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‘Lebanon better united than divided’
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BEIRUT: “Enough corruption and violence,” British Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher said earlier this month. “Khalas!”The occasion for the ambassador’s remark was the news conference unveiling “One Lebanon, United for Tomorrow,” a musical event he co-created with Lebanese soprano Tania Kassis.

Scheduled to be held Feb. 1 at the Forum de Beyrouth, the event aims to be both entertaining and patriotic – to demonstrate the solidarity of many celebrities in order, as Kassis put it, to “show the best picture of Lebanon.”

One of the country’s more self-effacing celebrities, Kassis has been involved in social activities for some time now.

The vocalist’s most high-profile effort to blend the performing arts with national unity was “AVE,” her song to Islamic-Christian brotherhood.

She said the idea to stage “One Lebanon” emerged from her desire to celebrate national belonging. The concert was originally scheduled for earlier this year; it was postponed due to the tense situation in the country.

Arguably, such expressions of national unity are all the more important since the recent bombings. A single performance event will not change the situation of the country, Fletcher acknowledged, but it can surely provide “a great opportunity to send a powerful message: Lebanon is better united than divided.”

Some 17 artists and celebrities have confirmed they will attend the solidarity concert. The number includes Maguy Bou Ghosn (star of Elie Habib’s feature film “Bebe”), vocalist Anthony Touma, “Ghadi” actor and playwright Georges Khabbaz, drama therapist-cum-filmmaker Zeina Daccache and singer-songwriter Mike Massy.

The concept found its inspiration in the French charity organization Les Restos du Coeur. Launched in 1985 by French actor-comedian Coluche (1944-1986), the association aims to provide the needy with food, beverages and generosity whenever necessary. The association’s artists – “Enfoires” (Bastards), as they call themselves – gather each year for a huge concert, profits from which finance its charity work.

Similarly, “One Lebanon” intends to be much more than a single concert, Kassis explained, focussing on social and educational activities throughout the year. There is a need to “create a platform through music and sports,” she said, and hoped that, like the Enfoires event, this concert would become annual.

The funds raised from “One Lebanon” tickets sales will be used to implement “civic outreach programs in public and private schools as well as in other educational institutions.”

The Lebanese Red Cross is also part of the project’s year-round activities.

Fletcher expressed his excitement about participating in this project, which is reminiscent of another effort to use music to improve the world.

“When I was a teenager,” he said, “the biggest event was when celebrities and public figures gathered for Live Aid concert.”

A large number of Lebanese students have been involved in promoting “One Lebanon,” helping to sell the event bracelets – which will allow holders’ access to the Forum’s standing room area. Organizers have invited the city’s schools to help promote the event by selling the bracelets.

The youth participation is a reminder of who has the most to lose if Lebanon falls into strife.

“One Lebanon, United for Tomorrow” will take place Feb. 1. at Karantina’s Forum de Beyrouth. Bracelets allowing access to the standing area go for LL20,000. Seating ranges from LL75,000 to LL300,000. For ticketing, call 01-999-666.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 30, 2013, on page 16.
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