The Nando Times - Peace poem to go around the world

PITEAA, Sweden (December 27, 1999) - Am eight-line poem for peace written by a Northern Irish schoolboy days before he was killed last year by a bomb will be set to music and sung around the world at midnight Dec. 31, media in Sweden reported Monday.

The musical relay will start on the South Pacific island of Tonga, sung by a 500-strong Tongan choir and a group from northern Sweden, then pass like a torch through 125 choirs in 45 countries as midnight strikes in each time-zone.

The final round will be sung 24 hours later in Samoa, with the Swedish group under music professor Erik Westerberg again taking part.

The choral piece is a specially composed arrangement of a poem for peace by Northern Irish schoolboy Shaun McLaughlin, submitted for a school contest just a few days before he died in an August 1998 bomb explosion in Omagh, Northern Ireland.

Twelve-year-old McLaughlin's plea for peace, "Across the Bridge of Hope," was put to music and arranged for choir and orchestra by Westerberg's Piteaa Music Academy colleague Jan Sandstroem, then sent around the world to the choirs in the project.

"I knew my dream of singing in the New Year starting in Tonga could come true, and that Shaun's poem had to be the focus," Westerberg said.

The 44-year old prize-winning choirmaster had been told by the Swedish Academy -- which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature -- to find a Swedish lyricist for the project, "but nothing I found had just the right expression," Westerberg said.

He had happened to be in Ireland at the time of the Omagh tragedy and had heard then President Mary Robinson read Shaun's poignant verse on television the day he died.

"This manifestation has a strong message for young people. It feels very good to base the whole project on simple words," Westerberg said.

The Piteaa ensemble of 12 will be joined near the international dateline in the Pacific Ocean by 500 Tongans in the Royal Maopa Choir, and the event will be televised.

Here is Shaun McLaughlin's text:

"Across the Bridge of Hope"
Orange and Green
It doesn't matter
United now
Don't shatter our dream
Scatter the seeds of peace
Over our land
So we can travel hand in hand
Across the bridge of hope.

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