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Local voices rise against gun violence as part of Concert Across America

The Pingree group under the direction of Thomas Smoker closes the Topsfield concert.

OCTOBER 19, 2017 – TOPSFIELD – Gatherings north of Boston joined musical forces with communities across the country late last month, when local musicians performed at Topsfield Common as part of Concert Across America, a coordinated five-day effort against gun violence.

At churches and synagogues, town halls, and public parks in over 200 cities and towns – including 29 in Massachusetts – soloists and choirs, poets and essayists raised their voices for peace and in protest, calling for an end to gun violence and for what Dolly McIlvaine, head of the local action group HUGS (Hands Up for Gun Safety) called “common-sense gun laws.”

Nearly a hundred people assembled for musical fare that mixed folk standards – “Strangest Dream,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Teach Your Children,” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” – with rock classics such as John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Writer and Gloucester resident Gregory Gibson, author of “Gone Boy: A Walkabout: A Father’s Search for the Truth in His Son’s Murder,” spoke movingly about losing both his sister and his son to gun violence.

Closing the two-hour program was the Spectrum Vocal Ensemble from the Pingree School in South Hamilton, which finished its three-number set with “Conqueror” by British singer Estelle and popularized by the soundtrack for the TV series “Empire.”

As candles were lit by members of the audience, the ensemble was joined by the rest of the performers to sing “Nothing More” from The Alternate Routes. The song, used to close every Concert Across America, finishes with its famous call for personal action and responsibility in resonance with the themes of the High Holy Days: “We are how we treat each other and nothing more.”

Larry Constantine is a freelance journalist and photographer. 

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