Two Australian artists will join orchestra members from around the world in a special concert series marking the end of Alan Gilbert’s tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Sydney Symphony Orchestra violist Rosemary Curtin and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra principal cellist David Berlin will help celebrate music’s ability to unite and inspire peace and hope.

A conductor long noted for his humanitarian involvement, Gilbert conceived of the project with the New York Philharmonic following discussions with former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson. Taking place in June, Curtin and Berlin will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 7, with special guest artists Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis. They will represent Australia in an international ensemble that features musicians from 18 orchestras around the world. These concerts will launch Gilbert’s new initiative, where musicians from around the world will gather to perform in times of need to promote peace and human rights.

“Music has a unique capacity to connect people’s hearts and souls”, Gilbert said. “How can we, as musicians, do our small part to be a positive forum, to help effect social change and respond to adversity in a world faced with unprecedented challenges? With the inspiration of people such as my good friends Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, and Jan Eliasson…I wanted these final concerts to call attention to the ways in which music can unite people across borders and spread a message of harmony and shared humanity. The New York Philharmonic, which has always been an international ensemble, has done so much as a global ambassador throughout its history, and I am honoured to showcase this message with this great Orchestra in my hometown of New York City.”

David Berlin, who has been with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra since 1989 as principal cellist, said he was honoured to be taking part in the project. “Great music is a powerful way of expressing compassion and support to a community that is in crisis, wherever that may be.”

Rosemary Curtin, violist with the SSO, was similarly enthusiastic, stating “it is an enormous privilege to have been invited and I am thrilled to be representing the SSO in these concerts”, adding “it is always wonderful to make new connections with musicians from around the world.”

Asked why participating in the programme was important to her, Curtin said “music is truly an international language, able to be communicated, understood and appreciated across linguistic and cultural barriers. To be able to participate in such a project at a time of political and social upheaval is especially meaningful.”