Duke Ellington’s jazz and classical music in Amsterdam church

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

When Amsterdam expanded in western direction in the beginning of the 17th century, new churches were needed. One of these new churches was the Westerkerk (The Western church), built between 1620-1638. The initial designer of the Westerkerk was Hendrick de Keyser, whose son Pieter took over after his father died in 1621.

On 15 November 2015, there was a concert in the Westerkerk in Amsterdam. This church is not far from the Anne Frank House. Anne Frank could see the church’s tower from her window in the secret annexe during World War II.

The big church was full of people for the concert. There ware many people on stage as well. The Nationaal Symfonisch Kamerorkest this time, besides their usual classical music instruments, had jazz instruments like drums and saxophones as well.

There was also a big choir. Really, a merger for this concert of two Amsterdam choirs: GrootNoord, from the north of the city. And Singi Nanga Firi, a Surinamese name for a multicultural Christian choir.

Westerkerk concert flyer

The music was by Michael Tippett, a British classical composer, inspired by African American music in the ‘Five Negro Spirituals’ in his work A Child Of Our Time. After Tippett came the Sacred Concert, by famous United States jazz musician Duke Ellington, with classical music influences as well. This was the first time ever for Ellington’s Sacred Concert in the Netherlands, as one needs many people to perform it. Tippett’s Spirituals had been performed only rarely in the Netherlands.

This music video, recorded in Hong Kong in 2007, is called Michael Tippett: Go Down, Moses.

The five spirituals, performed in Amsterdam, were: Steal away to Jesus; Nobody knows the trouble; Go down, Moses; By and by; and Deep river.

While they are Christian religious songs, based on the Bible, there is an undertone of the struggle for freedom in African American history, against slavery and discrimination. Eg, in parallels with the Bible story of ancient Israelites escaping from slavery in Egypt, led by Moses.

This undertone of secular opposition to oppression within religious music is also present in Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts. They frequently have the word ‘freedom’, sometimes in many languages. The Christian right in the USA did not like that, claiming that Ellington had ‘polluted’ religion with jazz.

This music video, recorded on 17 March 2013 in San Marino, is called Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts (Full Concert).

Duke Ellington wrote three Sacred Concerts. In 1993, a compilation of these three was arranged by John Hoybye and Peder Pedersen. The Amsterdam performance was based on that compilation.

There was much applause after the music stopped.

Black-tailed godwit music video

This 23 November 2015 music video is about black-tailed godwits. Now that the black-tailed godwit has been voted national bird of the Netherlands, singer Syb van der Ploeg wrote this song about that bird.

Pro-refugee rock music in England

This music video on an Iraqi rock band is called Acrassicauda – “Garden of Stones” Vice Records.

From daily The Morning Star in England:

Festival’s heavy sound of solidarity with refugees

Monday 23rd November 2015

A HEAVY metal gig in solidarity with refugees is to be held in Leicester as part of the city’s human rights arts and film festival.

Metal for Refugees will showcase local bands Urethra Franklin and Ubiquitous in the fundraiser for refugee charity Leicester City of Sanctuary.

Event organiser Nerissa Fields said: “The Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda, which formed in 2001, received death threats after the Iraq regime change.

“The band fled first to Syria and then to Turkey before being granted refugee status in the US.

“One of the most important aspects of metal, as with all musical genres, is being able to express yourself and having the freedom to do so without prejudice.

“It is a human right to be able to play the music you want to play.”

The gig at the Pi Bar on Friday December 4 starts at 8pm.

Video shot by the Turkish coast guard appears to show a man on a Greek coast guard ship attempting to sink an inflatable raft full of Syrian refugees in the Aegean Sea. Reuters reports the video was shot on November 12: here.

Joe Hill, trade unionist killed 100 years ago

From the Stop the War Coalition in Britain:

Tony Benn, President of Stop the War Coalition: “There are many songs I would like to choose but Joe Hill sung by Paul Robeson would be among the top two. It says it all.”

Lyrics are here.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

Thursday 19th November 2015

PETER FROST revisits the legendary labour movement hero exactly 100 years after he was murdered

It must be one of the best known and most inspiring anthems of the international labour movement. We all know “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,” it is still sung whenever and wherever workers are involved in struggle.

The subject of the song was shot on a trumped up murder charge exactly a hundred years ago today precisely to stop him becoming an inspiration to working people. It was a cruel plot, but it failed.

The copper industry bosses in Utah like so many employers in the US were both vicious and vindictive and were terrified of Joe Hill and the ideas he represented.

They took two years to convict him and then, on November 19 1915, their private firing squad cut him down. They and their political thugs, private police forces, strike-breakers and scabs are long forgotten but Joe Hill’s name still echoes around the globe.

Joe would have loved the fact that he is best remembered in song, because as well as being a great organiser and a shrewd communist politician Joe was first and foremost a balladeer for the working class.

His most famous songs include The Preacher and the Slave, The Tramp, There is Power in a Union and Casey Jones — the Union Scab and a hundred more. Some are still being sung today.

His last song, The Rebel Girl, celebrated his comrade and friend, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, hero of the Bread and Roses strike and long-time chair of the Communist Party USA. It was first sung at Joe Hill’s funeral.

So who was Joe Hill? He was born Joel Emmanuel Hagglund in Sweden, in 1879. In 1902, when 23, he and his brother Paul sailed to the US in search of work.

Joe learnt English and joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) better known as the Wobblies. This new militant union had been founded in 1905 for previously unorganised groups of workers. Its aim was to build one big union.

Joe started to earn his reputation as an IWW stalwart and travelled all over, organising workers under the IWW banner. He wrote and sang his own political songs, penned satirical poems and great cartoons as well making inspiring speeches.

His songs frequently borrowed familiar melodies from popular songs and hymns. He coined the phrase pie-in-the-sky, which appeared in his song The Preacher and the Slave, a parody of the hymn In the Sweet By-and-By.

As his fame spread, to avoid blacklisting, he changed his name, first to Joseph Hillstrom and then to Joe Hill.

By 1911, Joe was in Tijuana, Mexico, along with several hundred hoboes and radicals to help Mexicans trying to overthrow the dictator of Porfirio Diaz. In 1912 he was in San Diego with Wobblies, socialists, Suffragettes and trade unionists to protest against the police banning all street meetings.

In British Columbia he helped organise a railroad construction crew strike. In San Pedro he lent his support to a strike of Italian dockworkers. This led to Hill’s first imprisonment — 30 days for vagrancy.

Hill became a legend, not just to his political comrades but also to the vicious bosses of mills, factories and mines — and that was dangerous.

The copper bosses in Utah hatched their plans to teach a lesson to this uppity communist.

Early in 1914 a Salt Lake City former policeman and his son were shot and killed by two men. The men, faces covered by red bandanas, couldn’t be identified.

That same evening, Joe Hill arrived at a doctor’s office with a gunshot wound, he said he got the wound in a fight over a woman but would say no more.

Later research suggests that he and another Swede, Otto Appelquist, were rivals for the attention of 20-year-old Hilda Erickson. Appelquist had shot Hill, apparently out of jealousy.

A red bandana was found in Hill’s room. The local police, in the pay of local mine owners realised this was a chance to good to miss. They arrested Joe.

The prosecution dug up a dozen eyewitnesses who said that the killer resembled Hill. One was 13-year-old Merlin Morrison, the victims’ son. On first seeing Hill Morrison told police “That’s not him at all,” but after a little coaching he positively identified Hill as the murderer.

The carefully selected jury took just a few hours to find Joe Hill guilty of murder.

An appeal failed. Hill’s lawyer Orrin N Hilton, summed it up: “The main thing the state had on Hill was that he was a socialist, a communist and a member of The Wobblies therefore sure to be guilty.”

In an article for a radical socialist newspaper Hill gave his own opinion. He wrote: “There had to be a scapegoat and the undersigned being, as they thought, a friendless tramp, a Swede, and worst of all, an IWW, had no right to live.”

A huge campaign demanded Joe’s freedom but in vain. Joe Hill was executed by firing squad just a century ago.

Just prior to his execution, Hill had written to Bill Haywood, another IWW and communist leader, who himself would later be victim to another trumped-up murder charge.

Hill’s letter said “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organise… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

Supporters took Hill’s body to Chicago where it was cremated. His ashes were placed into 600 small envelopes and sent, all around the world, to IWW Wobbly branches and supporters.

In line with Joe’s last request many of the ashes were cast to the wind all over the US, Canada, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and Nicaragua.

More ashes were distributed on the first anniversary of Joe’s death to IWW convention delegates in Chicago.

The small envelopes carried a portrait of Joe himself and the legend “Joe Hill, murdered by the Capitalist Class.”

So feared was the establishment that some envelopes, and ashes, were seized by the US Post Office because of their subversive potential.

It took more than 70 years and some heavy negotiations to get these ashes released. In 1988 they were finally turned over to the IWW.

Suggestions on what should happen to them included enshrining them at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington. A more off-beat suggestion was that they be eaten by today’s Joe Hills, protest singers like Billy Bragg.

Billy Bragg has confirmed to me that he had indeed swallowed a small pinch of Joe’s ashes with some Union beer to wash it down.

Joe’s ashes were also scattered at a 1989 ceremony which unveiled a monument on the previously unmarked grave of six unarmed IWW coal miners, in Lafayette, Colorado. They had been machine-gunned by Colorado state police in 1927 more than 60 years before.

As the Ballad says: “Where working men defend their rights/It’s there you’ll find Joe Hill.”

See also here.

Don’t abuse ISIS terror for xenophobia against refugees from ISIS

This video from the USA says about itself:

Over Twenty Governors Reject Syrian Refugees Fleeing ISIS

16 November 2015

Here in the United States our reactions to terrorism are oftentimes unfortunate. Several states are closing themselves to Syrian refugees out of fear of ISIS. The sad thing is that ISIS is the very group the refugees are fleeing. Cenk Uygur, host of the The Young Turks, breaks it down. Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

“As of Monday afternoon, 23 governors had issued statements saying they would bar Syrian refugees from settling in their states, citing fears that violent extremists will masquerade as refugees in order to gain entry to the United States.

Legally, these proclamations have little effect; states don’t have the authority to bar refugees from settling within their borders. But that hasn’t stopped governors from issuing statements. The growing list of states that will not accept Syrian refugees currently includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Twenty-two of those states are led by Republican governors. Just one, New Hampshire, has a Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan.”*

Read more here.

Islamophobia seen as US states shun Syrian refugees: here.

Paris attacks: United Nations urges states not to demonise refugees. “We are deeply disturbed by language that demonises refugees as a group. This is dangerous as it will contribute to xenophobia and fear”: here.

Paris attacks: Isis responsible for more Muslim victims than western deaths. International organisations have documented multiple instances of Isis killing Muslims: here.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Amnesty: Refugees no threat to the European Union

Tuesday 17th November 2015

Labour: We must stand with both French and Syrian victims of Isis

CAMPAIGNERS and politicians warned Europe’s leaders yesterday against knee-jerk, anti-refugee reactions to the Paris massacre after France demanded an end to the EU’s open internal borders.

Labour refugee policy spokeswoman Yvette Cooper told Parliament that Britain must “continue to give sanctuary to those fleeing barbarism.”

But France confirmed early yesterday that, following the Islamic State (Isis) attacks in its capital, it would call for border controls to be reinstated across the European Union at a summit this Friday.

“Europe faces two urgent challenges. The first … is terrorism. The second … is an increased number of refugees and asylum-seekers on its borders,” said Amnesty International Europe director John Dalhuisen.

“They are not the same challenge and only one of them is a threat.

“European leaders must be careful to distinguish between them and be clear that Europe’s security is not best served by turning its back on a global refugee crisis, but by ensuring the orderly, organised and humane admission of those fleeing similar horrors.”

Diplomats have confirmed to the press that France will demand a suspension of the Schengen agreement, which allows people to travel across European countries without identity checks.

The measure will be proposed at an emergency summit of European Union interior ministers in Brussels.

During Home Office questions in Westminster, Ms Cooper told Home Secretary Theresa May that “many of the Syrian refugees that Britain expects to help over the coming months are fleeing exactly the same Isis brutality that we saw so terribly on the streets of Paris this weekend.

“Would she agree with me that as we stand in solidarity with Paris it’s important both that we strengthen our security against such barbarism, but also that we continue to give sanctuary to those fleeing that barbarism, so that we ensure that those terrorists cannot win?”

Her concerns were echoed by some Conservative MPs. Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew asked Ms May for assurance that the government would take steps to guard against Islamophobic reactions to the Paris killings.

His request came after Ukip deputy chair for welfare Suzanne Evans implied on Twitter that the Paris attack had been a by-product of the migrant crisis.

She faced a backlash on social media, with users accusing her of “making capital about tragedy.”

Mr Dalhuisen said: “Now is also the time for world leaders to show true statesmanship and refuse to bow to the conflated anti-refugee rhetoric which is already emanating from some quarters.

“We have to remember that many of those trying to gain sanctuary have fled violence, fear and conflict, and indeed often by the very same group known as the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq.”

Paris attacks: Hating refugees is exactly what Isis wants you to do. Perhaps one of the most persuasive arguments against equating refugees with terrorists is simple: It’s exactly what Isis wants: here.

This November 2015 video from Arnhem in the Netherlands is about Syrian refugee musicians, who had to leave their instruments behind, playing a benefit concert for other refugees with new instruments they received in Arnhem.

Europe anti-refugee rhetoric swells after Paris attacks: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Refugees are human too

Tuesday 17th November 2015

Those seeking safety in Europe are fleeing the same terrorists who struck in Paris on Friday. We must not turn our backs on them

A FEW short days after the horrific scenes in Paris the risk is growing that this atrocity will claim more innocent victims.

But it carries a heavy cost for the families forced to flee Syria. Isis is their enemy too.

We know with chilling certainty what they are trying to escape, because it visited itself upon Paris so savagely last week. Then the killers targeted football fans, people enjoying a night out, people at a rock concert.

At the weekend more evidence of Isis cruelty emerged, as Kurdish forces uncovered mass graves in recently liberated Sinjar. One contained the bodies of 78 elderly women. The other was the last resting place of over 50 men, women and children.

We don’t know what these people were doing when they were killed, but like the victims in Paris we can be sure these were not fighters on a battlefield.

Most probably they were slaughtered for who they were: Sinjar is a predominantly Yazidi city. We know from Isis’s conquest of Mosul and other Iraqi cities that hundreds of Shia prisoners were tied up and murdered, that massacring the innocent is standard practice for the terror group.

This is what has been unleashed in Syria and Iraq, with the assistance of Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the connivance of Western governments so determined on regime change that they ignore the nature of the rebel armies doing their dirty work.

That millions then flee for their lives is natural.

The desperate bids to keep refugees out of Europe have lethal consequences, whether that means the drowned children washed up on beaches or the families who, unable to get out, are left at the mercy of groups like Isis.

It would be heartless to close our doors to people who need for our help to save their lives and those of their children, whatever the danger they were fleeing.

But in the case of refugees from the Middle East, where country after country has been torn apart as a result of decisions made in Western capitals, it would also be a failure to take responsibility for a crisis of our own making.

Already at the weekend the governors of Alabama and Michigan in the United States declared that in the wake of the Paris killings their states would not allow any Syrian refugees in.

The stance is being echoed by senior figures in the Republican Party over there, although Barack Obama is resisting the trend.

It seems almost pointless to call on Britain’s government to do the decent thing here, since David Cameron’s response to the refugee crisis so far has been pitiful in any case: 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years is the token effort of a man who does not care.

But we should remind MPs that slamming the door shut doesn’t help. As President Francois Hollande said yesterday: “We know it is cruel but French people killed other French people on Friday.” Just as eight years ago when terror struck London three of the four perpetrators were British-born.

Hollande’s stated priority of working together with Russia and the United States on a joint strategy to crush Isis is welcome and overdue. In the meantime we should extend our solidarity to those forced to flee and welcome them with open arms.

DAVID CAMERON admitted yesterday that British bombs won’t bring peace to Syria: here.

Paris attacks: Video showing ‘London Muslims celebrating terror attacks’ is fake. The footage actually shows British Pakistanis celebrating a cricket victory in 2009: here.

Syrian passport found near dead Paris bomber almost certainly fake: here.