WAIMEA — The lyrics speak for themselves.
WAIMEA — The lyrics speak for themselves.
“We are love, we are one … we are how we treat each other and nothing more.”
They come from a song aptly named “Nothing More,” written by a Connecticut-based rock band called The Alternative Routes. Featured on CBS’s drama series, “NCIS” and played at the 2014 Winter Olympics, it recently took on a much larger role in a worldwide concert to shine a light on ending gun violence.
Last weekend, thousands of musicians, artists, activists and concerned citizens in 41 states, as well as 10 countries outside the U.S., banded together in more than 250 cities to put on live concerts and events where they performed the song as part of the second annual Concert Across America to End Gun Violence.
Shows were held in pertinent locations such as Sandy Hook, Connecticut, St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, as well as other cities in states as widespread as Alaska, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Maine.
Now in its second year, the event had a new addition: people around the world could do their own sing-along from home and share a recording on social media with the hashtag #ConcertAcrossAmerica. More than 2,100 Americans participated, with submissions for everything from choral arrangements and a cappella, to gospel and Spanish versions.
Among those who contributed were eight children in North Hawaii with their own ukulele version of “Nothing More” to represent the state.
“My good friend, Hollye Fisher Dexter, who is in the thick of the anti-gun violence movement in L.A. with Women Against Gun Violence, contacted me last year to tell me about the event happening across the country,” said Beth Dunnington, who teaches a Kahilu Performing Arts Class (KPAC). “She said that Hawaii was one of only a few states not represented and asked if I could do something to help change that. There’s not much that’s more important than ending gun violence.”
Last Saturday, she and her students gathered in Waimea to record their video of “Nothing More.” Participants were Rose Friend, AriaMarie Tyau, Eric Gee, Grace Todd, Stacee Firestone, Melissa Lynn Threlfall, Lucky Friend and Jack Friend.
“Val Underwood, artistic director of The Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, and I taught the kids this song just before they recorded it. We kept the accompaniment simple with a student playing ukulele, Melissa Lynn Threlfall who is a junior at Honokaa High,” Dunnington said.
The song has a deep meaning to Dunnington.
“’We are how we treat each other and nothing more,’ that lyric, to me, says it all. Taking care of each other on this planet. ‘To a stranger, to a friend,’ says it all matters. This is the bigger picture,” she said.
Organizers are now in the midst of collecting and cataloguing the videos to submit together to the World Record Challenge.
Sixth grader Eric Gee was ecstatic to be a part of the North Hawaii recording.
“I wanted to do this because it was for a great cause. There are a lot of problems in American about gun violence and I thought, ‘why not help solve it?’” he said. “It feels awesome to be in such a great cause for the country and for most of the world.”
Dunnington wants their participation in the sing-along to start change in gun violence in the U.S.
“I hope that when people look at the faces of these children singing to them about peace and kindness, they will think about our gun laws, and consider the number of children lost to gun violence each year,” she said. “There are too many assault weapons on the streets, and the system must be much more rigorous in how it deals with a person purchasing a weapon of mass destruction. We must come together to stop the madness.”
According to a study released in 2015, Hawaii has lowest gun death rate in the U.S., with three deaths for every 100,000 people in 2014. Only 12.5 percent of Hawaii households owning firearms, despite a jump in Hawaii firearms registrations by more than 70 percent in 2012.
“I think it’s wonderful that we have the lowest rate of gun violence of all 50 states,” Dunnington said. “I’m proud that we lead the way on this front. But we must still be aware of the danger of gun violence and not take that statistic for granted.”
The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence’s website states, “Ending gun violence takes everyone. Many different voices with the same message. The power of music to reach far and wide has fueled countless important movements in recent decades. Now is the time to turn up the music to turn down the hateful rhetoric that has become a hallmark of the gun debate.”
“The overwhelming response to the world record challenge across America underscores the fact that no community has been spared from the gun violence epidemic,” said Concert Chairman John Rosenthal.
The organization’s goal is to influence Congress to mandate a background check for every gun sale.
Donna Dees Thomases, one of Concert Across America’s co-founders, said all of the submissions were special and several were especially noteworthy.
“Of course from Hawaii, the kids greeting us with aloha was special,” she said in an email. “There were also second graders from Iowa, deaf school from southeast Asia, several high schools that were all excellent, and the Metropolitan Community Church in NYC, whose lead singer must perform on Broadway. The San Quentin Prison Choir was powerful. Then there was a San Francisco Senior citizens group of 140.”
“Lastly, there was Daniel Barden’s sister, Natalie, singing with her dad on guitar. Daniel was murdered at Newtown,” Thomases added.
The song’s last verse says, “Heroes don’t look like they used to. They look like you do.”
“I think that line is the most meaningful to me. It makes me think of Jesse Lewis, the 6-years-old involved in the Newtown school massacre who saved his classmates by urging them to run while the shooter was re-loading. Jesse died a hero,” she concluded.
The North Hawaii “Nothing More” video can be viewed online at https://youtu.be/RCs3FjIHr7Q