blends cultures in Bethel recording
By Marietta Homayonpour
November 1, 2005
BETHEL There's a universal
language, says John Farrell, and it's understood from
America to Spain to South Africa to Japan.
That language is music and Farrell a 54-year-old
Brewster, N.Y., singer, songwriter and author uses
music to bring people together.
For 15 years, Farrell has taken songs and stories of
peace, love and tolerance to classrooms and educational
seminars around the world from Canada to Europe to Asia.
His latest endeavor is a song called "We Are Walking
a Bridge of Peace."
on Monday brought together eight young students
from a multicultural Bronx school and 11 men from
a South African singing group to record the song
at the Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel.
"I had this dream of finding a way for
people in one part of the world to understand
people in other parts," Farrell said.
"Children in particular, but not just
children. Music and stories are the universal way
of expressing our desires and concerns."
Farrell wrote the song in the spring, but a
recent trip to South Africa, where he visited his
daughter, spurred him to record the song both on
audio and video.
|The News-Times/Michael Duffy
John Farrell brought students and singers
together in Bethel Monday to record a song called
"We Are Walking a Bridge of Peace."
|"It all came
together when I went to South
Africa," Farrell said. He saw the
terrible poverty as well as the tragedy
of an AIDS epidemic. He was especially
moved by the children orphaned because of
The recording of the song in
English, Spanish and Zulu also has
instrumentals so anyone in any country
can adapt it to their language.
|The News-Times/Michael Duffy
John Farrell of Brewster, N.Y., sings with the
South African group Thula Sizwe at the Walnut
Hill Community Church Monday in Bethel.
Farrell plans to
make the recording part of his larger project called A
Bridge of Peace. His newsletter goes to more than 1,200
people mainly teachers and he attends
educational conferences around the world. The song, and
others to follow, also will be available for downloading
on the Internet through Farrell's Web site.
Farrell's hope is "We Are Walking a Bridge of
Peace" and the overall project will make adults and
children aware of the difficulties that many people face
because of poverty and illness. He also hopes the project
will lead to a greater effort to bring more resources to
South African children orphaned by AIDS.
"We will attempt to accomplish these goals through
listening to and singing songs, writing poetry, stories,
and letters, and other forms of artistic expression,
including drawings, paintings, and photography,"
from the Theater Arts Production Company Middle
and High School in the Bronx came to Bethel to
make the recording.
The New York City public school, said teacher and
choral director Eugenia Swinson, is about
five-years-old and its students are predominantly
Caribbean, Latino and African.
"It's a song of hope, joy," 11-year-old
Alora Martinez said of the simple, lively tune.
"It says be grateful of what you've got,
Students from the Theater Arts Production Company
Middle and High School in the Bronx sing with
John Farrell of Brewster, N.Y., center, at the
Walnut Hill Community Church Monday in Bethel.
Delicia Myvett who said "singing makes you
feel good inside" the song is about being
happy and "proud of what you do." Delicia was
happy for another reason on Monday. "I'm excited
because I've never recorded a song before."
The South African group Thula Sizwe, formed in 1986, has
recorded before. Director Abel Dlamini said the group's
Zulu name means "hush and listen."
Thula Sizwe sings love songs, gospel songs and other
songs in both English and Zulu. The group has been on a
two-month tour of the East Coast and heads back home next
Farrell first saw Thula Sizwe only two weeks ago, shortly
after he returned from South Africa. The group was
performing at the Wooster School in Danbury where
Farrell's wife is a teacher and Farrell asked if
they would record his song.
The group quickly agreed. "We do it," Dlamini
said, "to help the AIDS orphans in South Africa.
Together we can do something."
Farrell heard about the Bronx middle school children
through a friend, the same way he learned of the
recording space available at Walnut Hill Community
Church. The church's large worship center, with its good
acoustics and lighting, provided the right spot for the
audio and visual shoot.
And the church was glad to help, communications director
Lisa Siedleki said. "God's given us this amazing
facility," Siedleki said, "and any time we can
make it available for someone using it for global good,
we are glad to do it."