YOUNGSTOWN -- An unusual panorama of personal stories relating to war -- relayed through songs, poems and letters -- will be staged Saturday by First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown. The free program, "Songs and Stories of War," will represent accounts of war from early European conflicts to the current war in Iraq, said organizer Claudia Andres, the church's music director.
"It's kind of a cool concept," she said. "We do theme concerts all of the time, but never one like this. We had been to a Decemberists [alternative rock] concert and also heard [British folk singer] Richard Thompson recently, and they both had songs about war and we got to thinking how many songs there are that tell stories of war. I also have two sons in the military and, of course, that has something to do with it; it's a little more emotional for me.
"But this program is not for or against anything, it's just a way to describe war," Andres said. "And we're holding it in honor of Veterans Day."
The program will feature classical, rock, country, folk and pop music performed by a number of local artists. They include Michael Harris, Mike Killian, John Golba, Joe Malvestuto, Jerry and Claudia Andres, and the Wilson High School Ensemble.
They will perform work from such diverse artists as Ned Rorem, the Decemberists, Johnny Cash and Kurt Weill.
"This is going to be a real mixing of the ages," said Claudia Andres, also a Wilson High School music teacher. "My high school students really appreciate the poetry and music, and my 9-year-old knows the words to the music we're doing with the band.
"My son, Adam, gave me the country music because he's a big fan, and he said they tell great stories. People will recognize 'I'll Be Seeing You' from World War II, and we'll feature Civil War songs taken from letters and poems. We also have some poems written by people who have served in Iraq."
Andres' 20-year-old son, Adam Zerby, is currently enrolled in ROTC at Niagara University, having served in the U.S. Army Reserve. Her son, Ian Zerby, 21, was deployed last year to Southwest Asia as an Airman 1st Class in the U.S. Air Force in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron. He is stateside now, about to graduate from an air assault program in Georgia this week, Andres said.
The program will start at 7 p.m. in the church at 100 Church St.
It is part of the "Second Saturday Concert Series," which runs from October to May. Donations will be accepted -- to be used for the ongoing series -- and refreshments will be served following the program.