Songs for Peace
Top 10 of the most touching peace songs for choirs and tipps for Ukrainian choral repertoire
In times of global challenges of climatic, economic and political unrest, there is hardly a better time to reflect on the truly important things in life and set a sign for world peace.
Composers of all epochs as well as contemporary artists make the desire for peace as subject of their music. No matter, whether choral, traditional peace songs or arrangements for choirs – the subject of peace has always been an integral part of the international choral scene.
In these days, singing for peace has once more become an important way to express hope and solidarity with the victims of war. People from all over the world are coming together these days to sing together and express their desire for peace among all the peoples in the world.
Therefore, we have compiled ten most interesting and touching peace songs created for or sung by choirs:
1. Dona Nobis Pacem – Traditional version
The traditional song is sung in Latin, mostly as a canon. It is known in many parts of the world and is sung on many occasions inside and outside the church, also for Christmas.
2. Dona Nobis Pacem – by Mary Lynn Lightfoot
This version of “Dona Nobis Pacem” belongs to the most popular works of the composer Mary Lynn Lightfoot. A wonderful setting of the old text.
3. Francis´ Prayer - Sancta Maria
'Francis' Prayer - Sancta Maria' is one of many beautiful songs from the musical-oratorio, Francis of Assisi – God’s Troubadour, which has been successfully performed in several countries in Europe.
In 2014 singers from all over the world were invited to participate in the virtual choir project, World Peace Choir, to sing this song. Videos of 150 singers from 16 different countries created a unique choir whose members have never met, having contributed their voices entirely through the internet. The inspiration to start World Peace Choir came from the teachings of Saint Francis and also from his birthplace, the medieval Italian city of Assisi, also known as city of peace.
4. Song of Peace
Based on Jean Sibelius' Finlandia, this impressive composition integrates two phenomenal arrangements: the first half, a stunning homophonic treatment of "This Is My Song"; the second half, a Zulu translation set to a world music groove. A grandiose masterpiece that unites different cultures!
This version of "Song of Peace" is sung by the South African Kearsney College Choir under the direction of the former conductor Bernard Krüger.
5. Imagine by John Lennon
The song "Imagine" by the Beatle John Lennon is one of the most famous peace songs in the world and is considered a hymn of the peace movement. Both the solo pieces and the touching choral arrangement of "EPIC Choir!" set the wish for world peace, a world without hunger, war and suffering, in the right sound.
"Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can, No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world."
Even decades after the song’s release in 1971, the piece is sung as a musical statement at both national and international events, including the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London.
6. Hevenu Shalom Alechem
"Hevenu Shalom Alechem" is an Israeli folk song sung by Jews and open-minded singers worldwide. The song reflects longing for peace, south-after by many people, especially the Jewish.
7. Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller
"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our Creator, family all are we; Let us walk with each other, in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally, Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
This song written by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller moved Pope Francis during the interreligious encounter at the Ground Zero memorial in New York in fall 2015. Performed by The Young People's Chorus of New York City, the song says: "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me".
Representatives of all religions came to Ground Zero to remember the victims of 9/11. The musical accompaniment and especially “Let There Be Peace on Earth” amplified the statement of the meeting – Live together in peace and freedom!
8. Oh Freedom by E. R. Nance Family
The African peace song from 1931 (published as "Sweet Freedom" by E. R. Nance Family with Clarence Dooley) is mainly associated with the American civil rights movement. In 1963 the US American folk singer and civil rights activist Joan Baez sang the song on the occasion of the March on Washington, where around 200,000 people demanded the end of racial discrimination.
"Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me, And before I'd be a slave I'll be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free."
9. Heal the World by Michael Jackson
"Heal the World" (1992) comes from the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and is an appeal to all people to make the world a better place. For a song revival and in order to revive the message, talented children from all over the world came together this year for a project choir and re-recorded the song together with the Indian pop duo MaatiBaani. The result is a moving music video with a clear message, the worldwide peace. The video has been viewed over 800,000 times on Youtube to this day.
10. Blowin' in the wind by Bob Dylan
Number 10 of the most interesting peace songs is an A cappella version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind". The recently honored Nobel Prize winner in Literature wrote the lyrics, an examination with various rhetorical questions about the life, in a pub in 1962.
"Yes, and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows, That too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, The answer is blowin' in the wind.”
In 2004 the Anti-War-Hymn was ranked on the 14th of the 500 best songs of the world by the Rolling Stone.
Unite for Peace!
For 2022 and 2023 we have planned several special actions of peace for the choral world, which will be characterized by the slogan "Unite for Peace".
INTERKULTUR will continue to strengthen activities around "Songs for Peace " to promote and support all interactions that seek peace, friendship, cooperation and development between choirs and musicians from different countries. INTERKULTUR will further collect and provide materials from other organizations on different platforms and spread them also through its own channels, promoting interaction and mutual support among choirs and also individuals worldwide.
Our first Peace Concert 2022 was released on March 14 as a symbol of unity, brotherhood and understanding. Especially in these difficult times, music warms the heart and brings hope and light to the people. We sincerely thank musicians around the world: choristers, conductors, and composers for participating in our peace concert series that fills the world with love.
We are planning to hold more peace concerts in conjunction with INTERKULTUR "World Choir Events" around the world, as well as the "World Peace Singers" peace concert in July and December 2022, another big peace concert with "World Peace Singers" from around the world will be held in July 2023 during the period of the 12th World Choir Games in South Korea. We warmly welcome all our friends from the global choral community to join us here and support our activities.
We are also grateful that other choral organizations have also taken up this issue, like the European Choral Association in their own statement, which you can read here.
Further, our friend and member of the World Choir Council, Branko Stark shared with us his new piece “Et In Terra Pax”, which is available for download here.
Tipps for choral repertoire from Ukrainian composers
If you and your choir are coming together these days to sing for peace, we strongly recommend to consider also repertoire by Ukrainian composers. It seems that at the moment the choral world in the Ukraine mostly feels supported by getting links to videos from choirs that are singing in solidarity with Ukraine or singing for peace.
We have received some recommendations from our representative in the World Choir Council, Anzhela Maslennikova, which we would like to recommend to you.
You can download the scores and some audio samples here.
The Choral Society of Ukraine shared a few suggestions on repertoire they would recommend:
From the collections of works by M. Leontovich:
-SHCHEDRYK; Good (New Year’s) wishes;
- The Piper;
From the collection of works by O. Koshetz:
⁃ Oi, hodyt son kolo vikon;
⁃ Na vulytsi skrypka hrae.
You can find the scores for these pieces in this dropbox folder:
We are also happy and proud that our Honorary Artistic President John Rutter composed a new piece called “Prayer for Ukraine”. You can find every information about the piece here and we strongly recommend to include this piece in one of your upcoming sing alongs for peace, too. The music will be provided by John Rutter and his team to everybody asking for it.