Last month, 230 Soviet citizens and 200 Americans decided to take a walk together--across the United States. Starting in Washington, the international caravan made its way to Maryland and then went on to Delaware. As the trek continued, temperatures soared past 100 degrees and all thoughts of the Cold War fizzled. This group had peace on its mind.
Saturday, the same band of factory workers and farmhands, teachers and students, artists and politicians, among so many others, will arrive in Los Angeles. As part of their two-day stay, the International Peace Walkers will be the guests of honor at a special benefit concert at Burbank’s Starlight Amphitheatre.
The American Soviet Folk Festival will feature rock groups, jazz bands and gospel singers helping to celebrate what producer Bill McCarthy is calling a “musical summit.”
Timemachine, a four-member group touted as “the Beatles of the Soviet Union,” will arrive in the United States this week to be one of the show’s headliners. Among the American bands performing, local favorite X will be joined by poet Wanda Coleman and guitarist Dave Alvin to play a set of country-rock music.
“The government is so unresponsive that it’s up to private people to take the initiative in terms of forming policy,” said John Doe of X. “The concert, and other types of events, can only expand awareness.
“Once the public realizes that Soviets, or Central Americans, or any other group of people, are not monsters, then you’re getting somewhere.”
Other Soviet performers in the lineup include folk singer Alexander Gradsky, who previously toured the United States with singer John Denver; the Telephone Trust, an acoustic group making its U.S. debut; the Ukrainian Choir, six female vocalists who perform in authentic Soviet costumes, and the Soviet Youth Performance Troupe, musicians and dancers who entertain with puppets.
The Ukranian Choir and the youth troupe have been traveling with the walkers since their trek began and performed several shows along the way. They were so well received that the Soviet government allowed Timemachine and Gradsky to come to Los Angeles for Saturday’s show, McCarthy said.
Jesse Colin Young, Hamilton Camp and blues singer Barbara Dane, who will be accompanied by the George Probert Monrovia Old Style Jazz Band, are among the Americans who will perform in the same show. Floyd Westerman will play on drums indigenous to American Indian tribes. The H.B. Barnum Life Choir will sing gospel.
The Barnum group--more than 80 singers from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Las Vegas--recently performed in the Freedom Fest in London, said H.B. Barnum, the choir’s founder and director.
‘Peace in the Music’
“Music is something that everybody can understand,” Barnum said. “An audience may not understand the language or the customs of a country, but they find peace in the music. The whole point is to make people realize there are more important things than knocking each other out. Any little thing we can do to bring people together is important--and music is the glue.”
This year’s walk and concert follow on the heels of last year’s American-Soviet Walk, when 230 Americans joined 200 Soviet citizens on a 450-mile hike from Leningrad to Moscow. The event culminated in a Soviet-American rock concert held in Moscow on the Fourth of July. James Taylor, Santana and the Doobie Brothers appeared at that concert.
Allan Affeldt, founder of International Peace Walk, said such walks are meant to symbolize a step toward peace and reconciliation between the two nations. It was his organization that joined with the Soviet Peace Committee to arrange last year’s march and subsequent events.
In August, another group of Americans is scheduled to make a monthlong journey through the Ukrainian Republic of the U . S . S . R. Then, in 1989, additional peace walks are planned for Georgia in the United States and the Soviet region of Georgia.
The Americans who participate in such happenings can discover that some of the opinions they hold about Soviet citizens are archaic.
Tracy Zeluff, a 27-year-old Hollywood resident and West Coast regional coordinator of this year’s walk, said the stereotypes she held were shattered once she met the Soviet people.
‘Get a Different Perspective’
“I thought all Soviets were unhappy and weighed down by government restrictions. I thought they all wore drab clothes and were always waiting in lines,” Zeluff said. “You get a different perspective though, once you meet them. The Soviet Union is different, but the people aren’t so different from us in a lot of basic ways.”
“As the saying goes, ‘We went to the Soviet Union to meet our enemy and found they weren’t there,’ ” said Mim Broderick, 69, of Studio City, who attended both last year’s and this year’s walks.
Saturday’s concert will end with all of the performers joining together to sing Beatle John Lennon’s famous song “Imagine.”
Under the stars, Latvian speech therapist Irena Berzinya, Turkman worker Amanklych Berdiev, Lithvanian factory mechanic Piatras Kunigonia and Uzbekistan fifth-grader Atabek Yuldashev, along with all the others in the audience, will have the chance to share Lennon’s vision and imagine a world filled with peace.
Tickets for the American Soviet Folk Festival are available through all Ticketron outlets and cost $15.50 and $12.50.