Ensemble Studio at the Aga Khan Museum

Usually by December I’ve had a pretty good chance to see the COC’s Ensemble Studio. Not this year of course. So it was good to see at least a few of them in a stream of a short concert recorded at the Aga Khan Museum.

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Arias and Maqams

To the Aga Khan Museum last night for a program of Syrian and Western music by Lubana Al Quntar and friends; Eylam Basaidi on violin and April Centrone on oud and percussion..  It was my first time at the museum and the auditorium there is just gorgeous.  In a city with some pretty spectacular performance spaces this may just be the most beautiful.  It’s just a pity it’s so hard to get to on the TTC.  The program was distinctly heavy on the “Syrian” side of “Syrian and Western”.  There were Syriac hymns, muwasshahat, specifically waṣla of Aleppo and Syrian folk songs in a tradition sung by the women of Damascus (I believe).  I’m no expert in this music but it was possible to hear developments and continuities.  The hymns (in Aramaic) clearly influenced the later classical music though the former were basically modal while there was a lot more tone bending in the later pieces.  I hesitate to speculate on the relationship between the waṣla and the folk songs.  I know from my own experience with the folk music of the British Isles how influences go back and forth and how folk songs sung by a classically trained singer may not always reflect how they sound when performed more demotically.  Still, the audience lapped this bit up with much singing along and clapping accompaniment.

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And now for something completely a bit different

pa_10-29-2016_lubana-al-quntar_800x450Saturday at 8pm the Aga Khan Museum there’s a concert fusing western classical and Arabic maqam music.  The featured artists are opera singer (Syria’s first) Lubana Al Quntar and composer and oud virtuoso Issam Rafea.  I do feel this is the sort of thing we need more of in Toronto.  There have been some interesting fusions of western and Chinese classical such as The Legend of Da Ji.  Let’s see what this one can offer.  You may even be able to see the show for free.  The organisers have offered a lucky Operaramblings reader a pair of tickets.  If you would like to enter the draw, comment here with contact details.  We’ll do the draw at 5pm on Thursday.  If you prefer to buy a ticket, details are here.