Remembering September 11th, through music

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September 5th, 2011

Omaha, NE – The Omaha Symphony is teaming up with the USAF Heartland of America Band and Irish tenor Ronan Tynan for a performance celebrating the American spirit. It’s an outdoor concert commemorating the tenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

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Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performing Amazing Grace during a USO holiday show in 2007. (Photo credit Wikimedia)

Irish tenor Ronan Tynan is well known for his rendition of God Bless America, which he has performed multiple times at Yankee Stadium, among other places. James Johnson, the President and CEO of the Omaha Symphony, said when he first started planning this year’s September 11th commemoration, he immediately thought of Tynan, who’s rendition became a stirring companion to New Yorker’s memories of that day.

“Whether you were there in Manhattan, as I was, or whether you watched it on television unfold,” Johnson said, “you cannot be the same person that you were before. It changed our lives. So it’s important that we remember what happened, we don’t forget, and we celebrate those who’ve helped us overcome.”

Johnson, who formerly served as CEO of the New York Pops before he joined the Omaha Symphony in May, was in Carnegie Hall on the morning of the attacks. He said he remembers the spirit of the city, and the country, that day, as everyone walked outside, trying to make their way home.

A firefighter walks through the rubble at Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. (Photo credit FEMA/Andrea Booher)

“The subways weren’t working, phones weren’t working,” he said. “So what happened that day, we all started walking home… and walking home was the most incredible experience, because we were joined by thousands and thousands of people doing the same thing.” Johnson said walking together became a way to connect. “We connected not inside, not on our phones, we connected face to face, person to person, outside.”

In that same vein, Johnson said Omaha’s September 11th tribute concert will be held outdoors at Turner Park in Midtown Crossing.

“The other thing that happened in the days after 9/11,” Johnson added, “is that music broke out everywhere. There were concerts in the parks, in soup kitchens, wherever people gathered, there seemed to be musicians who’d pull out their instruments and begin to play. And I want to remember that.”

Johnson said music is an important part of how “we as Americans deal with tragedy.”

Johnson said the Celebration of American Spirit concert, which takes place at 6:30pm Sunday, Sept. 11th in Turner Park, will feature music that “stirs the soul, including John Newton’s Amazing Grace and John William’s Hymn to the Fallen. The program is an expression of what Americans felt after the attacks, Johnson said, saddened but proud of the ideals America stands for.

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