Lia Kahler uses her amazing talent to help worthy causes. Photo by Sara Piazza
Lia Kahler uses her amazing talent to help worthy causes. This year her concert benefited the Seeds of Peace organization. Photos by Sara Piazza

An evening of music and peace

By Sara Piazza - July 27, 2006

On Thursday, July 13, as evening fell and the skies cleared and turned pink and gray outside the windows of the upstairs sanctuary at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, Vineyarders were treated to the clear and uplifting - but never overbearing - voice of mezzo-soprano Lia Kahler, "a brought-ashore from an old Vineyard family, the Littlefields of West Tisbury." Ms. Kahler's father, Al Littlefield, was in attendance for his daughter's performance, having been brought to the event from his nearby Longhill assisted living home.

The concert was a benefit for Seeds of Peace, a cause which is dear to Ms. Kahler's heart. In fact, Ms. Kahler is now dedicating her exceptional musical career to supporting worthy causes, through her organization, Catalyst Concerts ("I use myself as a catalyst," she explained).

Al Littlefield, proud father of mezzo-soprano Lia Kahler. Photo by Sara Piazza
Al Littlefield, proud father of mezzo-soprano Lia Kahler, was in the audience for her Edgartown concert earlier this month.

Seeds of Peace International Camp was started in 1993, "Because," says Janet Wallach, "My late husband, John Wallach, a journalist, was so upset and angry about the cycle of violence. He believed that if you worked with young people who are not entrenched in the hatred and bitterness of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents; if we work with these young people we can empower them to be leaders of their generation, and we can train them in conflict resolution. The whole idea is to bring together youngsters from regions of conflict, to empower them and give them leadership training and skills for conflict resolution and coexistence so they can live in a better world and make a better world.

"We have Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, and Jordanians, and we also work with kids from Pakistan and India. We bring them together for three weeks of a regular summer camp, but every single day for two hours they meet in dialogue sessions that are really like group therapy, where they talk about their fears and anxieties. They begin to hear one another and understand that the enemy is someone just like them who has a face, a heart, and a soul.

"We use something we call 'group challenge,' which is ropes, and trust falls, drama, discussion groups, and every activity they do is planned around their discussion groups, so they get to learn, to think as a team, to be able to work together.

Peace. Photo by Sara Piazza

"The experience changes these kids. They're transformed. And everyone who attends camp through Seeds of Peace says that they are a different person when they leave.

"And today, Seeds of Peace is more important than ever, because the more young people that we can teach to think in terms of words and not weapons, then the better the world will be."

It was a delightful evening, an evening billed by Ms. Kahler as "an emotional journey," with music ranging from Handel and Mahler, to Stephen Sondheim (one of John Wallach's favorite composers), Georges Bizet, and George Gershwin; with a little Cuban music thrown into the middle to spice things up. The event was well attended by Vineyard friends and neighbors, and Ms. Kahler's sweet voice and personable style - dedicating a song to Lillian Kellman, another song to a niece; making mention of the shawl that Arlene Bodge had made for her - created a lovely intimacy, as if we were in Lia Kahler's living room rather than in a 500-seat concert hall.

Several days after the concert, Ms. Kahler called The Times to report that proceeds from the event - from ticket sales, gifts, and pledges - garnered $38,119 for Seeds of Peace.

"It's the best I've done in a fund-raiser," Ms. Kahler said happily, adding that her personal goal is to raise a total of $200,000 for various important causes by 2010. "But heck, if I can exceed that I'd be very happy."

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