Following the Ninth: Beethoven's Battle Cry for Freedom Sounds in Kerry Candaele's New Film on 'Symphony No. 9 (Choral)'

By Louise Burton on Jan 23, 2014 06:06 PM EST

Following the Ninth is an unusual documentary film about a single work of music that has inspired millions ever since it was first performed: Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 .

Filmmaker Kerry Candaele traveled to five continents and 10 countries, exploring the global influence of the work and how its messages of freedom and brotherhood continue to inspire people today.

"I have been passionate about Beethoven's Ninth since first discovering the wonders of Beethoven's music in my early twenties," Candaele said. "But not until later would I find that this battle cry for freedom, his insistence within the Ninth that all people must find a connection to our common humanity, had a fascinating history around the globe in various struggles in the fight for human dignity."

When the Chinese military invaded Tiananmen Square in 1989, the protesting students played the "Ode to Joy" as their anthem of liberation. In the same year, Leonard Bernstein conducted the Ninth Symphony at the Berlin Wall, where people were in the process of tearing down that hated symbol of oppression and separation.

And in Chile, during the oppressive Pinochet dictatorship, women gathered to sing the "Ode to Joy" in front of prisons where they knew people were being tortured. Those inside heard the women singing and found hope in their words and in their presence.

"After finding out about these and other parts of the Ninth's history for our time, I had to do this film," Candaele said.

In Japan, he discovers what is perhaps the most monumental performance of all: a yearly concert of Beethoven's Ninth in Osaka, where as many as 10,000 singers gather to perform the work each December.

Known as the Ninth, or Daiku, the performances attract thousands of amateur singers who rehearse for months to learn the challenging chorus parts.

Their 2011 performance, with a professional orchestra and soloists, was dedicated to the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

If Candaele's documentary has a central theme, it is this: Music allows us to transcend, heal, repair and bring people together across every boundary that divides us.

Far from inspiring competition among nations, music has the potential to unite us.

You can experience Beethoven's transcendent anthem of joy at showings of Following the Ninth during its current U.S. tour.

The film's website,, includes a list of cities where the film will be shown in the coming months.

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TagsBeethoven, Ninth Symphony, Beethoven's Ninth, Following the Ninth, Kerry Candaele, Ode To Joy, Tiananmen Square, Leonard Bernstein, Daiku

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