“I hope next time we’ll have an opera in Arabic and I think it should feature the oud, which is one of my favourite instruments”

Renée Fleming doing choreography by Sara Jo Slate for "Thaïs" at the Metropolitan Opera 2008 December

“I hope next time we’ll have an opera in Arabic and I think it should feature the oud, which is one of my favourite instruments”

-Renée Fleming

But…but, Ms. Fleming–there are already operas in Arabic and Turkish.  Not long after the importation of Western Styled Orchestras into the Ottoman Empire in 1828 (led by Giuseppe Donizetti, the brother of the more famous Gaetano Donizetti), Ottoman composers were writing Operas which incorporated all the stylistic elements of Ottoman Classical Music (including improvisatory taksims).  And not long after the Cairo Congress in 1932, Arabic composers such as Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, were composing Operatic works which melded some elements of Western Classical Music with the indigenous maqams and instrumentation.  All of these works would have included a standard instrumentation of Middle Eastern ensembles of which the Oud is essential.

Sadly, such is the nature of Western Music History education that we don’t learn of such things.  And such is the nature of Western Music ensembles that we don’t play such things.

Fortunately, I’m not stuck in that mold and have, as standard repertoire in two of my groups, selections from some of these numbers.  One of my favorites is “Cleopatra,” which is a beautiful tune from Mohammed Abdul Wahhab’s Operetta “Kilopetra” (1947).

Here’s a wonderful non-staged rendition of it by the Nezareth Orchestra:

Maybe one of these days Western Classical Music ensembles will truly become international and stop focusing on the Western Canonical works as well as Western Canonical compositional style and instrumentation.

I do wonder, given some of the “exotic” themes, stories and locales of many Western Operas, whether Ms. Fleming gained that interest that way or through the work she did with one of my friends who choreographed for the Met Opera production of “Thaïs” back in ’08.   *shrugs*

 

 

Performance: Ahel El Nagam @ Sweet Surrender Dessert Cafe (Louisville, KY)

Ahel El Nagam

Ahel El Nagam performing at Shiraz Mediterranean Grill in Louisville 24 July 2009

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Sweet Surrender Dessert Cafe in Louisville  (KY) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with is Ahel El Nagam, a Kentuckiana based Classical Arabic music group.

Ahel El Nagam’s bio:

Ahel El Nagam means, “people of the tune.” We are a new Middle Eastern music band in Louisville, KY. We were founded in April of 2007 and we are working hard to develop a repertoire full of traditional and classical Middle Eastern songs. We are available for cultural events, private parties, and shows at restaurants and coffee houses around Louisville as well as the greater tri-state (Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio) area.

More info about us and my relationship with the group may be found in a previous post.

Sweet Surrender is having a fundraiser for for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Details for the day long event follow:

On Thursday, March 24, Sweet Surrender Dessert Café will host a fundraiser to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. All day, from 10 AM to 10 PM, a sampling of 10 desserts will be offered for $15 per person. Coffee is included. A portion of the entire day’s proceeds will be given to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training.

A whole 10” cake and other prizes will also be raffled off. Tickets for the raffle can be purchased for $2.00 each throughout the week. All of the proceeds from the raffle will go directly to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

In addition to great desserts and great prizes, live music will begin at 8 PM.

Continue reading

Music of the Whole World: The ABCs of Intercultural Music

Member of the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra during a performance

So tonight, the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra is having their “Music of the Whole World: The ABCs of Intercultural Music” event that I mentioned in a previous post.

The performances details:

Thursday March 3, 2011 at 7 pm
Vancouver Public Library Central Branch
350 Georgia St.
Alice MacKay Hall (Lower Level)
FREE Admission

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!

Eric Edberg has an insightful blog post about Education and Outreach and I think this description of Adrian Ellis’ (Executive Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center) talk at an event he attended last month says it all:

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.”

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Thursday Rehearsal Reflections: Ahel El Nagam

Ahel El Nagam

Ahel El Nagam performing at Shiraz Mediterranean Grill in Louisville 24 July 2009

Tonight I’ll be rehearsing with one of my other bands, Ahel El Nagam (yes, the website is very much in need of updating–I’ll get to that when I have a chance-hah!).  We bill ourselves as Louisville’s Classical Arabic Band as most of our repertoire consists of, well, Classical Egyptian tunes as well as a number of folk and traditional tunes from Turkey, Armenia, Iraq, Andalusia, Israel and other countries and regions from the Middle East.  Ahel El Nagam means, roughly, “People of the Tune.”

The group formed sometime in the middle of 2007 and I believe my first performance with them was sometime during the Spring of 2008.  At it’s formation the group was four members strong with an instrumentation that ranged from oud, tabla (Egyptian tabla), flute/bellydance, electric sitar/mandolin.  The first couple of shows I played with them (with cello) we had a five member group.

Sadly, we’ve slowly lost “full time” members as folks move on, or move out of the area, or whatever.  The majority of the shows we’ve played the past couple of years have been pretty much what you see in the photo above, me on tabla (or cello) and Denise on oud (or tabla/riqq).  We’d both been far too busy the past few months to rehearse much less play a show, though with some upcoming gigs in the works we’re getting together for the first time since last fall (I believe). Continue reading

“…and it never occurred to me that musical tastes and offerings will change as demographics change…”

Keni Washington and his OMniverse Jazz Sinfonia

Keni Washington and his OMniverse Jazz Sinfonia at the Madame Walker Theater Indianapolis 1997

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).

It was a response to a possible solution for the DSO that I had made back in August at the Cello Chat forums.   I tend to envision an orchestral world that isn’t so dominated by European styled Orchestras sure–and I’m not at all shy about stating my desire to form my own World Music Orchestra that would be international in a way that Orthodox Orchestras will probably never be. Continue reading