“We - Artists, Cultural Figures – Must Remain Peacemakers”
A big ‘HELLO’ to all of you for my first post as an official blogger
for Hello Stage! I’m very excited to have been given
this opportunity to share my life with all of you, as
a performing artist and world citizen, and I am looking
forward to the exchange of our thoughts, opinions and viola
jokes here as a community. Let’s connect! ☺
Now, before getting into the nitty-gritty of things,
I’d like to thank Bernhard and the Hello Stage team for their
vision in creating this new platform for the 21st century
classical music world - bravo!
Seeing as this is my first entry,
I didn’t want to disappoint any of you with the usual
humdrum topics – “How many hours a day should I practice?”
“What is your favorite recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto?”
Instead, I wanted to touch upon a subject of much debate which appears to have, both, the world and the performing arts community divided – the conflict in Ukraine. It has become nearly impossible to ignore the demonstrations by anti-Putin protestors outside New York City’s opera houses and concert halls for the past nine months, with posters reading “Don’t Play Putin’s Tune” and chants of “Say ‘No’ to [Conductor’s Name]. Say ‘No’ to War.” Watching one of the demonstrators, a young concert pianist, attempt to light fifteen candles on this chilly, windy evening outside Lincoln Center Plaza, one for each of the fifteen people who were killed in Ukraine that day, brought with it the bitter taste of reality- The reality of those living everyday in a war zone.
It is difficult to discuss topics of such weight without throwing one’s own opinion into the pot; one that is already boiling from a lot of emotional tension and strong points-of-view. But, as a supporter of every individual’s right to express his or her opinion, I would like to humbly share my views on the situation in Ukraine and my attitude toward those who have taken sides on this matter within the performing arts community. I have clearly stated that my position is with the Ukrainian people in past interviews and media statements I’ve given throughout the last year. My stance has not changed as I’ve absorbed more information from both sides over time, as I believe in the sincerity of the desire the Ukrainian people have to establish a truly autonomous, democratic state outside Russia’s sphere of influence. To me, it is completely logical that a former Soviet Republic would want to re-identity itself after several decades of being simply viewed as “one of the many” in the USSR. Ukraine and its people, in this respect, are justified in their actions to preserve, protect and maintain what they have built for themselves as a nation since 1991.
This does not mean that I am anti-Russian and harbor any negative feelings towards the people of the Russian Federation. Quite the contrary- I have always cherished my performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg; for the many outstanding Russian musicians I was honored to play with and the enthusiasm of the highly educated and devoted Russian audiences. Knowing and having experienced the cultural richness of this nation, I cannot understand the motives of the artists and cultural figures who have aligned themselves with a politician whose actions threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty and integrity of a foreign country and its people. This, for me, is the ultimate offense as a public figure – to stand in support of someone who exercises their authority in committing gross crimes against humanity.
I’ve often felt that it is not enough to simply play concerts and, otherwise, be a relatively inactive participant in the world. Music has the power to be an effective tool for change, so I do applaud the friends and colleagues of mine, like Lisa Batiashvili and Pavel Gintov (pictured with me above), who use their talents as an instrument for good and peace. As for the others, who shall remain nameless in order to a) not draw further attention to them b) as a professional courtesy c) and because we all know who they are, as per their signature on a certain public letter, I question their awareness of the consequences of their influence upon the global community. I question their judgment on the actions of the parties they defend – are they in full comprehension of the facts or do they turn a blind eye in the direction of the unfavorable? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is not a matter of being pro- or anti- this or that, but one where innocent civilian lives are being taken and exploited for the gains of the corrupt and the mouths they are feeding.
I’ve quoted the wonderful (and often vocal)
violinist Gidon Kremer for the title of my post because,
I believe, this is where the position of a public figure lies
– in that of a peacemaker. We artists are here to
represent the highest ideals and principles of society.
As I believe the arts accept all, regardless of nationality,
ethnicity, creed, orientation and gender, so must we - we must become and be
representatives of fraternité, equalité,
(to quote the brilliant French motto). Ah, yes - and Truth
So, I am posing these two questions to all of you today:
- What is our position in the world, as artists and cultural ambassadors, and should we be vocal on the issues we feel strongly about?
- Do Arts and Politics mix?
I can’t wait to read your comments and thoughts on this, as I know it is something we are all discussing nowadays and I’m sure many of you have developed interesting opinions of your own.
On that note, I’m off to practice! 15:15 and not a note played. Yikes!
Anyways, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading first post and I promise to outline, in GREAT detail, how to practice scales from C to C-flat next time. I jest, of course!
Violinist Christopher Coritsidis is an international performing artist and social activist based in New York City. When off-stage, he enjoys French literature (and wine!), out-stocking the best donut shops in every city, and...blogging!
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and of course, on HELLO STAGE