Playing For Peace


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Ella and Owen Yarmo-Gray with their teacher, Mayumi Lehr, and the hibaku piano

The piano that Ella and Owen Yarmo-Gray played at their recital last Friday looked as if it had seen better days. It had. Days before the world devised a weapon so powerful that it could kill 100,000 people in one go. The piano, you see, is what the Japanese call a hibaku, a survivor of the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

The hibaku piano traveled outside Japan for the first time last week, brought to the U.S. to help the world mark another devastating event, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. And at its first concert, at the Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew on Manhattan’s West Side, the two Verona students became the first American children ever to perform on it. When it is not being played, the piano is adorned with 1,000 paper origami cranes, the Japanese symbol of peace.

The Yarmo-Grays were invited to the concert by their Bloomfield-based piano teacher Mayumi Lehr, who also played. Owen, who has been taking lessons for four years, performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, while Ella, who has been playing piano for seven years, performed the fourth movement of Beethoven’s first piano Sonata. Ella repeated her performance at a September 12 hibaku piano at the New York Buddhist Church.

The first video below, taken by Japanese television, shows Ella performing. Owen’s performance is below.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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