Dedicated singer offers music for peace

Singer Lia Kahler with Philip Dietterich: Photo by Ralph Stewart
Singer Lia Kahler with Philip Dietterich at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown for a 2004 concert. Photo by Ralph Stewart

By Eleni Collins - July 6, 2006

Lia Kahler cites four purposes for giving a concert to increase awareness of her chosen cause; to raise funds with donor categories that embrace all of the community; to create a sense of community by recognizing locals who are working towards the same goals; and to provide a high-quality concert for an affordable price.

And Ms. Kahler is succeeding in meeting her goals. This month, the mezzo-soprano opera singer will perform a benefit concert at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, featuring Broadway and classical songs, all proceeds going directly to the non-profit Seeds of Peace organization.

Founded in 1993, Seeds of Peace has more than 2,500 graduates from 25 nations. Every summer, teenagers from conflict-stricken areas in countries such as Palestine, Israel, India, and Pakistan to name a few, are brought to a camp in Otisfield, Maine, to work together on creating better leadership skills for the future. It costs $2,500 to send a student to the camp for one summer.

The campers are selected by their governments in a process based on their leadership abilities and their academic performances, not their economic or social backgrounds.

Seeds of Peace: Photo courtesy of Seeds of Peace
Seeds of Peace gatherings give young people from strife-ridden situations a chance to live together in harmony. Photo courtesy of Seeds of Peace

"The hope is that they go back home and see the conflict is from people to people," said Lori Shaller, a teacher at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School who is acting as the organization's concert publicist. "They hopefully start to see the people in the conflict as people and not as sides."

Ms. Kahler, who now only does benefit concerts for non-profit organizations, gave her first "catalyst concert" in 1992 after experiencing the deaths of 25 of her friends and colleagues from AIDS. "I call them catalyst concerts because I use myself as a catalyst," said Ms. Kahler. "I decided the best thing to do would be to use myself and my talents."

Several Island guests of honor will be recognized at the benefit concert for the work they are doing for peace. They include Janet Wallach, who is the co-founder of Seeds of Peace, the Rev. Alden Besse of the Vineyard Peace Council, and Rabbi Brian Walt of Rabbis for Human Rights in North America.

Along with Ms. Kahler, Stonehouse, Inc., a Vineyard family foundation, is also presenting the concert, titled "for Peace."

"This is the first year that I've had backing," said Ms. Kahler, adding, "I also never repeat a cause. In comparison to a lot of things, I'm small, but I want to make a difference. There are so many good causes out there."

Ms. Kahler, daughter of the late Al and Peg Littlefield of West Tisbury, has a long Island heritage. The Littlefields came to the Vineyard in 1870.

Dividing her time between the islands of Manhattan and the Vineyard, Ms. Kahler is also a voice instructor. With students ranging from eight to 80 years old, she teaches in both New York and on the Vineyard.

"One of my goals in life is to have people find their voices," Ms. Kahler said. "Many people have much more inside themselves than they are aware of."

In addition to the concert, the benefit event includes a silent auction featuring a limited edition of 10 linoleum-cut "Peace Doves" by Island artist and poet Dan Waters. Mahoney's Garden Center in Oak Bluffs donated a "peace rose," which Ms. Kahler discovered was the most popular rose in the world.

For the concert, Ms. Kahler will begin with pieces from classical artists such as Handel, Mahler and Montsalvatge. The second half will focus on Broadway music from Sondheim and Rogers and Hammerstein. u

For more inspiring information, photos, and contact information regarding Seeds of Peace visit www.seedsofpeace.org.

Catalyst Concerts and Stonehouse, Inc. present Lia Kahler, mezzo-soprano, and Melinda Crane, piano in "for Peace," a classical and Broadway-style concert. Thursday, July 13, 7:30 pm. Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. Tickets $15 general, $10 youth and seniors. Available at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven; Conroy Apothecary, West Tisbury; Up on the Roof, Chilmark; Edgartown Book Store, Edgartown; Cousen Rose, Oak Bluffs, and at the door.