Musicians play for peace in annual solstice celebration

The duo Quartermoon, featuring husband-and-wife performers Raven and John Smith, will perform Saturday at the 27th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration.

Courtesy of Quartermoon
Published: Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 4:56 p.m.

On the year’s longest night, local musicians will gather together to celebrate peace and light.


27th Annual Winter Solstice Celebration

What: A musical celebration of peace presented by Veterans For Peace
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 4225 NW 34th St.
Tickets: $10-$30 suggested donation; available in advance at McIntyre Stained Glass Studio & Art Gallery in Thornebrook Village, 2441 NW 43rd St., Suite 11.
Info: 375-2563 or
Performers: Cherokee Peace Chant, Drums of Peace, John Chambers and Friends, Lauren Robinson and Marissa Vario, Quartermoon, Other Voices, The Erasables, The Relics, A Choir of Heavenly Semi-Angels

The Gainesville chapter of Veterans for Peace hosts its Winter Solstice Celebration on Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Now in its 27th year, the event will feature music ranging from 1960s rock and folk to traditional Cherokee chanting and a string ensemble. Performers include The Relics, The Erasables, Other Voices, Quartermoon and others.

“There’s something for everybody, but it’s all on the theme of peace and love,” says master of ceremonies Bill Hutchinson.

The event regularly draws about 400 people, leaving standing room only. While speakers will be in place outside if the Fellowship runs out of room, Hutchinson suggested purchasing tickets in advance and arriving early.

“It’s much better to be inside with all your friends,” he says. The event usually lasts about two and a half hours, including an intermission and a sing-along to classic peace anthems, such as John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Refreshments will be served.

Over the years, Hutchinson, who has hosted the Solstice Celebration since the beginning, has watched the event outgrow it’s original home at the Thomas Center, becoming a key part of Gainesville’s holiday lineup.

“Some people say it’s the true beginning for their holiday,” he said. “They don’t really feel it until they’re in that room, singing the songs.”

Though Hutchinson said Veterans for Peace focuses on advocating against war as a group of people who have experienced it first hand, he stressed that the Solstice Celebration is for peace in general.

“This is a peace concert, not an anti-war concert,” he said. “We’re not there to make people angry.”

The event is also one of the organization’s major fundraisers, with donations going toward such projects as the Peace Poetry Contest and the annual Memorial Mile display.

“We try to encourage people to understand that war is not a video game, and we try to combat violence in all of its forms,” said member Paul Ortiz, who helps organize the event.

The husband-and-wife duo Quartermoon, which features John and Raven Smith, has played in the Solstice Celebration for at least 10 years, Raven Smith says. “It’s just a beautiful, very spiritual event,” she says. “It’s really my personal highlight of the winter holidays.”

Smith says Quartermoon’s music is hard to place in a genre, though some would call it Americana. The duo’s set will feature a mix of covers and original music.

“I feel like this community is really blessed to have an event like this,” Smith says. “We’re just really grateful that they do this, and grateful to be asked to participate.”

Hutchinson says the Solstice Celebration helps continue a tradition that has spanned human history, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

“For thousands of years, people have gotten together on this night to invoke the light,” he said. “It’s a great sense of community.”

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