Week-long Festival of the Arts will showcase Bahá'í performers in New York in late June; major concert at Carnegie Hall included

June 26, 2002

NEW YORK — In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Second Bahá'í World Congress, a group of Bahá'ís are planning a major "Festival of the Arts" here in late June and early July. The week-long event will feature a major choral concert at Carnegie Hall, separate Persian and Gospel music concerts at the Manhattan Center, an off-Broadway festival of Bahá'í theatrical performances, and a conference on the arts.

The centerpiece event at Carnegie Hall will feature a 550-voice choir, composed of Bahá'ís from some 24 countries. Known as the Voices of Baha, the choir has done some 80 concerts in 30 countries over the last ten years, said Tom Price, musical director of the Voices of Baha and head of Global Music Inc., which is organizing the Festival of the Arts.

"Basically, the Voices of Baha is an offshoot of the World Congress choir, and the conception of this event began with the idea of having a musical reunion in New York," said Mr. Price, who also directed the choir at the World Congress. "And once the Carnegie Hall concert was set, we decided to add other events to make it a week-long celebration."

The project is an independent initiative of Global Music, Inc., a Bahá'í-owned company, and associated individuals. It is not under the sponsorship of any Bahá'í institution.

The Festival of the Arts is scheduled to begin on 26 June 2002 and run until 2 July. During that period, five major activities are planned: A week-long Theater Festival at the 47th Street Theater (26 June-2 July); a four-day Conference on the Arts at the Hotel Pennsylvania (27 June-30 June); a performance of the Bahá'í Gospel Singers (28 June) and a concert of Persian music (29 June), both at the Manhattan Center; and, finally, the Voices of Baha concert at Carnegie Hall (30 June).

All of these events will feature Bahá'í performers, speakers and themes. Complete information about these events, including ticket prices, can be found at http://www.global-music.org/.

The Second Bahá'í World Congress, held 23-26 November 1992 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York, was the largest gathering of Bahá'ís ever. It brought together some 30,000 Bahá'ís from 180 countries to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh and the accomplishments of the Bahá'í Faith during that century.

Among the main elements of the Congress's program was music, and central to that musical expression was a 400 voice choir and 90-piece orchestra, assembled ad hoc by bringing together Bahá'í singers and musicians from some 36 countries.

Among the distinctive features of that assemblage was the need for singers to learn their parts in their home countries before coming to New York, something accomplished by sending to them cassette tapes with their parts.

The Voices of Baha, likewise, uses a similar technique, said Mr. Price. "We send out sheet music and a CD (Compact Disk), which has their part alone," said Mr. Price. "So each member has a full month to learn and practice their parts individually. Without the CD, it would be impossible to develop a choir of this size and diversity. Most choirs live in one city and rehearse for months before a concert. But we developed this technique for the World Congress and, now, 10 years later, it is a system that works pretty well."

"The Voices of Baha actually has about 1,000 members, but since the World Congress, we've only been able to bring together about 200 singers for any single event," said Mr. Price. "We have more than 550 singers registered to sing in the Carnegie Hall concert, which will make this the largest Bahá'í choir ever."

The Bahá'í Gospel Singers were likewise featured at the Second Bahá'í World Congress. "We expect a gospel choir of at least 200 singers," said Van Gilmer, director of the Singers, making it an even larger group than performed in 1992.

The Conference on the Arts will feature speeches, music, drama, dance and devotional elements in a creative and artistic combination, said Leslie Asplund, who is organizing that segment of the Festival.

"It will focus specifically on the role of the arts, as described in the Bahá'í writings, and as applied in the Bahá'í community today," said Dr. Asplund. "The Bahá'í teachings say a great deal about the role of artistic expression and creativity, not just as entertainment but as an element in the spiritual transformation of humanity."

The Persian music concert will feature a number of well-known Persian performers -- all who also happen to be Bahá'ís. Scheduled to perform are Rahmat'u'llah Badiyi, Parisa Badiyi, Rashid Mostaghim, Shokouh Rezai, Hushmand Aghili, and Ahdieh Pakravan.

The Theater Festival will showcase the growing theatrical talent that has emerged internationally within the worldwide Bahá'í community in recent years, said Shidan Majidi, organizer of that event.

"Over the years, around the world, many professionally trained actors have developed drama programs presenting aspects of the Faith," said Shidan Majidi, who is a professional theater producer in New York. "So the purpose of this Festival is to gather as many together in one place so that people can see as many of these performances as possible."