Memories & Music: The September Concert

The clouds are thick and gray as a guitarist strums his slow and soulful final chord, and the crowd stays completely silent. Not a clap or cheer is heard. The audience stands together, hands linked, for a moment of collective remembrance, and reflection on the attacks on 9/11, 10 years before. The shared sense of grief and unity felt by all New Yorkers following the events of September 11, 2001, and during the subsequent anniversaries, has been transformed every year through the power of music into something inspiring with The September Concert, a New York-based and now global organizational event formed after the attacks by philanthropist and New York native Haruko Smith.

The September Concert organization, which began on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, hosts a series of free concerts in public and private venues throughout the city every year on September 11. Though it stands as a symbol to remember the victims of the attacks, the theme of the organization is aimed more at creating a sense of unity and hope for a better future. “[The concert has] always been about celebrating the beauty of human spirit and celebrating peace,” Smith said in a NY1 interview.(1)

This year, the organization held hundreds of concerts featuring almost every flavor of music: smooth jazz, energetic Latin, angelic choral groups, classical orchestras, and more. Every concert was open to the public, free of charge, at various locations throughout the five boroughs. Some of the more popular performances included the one at the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, street performances at the Union Square subway station, a jazz marathon concert at Ashford and Simpson’s Sugar Bar (254 West 72nd st.), and a sing-and-dance-along to “Give Us Hope,” the September Concert’s theme song, which is available on the organization’s YouTube channel, at the Merchants’ Gate in Central Park.

“This is my first year attending the September Concert,” Judith, a spectator at Lincoln Center said. “It’s truly moving how we can take something so horrible and turn it into something uplifting and beautiful.”

Every year, The September Concert organization grows through the help of volunteer workers and musicians, and the 10th anniversary was no exception. Cities like St. Petersburg, Rome, Poznan, Nairobi, Tokyo, and Sydney now participate in the event as well. People are encouraged to hold their own organized concert impromptu performance in their local areas as part of the series. Most submitted events are accepted as part of the organization’s series, which is what makes this organization and its value of unity so wide-spread.

One of the most popular areas of the 10th annual September Concert event was in Battery Park, the heart of the memorial services on Sunday. Flags printed with all the names of lost loved ones covered the park’s green lawns. At the Castle Clinton in Battery Park, hundreds of people gathered to watch a spectacular performance by the Peace of Heart Choir, which was formed in response to 9/11. The choir sang songs of peace in various languages, with short introductory monologues in between each piece. Unfortunately, amongst the crowds celebrating peace and unity, the constant drone of helicopters in the distance and the excess number of wandering police officers definitely added tension to the otherwise heartwarming event.

Not all the music performed in Battery Park was part of the September Concert event, but the informal music was just as memorable. Amid the masses of people snapping photos and laying down roses by the Damaged Sphere, a statue that once stood between the towers, a man by the name of John Henderson solemnly started playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Crowds instantly formed and all chatter stopped as everyone listened quietly and intently. His brief impromptu concert received massive applause.

“Eight or so years ago, this place was a ghost town,” Henderson later said. “I wanted to do something to show I cared, and to show my support. Every year I come down here to play, usually around rush hour. It was always just the few ferry commuters who would stop by and listen. It’s never been this big.”

“It’s never been this big” perfectly describes this year’s concert series, which included a variety of music in celebration human life on a day when many lives were taken. With its growing global community, The September Concert helps people around the world understand that the strength and courage of New Yorkers who withstood that tragic day should be praised and never forgotten.

(1) Malvasio, Joe. “NYer Of The Week: Concert Organizer Provides Hope During Month Of September.” Time Warner Network, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. .

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