West meets East

The Gary Bertini Choir performs at the Oud Festival

 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The concert titled Neighbors in the East will take place on November 4 at 8:30 p.m. at Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem. Within the framework of the 18th International Oud Festival, two soloists who follow the classical Arab music tradition will join the purely Western Bertini Choir.
“The idea crossed my mind two years ago, but I really couldn’t picture how it would work in practice. So I approached Effi Benaya, the artistic director of the Oud Festival, who simply said, ‘Let’s try.’ Now I can say that it works well, and the music sounds very good,” says Haggai Goren, co-founder of the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir, one of the county’s most outstanding vocal ensembles.
What is the idea behind combining two music traditions that are so different from each other? “Here in Israel, an entire people lives by our side, but we are not familiar with its culture, including the music. Granted, there are various ensembles and projects, such as orchestral arrangements of Arab songs, but no one has ever tried to bring a choir into the picture. Again, there is a women’s choir in Jaffa, with Israeli and Arab women singing Arabic songs together, but there is no Western touch to their performance,” he says.
Goren explains that in his project, things look and sound different.
“We as a choir sing in Arabic, and so does soloist Maria Jubran, a Christian singer from Nazareth. An ensemble that features six musicians who play Western or Eastern instruments accompanies the choir. The choir tries to sing according to the harmonies that are slightly closer to the Eastern tradition,” he says.
Goren describes the combination as interesting and unique.
“To the best of my knowledge, no one in the world has ever tried it. The reason is that while Western music is based on harmonies, that of the East is music of melodies. Bringing them together is quite a challenge!” he admits.
The concert program includes new arrangements of Arabic classics, songs of Fairuz, Abdul Wahab and Asmahan, Yemenite songs and Hebrew songs. The participants are Nizar Elkhater, piano, arrangements; Maria Jubran, vocals; Bar Siloni, flute; Ahmad Darausheh, oud; Coby Rubenstein, violin; Rali Margalit, cello; Elias Habib, percussion; and the Gary Bertini Choir conducted by Ronen Borshevsky.
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