Within sight of the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, the stage in front of the Netherlands Carillon was the scene of a celebration of life.
“It’s an excellent place for love and peace, right next to a bunch of fallen soldiers,” said Alvin “Jupiter” Pickering as he waited to take the stage with his band, Inner Visions, at the second annual Sept. 11 memorial concert, the “Coming Together” World Music Concert.
Sponsored by Arlington County Cultural Affairs, the four-hour concert on Saturday, Sept. 13 featured performances by Grammy-nominated contemporary classical group The Kronos Quartet; Virgin Islands-based reggae veterans Inner Visions; traditional West African music and dance performers Cheick Hamala Diabate and Ensemble; and acoustic South American folk group The Mystic Warriors.
Adding to the event’s theme, which organizers called “a cultural reflection on post-9/11 life,” the event also presented an advance screening of media artist Liz Canner’s public-art, oral-history film project, “Moving Visions,” which reflects on post-Sept. 11 life and is scheduled to open on Sept. 26.
<b>EARLY RAIN THREATENED</b> to wash away the audience. But by the 6 p.m. show time, the sky had cleared, and hundreds of residents both local and from out of town trickled in.
For some, the musical lineup was the big draw. “I believe in supporting the arts, and I also believe in taking [advantage of] everything this area has to offer,” said Arlingtonian Nancy Limprecht.
The diverse styles of music on stage drew a diverse crowd. “It’s nice to see everyone from senior citizens to people with baby strollers out here,” said Elizabeth Pollard, who drove from Richmond to attend.
Performers and audience members alike had thoughts on what it meant to commemorate Sept. 11 with music. “We can reminisce about some sad times, but it gives us hope,” said Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering, Inner Visions’ guitarist and lead vocalist.
Several audience members noted that events commemorating the second anniversary of the attacks were not like last year’s observations.
“I think it’s more scaled back,” said Lynette Walker, “but I think it’s very appropriate.” The D.C. resident said even after two years, Sept. 11 brings back complex emotions. “People need opportunities to express that,” she said.
But some worried there weren’t enough opportunities this year. “I didn’t feel like there were tons of things going on to commemorate,” said Laurie Supperstein, of Arlington.
“I heard a little about it on the radio, but we didn’t talk about it at work, which surprised me,” said Sara Kulow, a social worker from Arlington.
<b>MYSTIC WARRIORS WERE</b> the first onstage, with the mix of strings, percussion and pan flutes that has made them a popular local act since forming in Rockville, Md. a decade ago.
“Our music inspires peace and harmony,” said Marco Mallea. “We’re all having the same feelings after Sept. 11.”
Traditional West African music from Cheick Hamala Diabate and Ensemble featured complex rhythms that got the crowd on their feet and dancing, despite the mud.
Energy remained high throughout Inner Visions’ performance, which displayed the mentality that has kept the band going for over 20 years — spiritual and socially-conscious but not political.
“We’re here trying to send a message of peace and love. No war, just love,” said Paul “Ras Paul” Samms, percussionist/vocalist. “We try everything else. We try invasion and brute force. We need to really try love. Say, ‘I have two, I’ll give you one.’”
Kronos Quartet’s performance seesawed from a Lebanese hymn to contemporary classical works from Iceland, Yugoslavia and India. From legato melodies to dissonant chords, the performance explored the range of emotions surrounding Sept. 11.
Contrasts were striking for some in the audience. “There was one piece that the quartet did that was unsettling, but I tend to like darker music,” said Arlingtonian Doug Lee.
Most of the concert focused not on the tragedy itself, but on the recovery efforts in the two years since. But even the uplifting nature of the event highlighted the sadness of Sept. 11 reflections. “It took a tragic thing like Sept. 11 to bring people together,” said Samms.
“Coming together is what it’s all about,” said Grasshopper. “It shouldn’t be just because of Sept. 11.”