by Allie Schreffler
Sharon Katz and The Peace Train, a riveting five-piece act with an even more riveting history, will open the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s summer concert series at Pastorius Park at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 13.
Featuring guitar, vocals, saxophone, drums, bass guitar and dance, this South African group is known for its captivating instrumental and vocal melodies and compelling lyrics. True to its name, this band is also involved in more than just music: From the band’s beginning, its members have all been actively involved in promoting world peace.
The group began its peace endeavors in South Africa during the apartheid regime. Vocalist and guitarist Sharon Katz began her musical career hiding from the police just to perform, but she and many others took an active role in promoting peace in South Africa. In 1992, Katz made history when she formed the country’s first 500-voice multiracial choir to encourage interracial harmony.
A year later, she began her Peace Train concert tour, during which 150 other musicians traversed the area by train to perform and to promote peace and democracy. Soon, radio stations began to notice and broadcast her efforts, and the popularity of the music from the tour – and the cause – spread like wildfire.
People of all different backgrounds and opinions were encouraged to cease hostility and to transition peacefully to democracy under Nelson Mandela, who was elected soon afterward. After this earth-shattering tour, Katz’s band permanently took the name “The Peace Train.”
Ever since this fiery debut, Sharon Katz and The Peace Train have continued to gain new audiences. During an eight-city tour of the United States, Katz and her then-45-member group continued to make headlines among audiences at each stop, from New Orleans to Philadelphia and beyond.
Other musicians, too, noticed the band’s potential. Upon invitation, Sharon Katz and The Peace Train recorded for a studio album alongside Sting, Madonna, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, and Elton John. Later, one of the band’s albums was even nominated as the “Best World Music Album.”
When Katz, a Mt. Airy resident, isn’t working to heal the world at large, she works to heal individuals in South Africa from memories of the apartheid through music therapy. She also used proceeds from her CD sales and other contributions to create programs that provide food, music therapy and more to orphans and communities that have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
The Pastorius Park Concert Series is sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association, the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and Chestnut Hill Hospital. To learn more about Friends of the Peace Train or to become one, visit http://friendsofthepeacetrain.shutterfly.com/.