Ismaili Choir sings for children at Los Angeles concert

“Every Child’s Life is Sacred” was the message that buzzed in the magnificent St. John’s Cathedral in Los Angeles on February 3. It was Yuval Ron’s Ensemble that The Guibord Center brought forward to transmit this message. Spiritual leaders from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Judaism, Pagan, Sikh, Zoroastrian, and Indigenous spiritual faiths came together to endorse “Every Child’s Life is Sacred.

The evening was filled with music and movement to celebrate the people of the Middle East, express love and devotion to humanity, and heal the world. Today, the lives of children in the  Middle East are in danger, and every day, many lives are being lost. Yuval Ron’s Ensemble expressed that pain with songs and dances and prayed for forgiveness and healing with the hope of bringing peace and celebrating in unison.

Dr. Lo with Take Heart Project

Dr. Lo with Take Heart Project
Dr. Lo with Take Heart Project

The stage was set by Dr. Lo Sprague, President at the Guibord Center, with the questions, “What do we have to do so that there is enough? What do we have to do so children can be safe?” She acknowledged that the road ahead is tough and stated that “who better to turn to who can bring us together as a community and who can fill our hearts with the sacredness of the tradition of the East? There was only one person - Yuval Ron.” 

Yuval Ron took the stage with what started as six musicians and expanded to nine and including the Ismaili Choir. The Ensemble played a variety of instruments, each with its own beautiful sound. It was first the duduk followed by oud, kanoun, harmonium, clarinet and a variety of hand drums. Vocals were added to the instruments and each piece had its own story. 

Elinor Sitrish sang Psalms 126 from the Jewish tradition that took us through the journey of freedom and happiness. Next came Buddhist medicine for the wounded world.  The four divine states of mind  are the compassion mantra - Om, Mani, Padme, Hum. Yuval, Elinor, and Katyana Zoroghlian led this mantra in a song and invited the audience to chant. This prayer led to a meditative and reflective state of mind uplifting the inner spirits.

Katyana’s rendition of the Christian prayer of forgiveness was simply powerful and moving. One of the highlights of the evening was the rendition of Islamic contemplative, mystical music driving whirling dance rhythms by Afghani Sufi master Khawaja Ehrari as vocalist, his 15-year-old son Housain Ehrari on percussion, and Banafsheh Sayyad as the dancer.  Overall, the performances were magical, reaching for something bigger than each person in the room, and this transformed the cathedral with vibrations that brought the audience in concert.

Throughout the concert, Yuval was inclusive and invited the Ismaili Choir to sing along with the chorus and welcomed the audience to join in the melody. The Ismaili Choir recognized this strength of diversity and shared that “the music was complete when the audience joined and it was so much fun for everyone to sing together.”

The Ismaili Choir sang Hallelujah, Shalom, Salaam and the melody of Ya Rab El Alam. In Yuval’s words “The Ismaili Choir Group brought beauty, harmony and hope to our city wide interfaith Concert for Humanity, last Sat Feb 3, 2024. The intergenerational singing group was a pleasure to work with, and their voices lifted the hearts of every audience member.”

The sense of brotherhood, unity, and embracing pluralism is exemplified by Mawlana Hazar Imam’s words delivered at the Prince Claus Fund Conference on Culture and Development in Amsterdam on September 7, 2002:

“My hope is that society as a whole will not only accept the fact of its plurality but, as a consequence, will undertake, as a solemn responsibility, to preserve and enhance it as one of its fundamental values and an inescapable condition for world peace and further human development.”