The semi-annual Abu Ghosh Music Festival is set to kick off today as it normally does: with beautiful music in a beautiful place. Held every year during Shavuot and Succot among the medieval churches of Abu Ghosh, the festival runs through Saturday and consists primarily of music for voice and accompaniment. More than 70 compositions will be played this year by 700 musicians in 13 choirs and five orchestras from all over Israel and from abroad.
One of the challenges facing a festival of this type is remaining fresh and innovative, giving attendees a reason to keep coming back. It's a challenge musical director Hana Tzur, now in her ninth year, is more than happy to face.
One need look no further than the musical program to discover the fruits of her labor. Along with the sacred vocal music that has long been a staple of the festival, Tzur has included a selection of Balkan and Mediterranean works. The festival's special guest this Succot is noted Italian singer Miriam Meghenagy, hailed by the Italian press as "the singer with 1,000 colors," who will perform works by Bach, Handel and Gabrieli, as well as Jewish folk songs and prayers from Italy and Libya.
Festival-goers will also be able to explore the musical relationship between classical masterpieces including Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion," Vivaldi's "Gloria" and Mozart's Mass in C minor ("The Great"), as well as Serbian and Bulgarian folk and liturgical music.
Another feature of the Abu Ghosh festival that will be revisited over the holiday is its unique mix of religious settings, performance pieces and performers. Located in a Muslim village, the festival features mostly Christian music with performers and an audience who are primarily Jewish. The festival also benefits from its location in the acoustics of its performance venues. The stone walls of the festival's concert spaces allow for a rich sound unrivaled by most other venues. Tzur says the festival's unique setting is vital to the music on its program: "Music without [proper] acoustics," she says, "is like an art exhibit without light."