by Sue Ann Rybak
The words of Sharon Katz and The Peace Train’s song “The Little We Have We Share” sum up the purpose of their concert for “Beds and Books,” a fundraising effort to benefit HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa.
“The little we have we share,
that’s the way it must be.
In the world everywhere,
I carry you, you carry me.”
Katz, a Mt. Airy resident, is raising funds for the project with a benefit concert and luncheon at noon Sunday, April 29 at the World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. Students at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, in collaboration with the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir and students from Penn Alexander School, will perform the song “Jikele, Maweni Siyahamba” with Sharon Katz and The Peace Train. The piece features a traditional South African gumboot dance and step dance fusion.
“This is an exciting next step in SCH Academy’s partnership with Sharon Katz and the Peace Train,” said Christopher G. McGinley, director of Musica Mundi.
Musica Mundi is a middle school all-girls’ performing arts group that includes the Musica Mundi choir, steel drum group and dance ensemble.
In addition to Musica Mundi, an all-boys drumming ensemble from SCH Academy Middle School for Boys, directed by Sheri Melcher, will be part of the performance at Live at the World Café.
“We have known them for years – we’re able to collaborate with them this year at SCH Academy and are very excited to join them and raise money for Beds and Books at Live at the World Café on April 29,” McGinley said.
Jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler will also be performing at the concert.
Katz said the audience is sure to “catch the spirit” from the band’s “pulsating rhythms, rich harmonies and guitar-driven maskanda melodies.”
Katz, who grew up in South Africa, saw first hand the effects of apartheid on the lives of blacks. As a teenager, she saw a production of a play by anti-apartheid writer Athol Fugard.
“It was an underground theater,” Katz said. “The actors and the audience would have been arrested if the police found out.”
It was a life-changing experience. She soon became friends with the actors and began illegally visiting them in their homes.
“I had to hide under blankets in the back of a car,” Katz said. “It was my first exposure to the townships – it was like being in another world.”
In 1992, Katz organized the orginal Peace Train, a 14-car train carrying South Africa’s first 500-voice multiracial choir. The Peace Train traveled throughout South Africa to spread its message of peace and unity.
“The Peace Train was this amazing positive image of what a non-racial South Africa would look like,” Katz said. “It was this incredible moving billboard. For the first time in the history of the country, people of mixed races were living together, traveling together and performing together.”
Despite constant threats of being bombed, the Peace Train, Katz said, “steamed through barriers and let the humanity [of the South African people] come through.”
“Music is the vehicle through what so much happens,” she added. “The South African people said we are not going to let hate determine our future.”
One of the goals of the Peace Train, according to Katz, was “to help them [the children] develop their sense of self, their self-esteem, leadership, commitment and to encourage them to do the right thing in their lives and in their community.”
Katz said today many of the children from the Peace Train are active leaders in their community.
Last year, Katz and a small group of volunteers supervised and helped to build a school in a poverty-stricken area near Durban. A former student contacted her and asked her if she could help raise funds, so Katz held a series of concerts to fund the project.
“It’s a very rural area that is devasted by poverty,” Katz said. “The bricks were made from river mud and sand.”
Whether its making bricks or building bonds of love and friendship, Katz sees music as a tool to bring people together.
April 27 marks South Africa’s Freedom Day, and Katz said, “We will be celebrating 18 years of freedom this year.”
“What better way to celebrate and also raise money to help the children who were short changed by the whole apartheid system?” Katz said.
For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.worldcafelive.com. Tickets, which cost $50, can also be purahased by sending a check to Friends of The Peace Train, 7207 Bryan St., Philadelphia, PA 19119.