Singing for solidarity: Canada raises voice at UN
Canada's Guillermo Rishchynski is one of five UN envoys raising their voice in song.
Diplomats are used to piping up for peace. But singing?
Thanks to Ottawa’s envoy Guillermo Rishchynski, all those carpers who complain that Canada is out of tune with the United Nations have been proved wrong.
Rishchynski, along with four other UN diplomats, gave international harmony a whole new meaning this week with the New York launch of the CD album Ambassadors Sing for Peace.
“I come from a musical family,” says the Toronto-born ambassador. “My mother was a professional opera singer who studied at the conservatory. Singing is something I’m not great at, but I can carry a tune.”
The album was the brainchild of Romania’s UN ambassador, Simona Miculescu, a trained singer who asked a hand-picked group of international envoys to join her in a project that would put across the message of peace “in a different way than on the UN rostrum.”
It was produced for the 40th anniversary of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, which encourages civic education opportunities for youth. Funds from the sales will go to creating a UN youth assembly scholarship. The album was done in partnership with Romania’s UN mission, Gary Fry/High Touch Music and the SAE Institute of Technology of New York.
The songs include such love-and-peace standards as Jacques Brel’s "If We Only Had Love," John Lennon’s "Imagine," Bob Marley’s "One Love" and Bob Dylan’s "Blowin’ in the Wind."
“It seemed like a worthy cause so we signed on,” said Rishchynski, who soloed with his version of "Smile." “Then I discovered it was also enormously hard work.”
That would be months of weekend rehearsals in the Romanian Cultural Center, starting last March. Then the envoys hit Broadway for two weeks of studio recording sessions with more re-takes than a UN resolution.
Joining Rishchynski in the 11-track effort was a virtual General Assembly of vocalists: Miculescu, Cap Verde Ambassador Antonio Pedro Monteiro, Costa Rica Ambassador Eduardo Ulibarri and Amb. Marlene Moses of the tiny Pacific island state of Nauru.
“We knew each other as colleagues, but weren’t close friends,” said Rishchynski. “We are now.”
A lesson for other squabbling nations?
Singing, he says, “contributes to greater cohesion as a group. It was never intended as a solution to global challenges, but if you can do it with a song perhaps that could translate into other areas where we need to work collectively to solve the world’s problems.”
So…next, a blockbuster album from the UN Security Council?
“If we could get them singing with one voice we’d all be much happier,” says Rishchynski.
To hear selections from the ambassadors' album:
What a Wonderful World (Amb. Antonio Lima ) : https://soundcloud.com/friendshipambassadors/what-a-wonderful-world
Paix Sur La Terre (Amb. Simona Miculescu): https://soundcloud.com/friendshipambassadors/paix-sur-la-terre
Heal the World ( the Five Ambassadors ) https://soundcloud.com/friendshipambassadors/heal-the-world
Rhythms of One World (the Five Ambassadors ) https://soundcloud.com/friendshipambassadors/rhythms-of-one-world
Olivia Ward was the Star’s UN correspondent from 1990-2 and has covered the world body in New York and Geneva.