January 19th, at 7.00 pm when Jewish, Moslem and Christian children will join an orchestra and choir from The Purcell School of Music and players of Middle Eastern instruments in Voices Beyond Divisions, a concert that is the culmination of an amazing peace project she created off her own bat.
When she was just fourteen and studying for GCSEs at an ordinary state school, Asha was much moved by the crisis in Syria. A talented young musician, she raised a lot of money to help relief charities through putting on charity concerts but she wanted to do more. ‘I suddenly saw it, like I was there, watching,’ she says. ‘Children and teenage musicians, forgetting their differences, all singing and playing together and showing the adults what peace really means. I could hear some of the music in my mind.’
Asha had previously made waves as a precociously talented jazz saxophonist. Now she set about writing very different music: an ambitious new choral/instrumental work called ‘What War?, with text combining quotes on a theme of peace from sacred books of the three great Middle Eastern faiths. She didn’t stop there. She personally contacted schools, arts organizations and venues as well as aid agencies and anti-extremist organizations - she wanted to educate the children who’d sing with her in mutual understanding through a series of workshops and fun team building. She wanted this to be a template for more such projects around the UK - as she puts it, to ‘radicalise for peace’. Finally she launched a crowdfunding appeal, applied for grants and set up Beyond Divisions Education Trust.
‘It came out of the blue,’ says her father, storyteller and author Rob Parkinson. ‘She suddenly said she was doing this thing and she played me the music. Well I was knocked out and, before I knew what was happening, I was drafted in to help set up the crowdfunding appeal, sign off the grant applications and handle the financial stuff she was too young to do.’
‘It’s a very special and unusual project,’ says Alison Cox, OBE, who heads the composition department at The Purcell School of Music where Asha, now seventeen, is studying for A levels on a Music and Dance Scheme scholarship. ‘It really deserves all the trumpets and gongs we can give it.’ Mrs Cox introduced Asha to Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir and others and the school gave her full support in realizing the project. She’s now working with a team of like-minded young musicians to make it all happen.
There’s more about this extraordinary project including pictures and even video on www.voicesbeyonddivisions.org Tickets for the January 19th concert can be ordered through the site or directly from Eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/voices-beyond-divisions-tickets-28841279042) Tickets are £10, £6 concessions £4 children under 12. Profits from the event will go to the charity, Syria Relief whose staff will also record children from the project speaking their messages of peace and support to go out to children in war zones in Syria.
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Beyond Divisions Education Trust was set up initially to support the Voices Beyond Divisions project created by Asha Parkinson. Charitable status is currently pending. It will go on promoting peace and mutual tolerance through projects exploring common ground beyond divisions of faith, race and political belief through music and the arts.
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Beyond Divisions Education Trust
c/o 27 London Road, Tonbridge, Kent TN10 3AB
Tel. 01732 362356 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(For further information, contact Rob using above details or 07977 599525)
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