Posted by Elizabeth Devereux
A friend of mine invited me to a concert last night. I didn’t know any of the performers, what the music would be, and I knew I would have to show up a bit late (heading straight from work). The concert was held in a friend of my friend’s apartment in Center City. I walked down the block, and saw the open apartment entrance, walked inside, and found a beautiful wood-paneled room with two musicians talking to a (small) roomful of people, mainly young, college-aged people.
I had missed most of the talk the musicians had given, presumably describing the purpose for this concert. I gathered that they were raising money (I had passed a donation box on my way in, and of course, musicians are ALWAYS raising money), and that they had spent some time performing in Palestine. That’s about all I knew as I took a seat in the back of the room and enjoyed an evening of eclectic chamber music for violin and bass, joined at the end by guitar.
By the end of the evening, I had pieced together a more complete story of the concert I attended:
I was enjoying the music of TheDuoRecital, a violin and double bass duo of Temple graduates Vena Johnson on violin and Jerrell Jackson on double bass. For the last few pieces, TheDuoRecital was joined by guitarist, Jordan Perry. Last night’s concert was the kick-off of a series of recitals that TheDuoRecital will perform over the next few months to raise money to send to Al Kamandjati, a project which makes music accessible to Palestinian children by providing instrumental lessons and giving concerts throughout Palestine and Lebanon.
TheDuoRecital traveled to Palestine in December 2010 to perform with members of the Al Kamandjati Association and work with students at the Al Kamandjati schools. The entire trip was paid for, and TheDuoRecital was inspired by their trip to raise money to send back to Al Kamandjati, where they hope to be able to return to perform and teach again in the near future.
TheDuoRecital performed some pieces were familiar to my ears and/or fingers, by Bartok, Bach, and Schumann, and others were wonderfully new, such as a piece for Arab violin (Vena had to tune her violin’s A and E strings a whole-step lower for this one), and a few bluegrass-ish pieces. The Arab piece was from an album compiled by Al Kamandjati’s founder, Ramzi Aburedwan, a violist who grew up in a refugee camp in Ramallah, picked up a violin for the first time at age 17, and went on to study viola at the Music Conservatory in Angers, France.
The Arab piece was the highlight of the concert for me; the plaintive sounds had both poignancy and power. I realized as I listened that this story–of a Palestinian violist who had opened music schools across Palestine and Lebanon and had compiled an album of Arab pieces–sounded very familiar to me. I had heard it on the radio months before. NPR’s Weekend Edition interviewed Ramzi in July of last year. When I first heard the radio interview, I had been eager to find out more about the schools and especially about the Arab violin album, but had rushed off to teach my own students here in Philadelphia and forgotten all about looking the story up afterwards.
I’m so pleased that last night’s lucky concert invite allowed me to come much closer to the inspiring story of Ramzi’s life, the work he’s doing through the Al Kamandjati project, all through the Philly connection of TheDuoRecital.
I agree so strongly with what Ramzi said in his NPR interview that:
“through music you can make from negative energy, positive energy.”
Al Kamandjati: http://www.alkamandjati.com/en/