UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council
UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council


Message from Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)
on the occasion of the UN Chamber Music Society “Golden Record Concert” in honour of the International Day of Human Space Flight (12 April 2020)

[Note: Concert to be rescheduled, due to COVID-19.]


Ladies and gentlemen,

First, I would like to thank the UN Chamber Music Society for organizing this beautiful concert celebrating one of the greatest achievements of humanity in science and technology. I am sorry that I cannot be with you in person as I had been very much looking forward to this evening.

It is a great honour for me to address you on this special occasion – the International Day of Human Spaceflight. Almost sixty years ago on 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin – a Soviet cosmonaut, was sent to space as the first human in history. This event kicked off one of the most adventurous eras in the history of humanity.

In the following decades we have left an unforgettable mark in the tome of space exploration. Landing humans on the Moon, sending more than 230 individuals to the International Space Station, conducting dozens of spacewalks.

And we have also broken boundaries in robotic space exploration. Landing rovers on Mars, probes on an asteroid and a comet, capturing photos of our neighbouring planets and their cosmic companions, images of stellar objects, a black hole and even distant galaxies.

We have discovered that the universe is incredibly huge. But here we are, more than 7.7 billion people and trillions of other organisms sharing this incredible blue planet.

Yet in all the diversity we have discovered the wonder of nature. Shortly after the Big Bang, only basic elements were formed, and it required extreme conditions in the cores of the first stars to manufacture heavier elements.

After the most massive stars exploded, their cores were scattered across the first galaxies and enriched the next generations of stars. This star dust provided key ingredients to the formation of solar systems, planets, moons, asteroids and comets. As time flowed, suitable conditions resulted in the formation of organic molecules and ultimately LIFE.

That same material from the cores of dead stars composes the organs in our body, the blood in our veins, and the neurons in our brain that helped us to reveal this connection between humans and the universe – this cosmic perspective. We are not only a part of this universe, but what is more poetic, is that the universe itself is in every one of us.

It is thanks to the past generations of exploding stars that we are here today, and can listen to some of the most amazing music compositions, cherish the art pieces created over the history, and admire the beauty of Earth, its environment and the organisms with which we share this planet. Keep this in mind next time you look up to marvel at the night sky.


The Golden Records are in a sense time capsules – our legacy drifting through space. And they represent us – our culture, languages, greetings and customs, the sounds of nature, and the beauty of our planet.


Yet more importantly, they resemble the connection between all people – as one humanity. Today, when we as a species face the decisive challenges, the songs from Golden Records remind us who we are, where we came from and that we should treat the Earth and one another with care.

I want to thank Brenda Vongova and the UN Chamber Music Society – an amazing group of musicians, for organizing today’s remarkable concert. As was once said by Pablo Casals, “Music is the divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.”

I wish you a wonderful and memorable evening.



on the occasion of the UN Chamber Music Society Concert for Australia

New York, 18 January 2020


Good evening ladies and gentlemen,


First, I would like to thank Ambassador Fifield, the Permanent Mission of Australia and the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council for organizing this beautiful night of music and show of solidarity.


On behalf of the Australian Red Cross, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support and solidarity.


Since the bushfires began in July of last year, more than 7 million hectares of land have been burned, at least 28 people have lost their lives, almost 2,500 properties have been destroyed and up to 1 billion animals are feared to have died. Whole towns have been evacuated and the smoke, ash and dust from the fires is blanketing cities across the country, compromising air quality, and causing respiratory and health issues.


In the face of this devastating situation, the Australian Red Cross has and will continue to be there to provide relief and recovery. Since July:


  • More than 1,900 Red Cross staff and volunteers have mobilized to respond to more than 20 bushfires and support people in 103 relief and evacuation centres;
  • The location of more than 52,000 people has been registered in an effort to reunite them with their loved ones
  • Immediate needs like food, water and other relief items are being provided along with long-term support in the form of cash grants for people who have lost their homes to the bushfires;
  • Psychological first aid is being provided to reduce trauma and distress and welfare checks are being conducted on the phone and in person;


The reality is that this situation will continue for months compounded by drought and extreme heat. Fires across Victoria and New South Wales are estimated to continue to burn until March 2020 and from experience, the Red Cross knows that recovery from disasters such as this can take years. However, there is hope. We have seen unprecedented generosity from around the world in support of the nationwide response. More than 60 million Australian dollars have been raised in support of the Australian Red Cross and they are planning for the long-term by investing in a tailored recovery program for the next three years.


I would like to close with the words of my colleague and friend Judy Slater, CEO of the Australian Red Cross:


“My family, along with so many other Australians, will continue our treks to the impacted communities we love. The landscape won’t be the same. It will be emotional. There will be confronting signs of this disaster. We will listen to stories of survival, we will do our part to help in the healing. We will see familiar and new faces, who are rebuilding and recovering. We will see Red Cross people. The same ones who dropped everything, cancelled holidays, to help fellow Australians. They will remain there for as long as it takes, for as long as needed.”


As we continue to witness worrying scenes of disaster and destruction caused by the Australian bushfires, remember this message of hope and the power of humanity that continues to be on display by the Red Cross.


Once again, thank you for being here tonight and thank you for your unwavering support.

H.E. Mr. Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz,
Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States to the United Nations


Remarks at the UNITED NATIONS CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY CONCERT on World Arabic Language Day

The Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, 18 December 2019



Dear friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate the “World Arabic Language Day”, a dear occasion to each and every speaker of our beautiful Arabic language…the language of civilization… of culture…of harmony…of co-existence… and most of all the language of peace.

أصحاب السعادة

الأصدقاء الإعزاء

السيدات والسادة

            أود أن أتقدم لكم بالشكر على تشريفكم لنا فى إحتفالنا باليوم العالمى للغة العربية. تلك المناسبة الغالية لكل متحدث بلغتنا العربية الجميلة... لغة الحضارة... لغة الثقافة.. لغة التجانس.. لغة التعايش.. وفوق كل شئ لغة السلام.

The Arabic language has been the corner stone for the establishment of the “League of Arab States” in 1945, and to its evolvement to comprise 22 countries from North Africa and South West Asia, connected by unique common heritage that enriched humanity at large over the years, despite the many crises situations that Arab countries suffered from, some of them regrettably exist up till now.



            لقد شكلت اللغة العربية حجر الأساس فى إقامة جامعة الدول العربية فى عام 1945، وفى تطورها ونموها لتضم الآن 22 دولة من شمال إفريقيا وجنوب غرب آسيا، يجمعها تراث مشترك فريد، أثرى التراث العالمى على مر السنين، على الرغم من الأزمات العديدة التى عانت منها الدول العربية، والتى يظل بعضها قائماً حتى الآن للأسف.



The Arab music is an essential component of our Arab language, and of our Arab identity, and the diversity you see in today’s program is only a reflection of our firm belief that diversity is a source of strength, in instruments, in artists, in rhythms and in tones, and most of all in connecting Arab music to other musics wherever they are in the world.



   لاشك أن الموسيقى العربية تشكل أحدى المكونات الرئيسية للغتنا وهويتنا العربية. ولعل ما تشهدونه من تنوع فى برنامج حفلنا اليوم يعكس لكم إيماننا الراسخ بأن التعددية والتنوع هما مصدر من مصادر القوة، في الآلات الموسيقية، في الموسيقيين، في الألحان والإيقاع، وفوق كل ذلك في ربط الموسيقى العربية مع باقي الموسيقات في العالم إينما وجدت.



I would like, therefore, to thank the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council (UNCMS), in association with Edge of Arabia , and to thank in particular Ms. Brenda Vongova, the founder and artistic director, for organizing this celebration, and to thank each and every member of this wonderful and diverse orchestra, for all their efforts to enhance Arabic cultural heritage through music,  and to re-emphasize the role of the United Nations and its specialized agencies in keeping the common heritage of mankind, in particular in our contemporary Arab world.


            ولذا فإنني أود أن أتقدم بالشكر لمجمع موسيقى الغرفة بالأمم المتحدة، المنبثق عن مجلس الأنشطة الترفيهية لموظفي الأمم المتحدة، بالتنسيق مع منظمة Edge of Arabia ، وبصفة خاصة السيدة بريندا فونجوفا، المؤسسة والمديرة الفنية، على تنظيم هذه الاحتفالية، وأن أشكر كل عضو في هذه الفرقة الموسيقية الرائعة والمتنوعة، على كافة مجهوداتهم لتعزيز التراث الثقافي العربي من خلال الموسيقى، وأن أعاود التأكيد على دور الأمم المتحدة ووكالاتها المتخصصة في الحفاظ على التراث العالمي للإنسانية، خاصة في عالمنا العربي المعاصر.

Happy World Arabic Language Day.

كل عام وأنتم بخير بمناسبة اليوم العالمي للغة العربية.

Enjoy the show.

أرجوا أن تستمتعوا بالعرض.

The secretary-general


Message to United Nations Chamber Music Society Concert for the Bahamas

New York, 20 October 2019


It is a pleasure to greet all those gathered for this concert in support of the people of the Bahamas following the devastating Hurricane Dorian.  I commend the United Nations Chamber Music Society for its initiative.


I visited the Bahamas last month, and was startled and saddened by what I saw: hospitals in ruins; schools turned to rubble; people coping with the loss of their loved ones, homes and communities. 


The impacts of today’s turbo-charged hurricanes and storms are falling most heavily on countries, such as the Bahamas, with the lowest greenhouse emissions, and on the poorest and most vulnerable people in those countries. 


I thank all of you, and the Chamber Music Society, for your commitment to climate action, to helping people in need and to advancing the values of the United Nations. 


Please accept my best wishes for a memorable evening.



New York, 20 October 2019


Ambassador Carey, Ambassador Sherman-Peter, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Brenda,


As Ambassador Carey reminded us, Hurricane Dorian carved a terrible path of death and destruction across the Bahamas. The storm left a country shaken; families mourning loved ones; people deprived of their livelihoods; parts of the country with badly damaged infrastructure; and survivors, among them thousands of traumatized children.


Together with UN sister agencies, UNICEF sprang quickly into action to support the Government’s relief efforts. From our regional warehouse in Panama, we immediately shipped urgently needed water and sanitation supplies, including six water tanks (of 5,000 litres capacity each), 1,000 jerry cans for 500 families and 100 packs of water purification tablets, which we handed over to four clinics caring for around 5,000 people in four communities.


And our work continues. UNICEF is now actively supporting the Government’s recovery plan. Our collective aim is to bring 10,000 displaced children back to school, thus ensuring that the storm does not have lasting effects on the learning and future development of these children. To this end, UNICEF has already provided 120 recreational kits for affected schools and trained 65 school counsellors, psychologists and pre-school teachers who are now carefully reinserting children into the learning environment of their schools.


The donations that you, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, make available today will be used to sustain these important education and psycho-social activities.


I want to thank you Brenda and the wonderful musicians of the UN Chamber Music Society for organizing today’s beautiful concert. Through music, you have allowed us listeners to reflect on the ‘nature of the universe’. We are about to witness a musical transformation from ‘peace and quiet to a raging storm’, before we experience ‘hope’ again. It is this hope which inspires us in UNICEF and which – thanks to your generous support today – we can help rebuild for the children in the Bahamas.


I thank you. 


Message from Luis Alfonso de Alba,
Special Envoy of the Secretary-General fo the Climate Change Summit 2019

Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, 8 October 2019


Ladies & Gentleman,

I had been very much looking forward to this evening and I am sorry that I cannot be there in person.

Last month the United Nations Secretary-General hosted a Climate Action Summit where leaders of countries and leaders of multinational companies were invited to put forward their plans for how they intend to respond to the climate crisis.


What is very clear is that as the world increasingly turns its attention to addressing and overcoming the existential challenges that humanity faces, we are going to have to come together to find common solutions and make the most of common opportunities. And we are going to have to show solidarity with those most impacted.

If we are to have any hope of taking action at the ambition and scale needed to succeed, we will have to set aside our differences. We will have to focus on what binds us rather than divides us.

Since the dawn of civilization and even before that, nothing has had more power to bring people together than the arts. And among the arts, no medium has the power that music has to communicate so clearly, unambiguously and effectively, and to do so without words and without misunderstanding.

Music has a wonderful ability to transcend barriers such as language and geography and remind us of our common humanity.

The themes of this evening - water, wind, air, fire and earth – represent very clearly in my mind the scope of the problems that we face. But at the same time these primordial elements of nature also hold the keys to our survival.

I am optimistic that by reminding ourselves that we are not separate or detached from nature, we will do what is needed to secure a prosperous future for ourselves and for the generations yet to come.

Music can play an important part in this process of grounding and renewal.

Thank you and enjoy your evening.

Message to the UN Chamber Music Society from the Rector-Archpriest of Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris, Monsignor Patrick Chauvet 

12 April 2019


Dear all,


It is very heartwarming for me to see this friendship on the other side of the ocean.  I knew I could count on you and your help.


The Cathedral is a sign of our friendship with the UN and as soon as I will be able to, I will come to you to reaffirm my affinity to this friendship.


Thank you for everything.


In communion, 
Mgr. Patrick Chauvet

Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the  UN Chamber Music Society Concert to Honour the Legacy of the Notre-Dame Cathedral
Delivered by UNESCO Representative to the UN, Ricardo de Guimarães Pinto

New York, 9 May 2019


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very touched to address you on behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, who has asked me to represent her tonight on behalf of our Organization.

We are all heartbroken as we recall the images of the devastating fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Notre-Dame has been for centuries a powerful and globally-known symbol through its exceptional architecture, its spiritual role, its place in history, its literary and artistic heritage. It is this universal value that UNESCO recognized and honoured by inscribing Notre-Dame on the World Heritage List in 1991, as part of the site “Paris, Banks of the Seine”.

This terrible event, as with all of the priceless losses and destruction that have too often marked our recent history, is an opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the protection of heritage. The shock, sadness and extraordinary outpouring of support following the fire at Notre-Dame shows just how valuable these places are. It also demonstrates in powerful terms the mobilizing force of heritage. It is a link that connects us across borders and between communities, and gives us the stable foundation needed for building our common future.

France has always been particularly active in supporting UNESCO’s mission to safeguard heritage. UNESCO stands by France's side in safeguarding and rehabilitating this invaluable heritage.

Director-General Audrey Azoulay immediately expressed the support of the international community to France as she quickly arrived at the site the evening of the fire. The following day, the UNESCO Executive Board made an unprecedented declaration of international support, later presented to the President of the Republic of France, Emmanuel Macron.

UNESCO is ready to deploy an emergency response mission to Notre-Dame, to support the authorities in their efforts to evaluate the damage, stabilize the structure and prevent further deterioration of this priceless monument.


Protecting and preserving the world's cultural heritage is at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate.  Since 2015, UNESCO has deployed emergency missions to more than 50 countries around the world to safeguard and rehabilitate heritage following disasters: just last month, UNESCO’s World Heritage Fund provided funding to Ethiopia to respond to the devastating fires at Simien National Park, a World Heritage site that serves as a crucial habitat for several endangered species.


In Iraq, UNESCO is also striving to revive the Spirit of Mosul by rebuilding its historic Old City and reinvigorating its cultural life and educational institutions.


For us and for future generations, we have a responsibility to ensure that our past can be the guiding light for our future.

UNESCO Director-General welcomes this initiative organized by the United Nations Chamber Music Society, which stands as a symbol of global cultural solidarity.

It is a wonderful example of international cooperation through our UN family and with the New York City community, to overcome our shared tragedies together.

I thank you and wish you, on behalf of the Director-General, an excellent concert.



UN Chamber Music Society Concert to honour the legacy of the Notre-Dame cathedral

Statement by Ms. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations,  on behalf of H.E. Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations

New York, 9 May 2019


Dear friends from the United Nations and from the foreign Missions,
Dear Brenda Vongova and member of the UN Chamber Music Society,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am both deeply moved and very honoured to be here tonight, and to deliver remarks on behalf of Ambassador François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations. He sends his warmest regards and deepest regrets not to be with us.

To see you gathered here to celebrate Notre-Dame de Paris touches all French hearts. It is truly uplifting. It is an illustration that Notre-Dame is far more than a 850 year-old French treasure, that it has meaning beyond our borders.  In today’s edition of the New York times, the chief of the Paris bureau of the paper wrote that “Parisian grief was universal and ecumenical”, and your presence today is testimony to that.


We were all shocked to see the cathedral in flames and its spire collapsing on April 15th. Many of us cried when the news hit. It was so sudden. Accounts of that night are full of silent weeping. One thousand years burning in one night aches and it will continue to haunt us. There are of course many layers to our collective and personal sense of grief.


Notre Dame is an astonishing Gothic masterpiece. It is a magnificent house of worship with special significance for Catholics, and the shrine of historical relics.  It is the heart of Paris and the epicentre of France, the origin of all its roads. It is also a special witness of France’s History, of major moments – happy or unfortunate, and the place where the Nation gathered on particular occasions: end of wars, funerals of national figures. It is a core part of our cultural heritage, and the main character of Victor Hugo’s famous novel. As the romantic author would put it, we can say that Notre-Dame is an exceptional book of stones that tells the universal story of mankind, an ultimate summary and summation of human intelligence and genius throughout history.


That is why we were so heartbroken to see a part of us turn to ashes. There was an overwhelming fear of loss, an inescapable sense of our common vulnerability. 

But beyond, we have been struck by the outpouring of friendship and solidarity that we have been receiving. We have received countless letters, flowers and donations. We have been particularly touched by the words of our friends at the United Nations, especially by those of the Secretary-General, of the President of the General Assembly and of the Director-General of the UNESCO. We understood with your messages that Notre-Dame is more than a part of French identity, that it is a part of our common world heritage. It belongs to the category of special sacred places across the world that embody the depth of history and testify to humanity’s highest aspirations and achievements. 


And in the aftermaths of the fire, we have seen hope, thanks to your support. President Macron said it the very night of the fire: We will rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris. We lost an irreplaceable treasure with the roof of the cathedral, known as “the forest”, dating back from the Middle Ages. But the structure, even if wounded, survived. The cathedral has suffered many disasters in its history, but it always rose from them.

We will rebuild Notre-Dame de Paris. And we will do it collectively, thanks to your support. So on behalf of the French government and of the French Mission, let me express our gratitude to you and say a simple word: merci. Your solidarity leaves me confident that we will continue to work hand in hand, not just to rebuild Notre Dame, but to continue building on the values and ideals of the United Nations. 

Tonight, to recapture the timeless atmosphere of the cathedral, we will have the pleasure of listening to the UN Chamber Music Society, under the direction of Brenda Vongova, whom I would like to thank warmly, as well as all the musicians who will play tonight. They will interpret a selection of pieces that are inherently linked to the rich musical history of Notre-Dame de Paris, from the composers of the 12th century Notre Dame school of polyphony, to the more recent Hunchback of Notre-Dame. 


As Victor Hugo emphasized, “music expresses that which cannot be put into words, and that which cannot remain silent.”

Thank you for your generosity, your friendship, and your support.


I wish you a nice evening.




Delivered by Mark Seddon

New York, 9 May 2019

Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations,

Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO,
Ms. Brenda Vongova, Artistic Director and all members of the United Nations Chamber Music Society,

Ladies and Gentleman,


I am very sorry that I cannot be with you this evening. I am currently in Ghana, having earlier travelled to Chad and to Nigeria. However, I am very definitely with you in spirit.


There are totemic times in each of our lives when we live through history and never forget where we were long afterwards. The day of the terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral and the shocking sight of the collapse of the iconic spire in flames is one such day.


I shall never forget it.


The global response and the reaction in France to this national tragedy has been profoundly moving. The desire to rebuild and restore Notre Dame has seized the public imagination.


Today, we send solidarity and support from the United Nations here in New York to the people of Paris and France. We do so courtesy of our wonderful United Nations Chamber Music Society and we thank Brenda Vongova and her fellow musicians for their initiative. And need I remind you that all proceeds from this event will go towards the reconstruction of Notre Dame via UNESCO.


Notre Dame Cathedral is already rising from the ashes! Let us do what we can to help it do so.

Thank you and please enjoy the evening!


Message from Maestro Jaap van Zweden and Aaltje van Zweden

UN Chamber Music Society
Music Therapy Concert

Carnegie Hall, 15 January 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen,


On this very special evening, Aaltje and I send our warmest greetings and congratulations to all connected with the United Nations Chamber Music Society, Music Therapy Concert. We commend the UN Chamber Music Society, which helps to promote the universal values of the United Nations, for its belief in the power of the arts to heal, and for dedicating this concert to music therapy.


We know from first-hand experience with our son Benjamin the power of music and music therapy, and music’s ability to reach the heart and soul more directly than words can. Our work in music therapy with autistic children and young adults for the Papageno Foundation over the last 20 plus years has taught us so much, and we share with all of you the belief in the power of music therapy and healing. 


We especially congratulate Dr. Gabriel Sara of the Helen Sawaya Fund and the Philharmonic’s Associate Principal Cello Eileen Moon-Myers, along with many other New York Philharmonic colleagues playing tonight (Michelle Kim, Qianqian Li, Cong Wu, Patrick Jee, Nathan Vickery), in taking the actions they have in understanding and acting on the importance of music in healing. 


This special concert for Music Therapy is also a tribute to the Mount Sinai Health System in understanding the connection of body, mind and soul. This is a wonderful project, and we send our best wishes and congratulations to all!

The secretary-general


Message to UN Chamber Music Society Benefit Concert

for Rohingya Refugees

Baruch Performing Arts Center, New York, 25 June 2018


It is a pleasure to greet all those attending this benefit event.


Since August last year, more than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, seeking refuge from violence and persecution. The Government and the people of Bangladesh have opened their borders and welcomed these refugees in their hour of need. Bangladeshi non-governmental organizations such as BRAC, as well as UN agencies and international NGO partners, have also provided life-saving assistance and protection.


For the 1.3 million refugees and host community families, many of whom are themselves living on the edge, the needs are enormous. Each day, just to survive, they require more than 16 million litres of clean drinking water and 400 tonnes of food. Over half of those in need of help are children.


Music is a universal language.  So are acts of kindness.  I thank the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations, as well as the UN Chamber Music Society, BRAC and all those who have made today’s event possible for translating music into much needed support for the Rohingya people and the host communities of Bangladesh.


Please accept my best wishes for a memorable evening.

UN Chamber Music Society - Holiday Benefit Concert

Opening Remarks by Mr. Ty McKeiver, Chief of Staff NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs
New York, 3 December 2017


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


Good Evening.  I am Ty McKeiver, and on behalf of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, it is my honor to welcome you here to All Saints Episcopal Church this evening.  I wish to express sincere thanks to Reverend Steven Yagerman, for kindly hosting this concert at this beautiful venue.  Tonight, the musicians of the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council are bringing us together for a wonderful Holiday Concert benefitting the fight against hunger.  I commend the UN Chamber Music Society for dedicating this evening to New Yorkers in need – and helping to promote the universal values of the United Nations.


Mayor de Blasio and my office take great pride in our role as host city to the United Nations and the largest diplomatic community in the world, with 193 Missions and 114 consulates.  Our city’s diversity is our strength and the UN community comes to our city from across the globe, just like so many New Yorkers.  New York City doesn’t only benefit from the physical presence of the United Nations headquarters, just a few blocks away. My office provides a global platform from which New York City exchanges best practices with the international community to achieve a shared vision of a more sustainable, equitable city and planet.


We know that cities are on the forefront of addressing some of humanity’s toughest problems – problems like poverty and income inequality, affordable housing, discrimination, climate change, and an issue that we are tackling today at this Concert: hunger and food insecurity.  In April 2015, Mayor de Blasio committed New York City to OneNYC, a ground breaking strategic plan for inclusive and sustainable growth.  This strategy took stock of New York City’s significant challenges and charted a path forward to achieving goals such as lifting 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty, expanding access to nutritious and affordable foods, and ensuring that those on the front lines of climate change – often the most vulnerable New Yorkers – are protected against its risks.


But we understand that we can’t do it alone; that we must do more; and that we must work together to transform our world.  So through organizations like the Food Bank for New York City, which was founded nearly 35 years ago with the mission to end hunger, approximately 350,000 children, the working poor, immigrants, the elderly, and people with disabilities, receive meals and are supported by other resources needed to survive.


And tonight, through the universal language of music, the UN Chamber Music Society symbolizes our firm belief in the power of the arts in bringing people and nations together for a common cause – to fight against hunger. Founded in January 2016 by Brenda Vongova, the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council is a group of accomplished musicians and admirers of classical chamber music within the international community.  The performances by the UN Chamber Music Society are dedicated to promoting the UN goals at large through their creative power to move audiences and help promote the universal values of the United Nations.


As Mayor de Blasio said recently, the values that New Yorkers hold dear – inclusion, diversity, creative freedom, and cultural expression – make this city the cultural capital of the world.  Tonight, we are delighted to be dazzled by their melodies and exciting musical arrangements.  Please join me in welcoming the UN Chamber Music Society!

Alan Gilbert Opening Remarks

UN Chamber Music Society

Bohemian National Hall, New York, 4 May 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today’s concert by the musicians of the UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council reflects two of my greatest aspirations.  The first is associated with the UN, an organization I greatly admire for its decades of acting on the belief that what all of humanity has in common is far more powerful and far more important than any differences of culture, ethnicity, religion, or nationality.

The second is that this performance was conceived to complement The New World Initiative, one of the ways that the New York Philharmonic is celebrating our 175th anniversary season by saluting New York City and its role as our home.  We have invited all musicians throughout the city – professionals, amateurs, and students – to unite through performances of Dvořák’s Symphony No.9, From the New World, or through their own interpretations of it.

The great Czech composer’s powerful and passionate symphony is the perfect centrepiece for this celebration, and not only because of the place it holds in the Philharmonic’s legacy, as the first work we premiered that went on to become a central part of the symphonic repertoire.  This masterpiece, composed in New York, is quintessentially of New York in the way it blends the Old World with the New by incorporating folk elements from both Europe and America.  In this way the symphony speaks both to our citywide project and to the peaceful and mutually enriching fusion of cultures that the UN has always promoted.

I commend the UN Chamber Music Society for dedicating this evening to the Czech Republic and The New World Initiative, and for helping to promote the universal values of the United Nations.  Through the universal language of music, the Society echoes our own firm belief in the power of the arts to bring people and nations together.

I also wish to express sincere thanks to Her Excellency Ambassador Marie Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the United Nations, for her kind support and patronage of this concert.

By Katarina Mansson

The Executive Council of the UN Chamber Music Society
of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council


President & Artistic Director:
Ms. Brenda Vongova

Honorary Artistic Adviser:
Mr. Christopher Tin, 2x Grammy Award winning composer

Ms. Anne-Chris Visser

Public Relations Adviser:
Mr. Firas Kayal

Special Adviser:
Mr. Mohammed Shaker

Ms. Ruxandra Ferascu

Ms. Yulya Vanetik

UNCMS Advisory Board
Ms. Eileen Moon, Associate Principal Cello, New York Philharmonic

Professor Natasha Brofsky,
The Juilliard School 

  Ms. Megumu Tagami 

  Ms. Karmen Kolombo

  Ms. Sophia Ostapenko


United Nations Headquarters
UN Chamber Music Society

of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council
c/o Ms. Brenda Vongova (S-3802)
New York, NY, 10017


Email: info@unchambermusic.org

Social Media:

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Painting by Adolph Menzel (1850 - 1852).  Frederick the Great plays flute in his summer palace Sanssouci, with Franz Benda playing violin, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach accompanying on keyboard, and unidentified string players.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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© 2016 UN Chamber Music Society of the United Nations Staff Recreation Council