James Twyman sings for peace, children
James Twyman takes a break from the Durango Film Festival
outside the Strater Hotel on Monday. Twyman is in
Durango to perform a peace concert Friday night in
conjunction with the film fest. He has performed his
concerts in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Croatia.
Proceeds from Friday’s show will benefit children
in Baghdad affected by the war./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
It has been almost a year now since the United States
invaded Iraq to depose the country’s leader, but
Oregon singer/songwriter James Twyman is still hoping
for peace. In fact, he’s singing for it.
Friday night, as part of a special Durango Film Festival
event, Twyman will entertain and inspire a Durango audience
who is as interested in obtaining peace in Iraq and other
politically volatile nations as he is. Those who attend
his benefit Peace Concert will not only contribute to
the energy of evoking peace through congregating and organizing,
they also will provide financial support for sheltering
Iraqi children who are homeless because of the battle.
For Twyman, the Durango concert adds to an already long
list of peace concerts he has performed throughout the
world. His concerts are an effort to use a mass of energy,
which he believes has an impact on world events. As nebulous
as singing peace songs may seem, Twyman believes in the
His endeavor started a decade ago when someone gave him
peace prayers from 12 major religions of the world. The
prayers profoundly impacted Twyman, who grew up in a “traditional
Catholic home.” He sat down with them and within
an hour had written music to accompany them. That swift
creativity reinforced Twyman’s ideals that he was
given a gift to promote peace. From there, he felt an
undeniable obligation to share these prayers and his music
with audiences. After all, he says, peace isn’t
“The root of the problems in the world is spiritual,”
he says while sitting in the Strater Hotel lobby earlier
this week. “These problems that lead to war are
not political problems, but are spiritual in nature.”
It’s true that Twyman is a religious man. He says
he grew up wanting to become either a rock star or a priest.
“I was a mix of St. Francis and Bono,” he
says with wit.
He studied for two years to become a priest but never
fulfilled the dream. Instead, he found a way to mix his
two passions of spirituality and music. Since writing
the music for the peace prayers, Twyman has developed
a repertoire of other spiritually inspired songs. As a
one-man performer, he enhances his guitar playing by layering
it with high-tech electronics and other instruments including
a Tibetan singing bowl and a wooden flute. The music is
part new age, part progressive and part mystical. The
lyrics provide the message – and were key to prompting
spiritual leaders nicknaming Twyman the “peace troubadour.”
Twyman has performed the Peace Concerts in Iraq, Northern
Ire-land, Bosnia, Croatia, South Africa, Mexico and Serbia
– always at the behest of world leaders. He says
there are dozens of stories about how he believes these
concerts and audience participation have influenced world
events. Take Iraq, for example. Former ruler Sadaam Hussein
invited Twyman in 1998 to perform his concert in Baghdad.
This was the first time Twyman asked people around the
world to pray for a peaceful solution to the upheaval
in this country. Twyman later learned that during his
concert (this was after the United Nations inspector was
kicked out of the country), former President Bill Clinton
had sanctioned the military to bomb Iraq.
“Planes were in the air and everything was ready
to go,” Twyman explains.
But at some point, someone halted the orders. The bombing
did not happen – then.
a film produced and co-written by James Twyman, will
screen following his Friday performance. The film
is billed as an exploration into the decisions we
make and the fine line between success and failure,
love and regret.
“This seems to happen over and over again, and
it begins to be a phenomenal thing,” Twyman says.
“Some people might say it’s a coincidence,
but I don’t believe that to be true.”
Twyman’s nonprofit foundation, The Beloved Community,
grew from his peace promoting. Based in Ashland, Ore.,
the foundation works toward creating a world “of
lasting compassion and peace.” Besides providing
courses for people to discover their own inner spirituality,
it also undertakes several humanitarian projects. The
foundation, though based on “esoteric” Christianity,
focuses on a universal path to peace.
“We don’t have any agenda,” Twyman
explains. “The greater goal is to promote wholeness.
We can’t have a world where there are just the desires
and motivations of one country. That’s not very
He’s mindful to say that this isn’t a political
movement. He and his supporters are pro-peace –
hoping to change world events by promoting, not protesting.
That’s one of Twyman’s chief goals next week,
when he will return to Baghdad. An entourage of spiritual
and aboriginal leaders from around the world (including
Durango Film Festival Executive Director Sofia Van Surksum)
will accompany him. They will gather at the city’s
National Theater to offer prayers and ceremonies of peace
for the world.
Timing is important, Twyman says, because an end to the
yearlong fatal conflict does not appear imminent. In addition
to the concert, Twyman will visit, for the first time,
the Children’s Center in Iraq. Twyman’s Beloved
Community funded the center, which opened in December
and shelters children who have been left homeless from
the war. Beloved Community volunteers staff the rented
Currently, he says nearly 20 children – ranging
in ages from 7 to 12 years old – live in the home,
where they receive food and shelter. It is also a safe
haven from perpetrators, because many of them are being
“preyed upon” by adults – crimes that
Twyman will not discuss.
“There are various situations for each of them.
But they are all suffering.”
Twyman intends to make the day important enough to prompt
coverage from world media outlets. That’s why his
cadre of supporters includes so many spiritual luminaries.
“We are trying to have one positive story coming
out of Baghdad that day,” he says. He believes the
event will garner major publicity.
Though the Iraqi war – and political strife elsewhere
across the globe – may continue to rage, Twyman’s
message is optimistic: There is hope for creating a new
“I want Durango audiences to know that the ways
we’ve been solving our problems for a long time
don’t work. The solutions are about politicians
or policies. Each person has a part to play in attaining
peace. Peace is in the best interest of everyone. Itthe
only thing to do.”