I like the sound of that. Amidst all the hustle and bustle surrounding recent events with the Louisville Orchestra and Kentucky Opera (which likely won’t have an orchestra for their next production) and with the Louisville Bach Society‘s finally closing shop this past May, things are looking grim for large scale music/arts organizations.
But this isn’t going to be a post about the doom and gloom locally, but one about something I’ve been thinking about for some time: a large scale non-Western organization. I don’t know if I would want to end up calling this an “Arabic Orchestra” and solely focusing on art music from that region, but it’s a placeholder for now. What Id ideally like to see is a truly international ensemble which focuses on art musics from all around the world. Similar to the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra or the MESTO Orchestra I’ve talked about in past posts (though on an even bigger scale).
An Arabic Orchestra seems natural given most of my association with folks throughout the US who are interested in music from that part of the world but also because of how quickly ensembles like this are growing and emerging throughout the US. But mostly because I’ve recently tapped into a local population of musicians who might be able to populate such a group.
Sadly, organizations like the League of American Orchestras and the infrastructure of the arts in the US is generally Eurocentric (for good and ill) which makes almost all such endeavors rely on very local and grassroots level. But seeing how much the Michigan Arab Orchestra and the New York Arabic Orchestra have expanded their reach and/or shifted their operational models on how the typically Eurocentric ensembles work, it is encouraging to see that some of that infrastructure can also be useful.
Of course, a full scale orchestra is a discussion for later. Right now I and some of my cohorts in Ahel El Nagam want to get a regular Middle Eastern music meetup going where we can start to draw in the local musicians who already play in these traditions or just musicians that would love to learn more about it. While this picks up I will be sorting through different logistic/economic factors and talking and reseraching A LOT with the folks who are currently running ensembles/orchestras like this in the US (e.g. Bassam Saba, Michael Ibrahim, George Boolos, Scott Marcus, Ali Jihad Racy) or educational resources for this music, and connecting with the more local/regional talent (e.g. Members of Salaam in Bloomington, IN; George Wakim in Lexington, KY) in ways so that we can maximize potential.
Until then, all I can do is watch what is happening here and help how little I can with the resources I do have.
As an extension of this World Nomads partnership, Saba and his orchestra now bring to FIAF a wealth of musical exploration and performance, ranging from Arabic music to western classical method. Featured programming includes summer classes for kids and teens as part of FIAF’s summer camp program, a Fall 2011 concert/presentation as part of FIAF’s Young Audience Program, and the Arabic Music Semester Intensive (AMSI), a year-long program of beginner-through-advanced monthly workshops in theory, rhythm, and improvisation for adults and teens, starting on February 26. See spring schedule below.
Formed in 2007, the Orchestra is a 30-piece ensemble specializing in the performance of classical, contemporary, and popular vocal Arabic music. Its members, hailing from multiple music-professional and cultural backgrounds, form sections of oud (Arabic lute), nay (Arabic reed flute), the qanun (Arabic zither), Arabic percussion, Western strings, woodwinds, and chorus. Bassam Saba, known throughout the U.S. and abroad as one of Arabic music’s finest conductors, has led the NYAO via strict, intense training to an authentic sound and quality regarded highly around the world.
Thursday March 3, 2011 at 7 pm
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch
350 Georgia St.
Alice MacKay Hall (Lower Level)
But what really sold me to this group–other than the fact they are doing what I would love to be doing with an ensemble, is this:
For the third presentation in the 2010-2011 edition of our educational series Music of the Whole World, the VICO is proud to feature the future of intercultural music, in the making: student composers from Seycove Secondary School in North Vancouver will present new pieces they have written for tar, oud and santur, performed by VICO musicians. This event is part of VICO in the Schools, an innovative workshop program through which VICO musicians and instructors introduce students to a selection of non-Western instruments and impart techniques for composing intercultural music.
This is something I can stand behind and fully support. The type of outreach, especially for such an “unorthodox” ensemble that I would think should be part and parcel of any performing groups’ activities. If anyone reading is on the left coast and near the border of Canada I would highly recommend this concert just out of principle!
He elaborated on a variety of topics, outreach being perhaps the most critical. With much of country “two to three generations beyond routine arts education,” the task falls to arts organizations. Jazz at Lincoln Center, he said, is “basically an education machine with programming.”
So today, as I mentioned last week is a cello sectional coaching day, but I was so distracted by thoughts about the current DSO situation that I found it hard to concentrate at the task at hand. What I also had on my mind, in light of the recent piece I rediscovered and blogged about a few days ago, Changing US Demographics and Classical Music, and especially as Elysia and I have been having a discussion about such issues in a review of a Sacramento Philharmonic concert she went to this weekend which included a composition (“New Conception”) by Egyptian Composer, Nader Abassi, was the quote (in the title of this blog post).