of 9-11: A musical conversation between cultures
- Helen Henry
in collaboration with African American gospel and classic Western and Middle
Eastern music provided a new understanding and awakening in a program at
All Souls Church in Manhattan on the eve of the 5th anniversary of 9-11.
The event titled "An Intercultural Journey Through Music - An Artful Approach
to Breaking Down Barriers" was headlined by Udi Bar David of Israel
(solo cellist and member of the Philadelphia Orchestra on cello), Shoba
Sharma (a leading Bharatanatyam performer in the US), Keisha Hutchins of
the United States on vocal, Hanna Khoury on violin, Margot Kleary on saxophone,
and Michel Baklouk of Lebanon on percussion.
This event brought
together artists of many different backgrounds to create a musical conversation
between cultures. The musical selections, encompassing improvisations across
idioms, felt like a spring of water coming up from under ground.
Shoba Sharma, collaborated with Keisha Hutchins and Udi Bar-David to present
a deeply moving rendition of the African American spiritual "Motherless
Child." This piece really touches the feelings that we all have at times
– feeling separate from things that are familiar, and feeling separate
from the source of our being. Joined by the soulful singing of Keisha Hutchins
and cello accompaniment by Udi Bar-David, Shoba evoked the harsh imagery
of an enslaved family separated at an auction. In close collaboration with
Keisha and Udi, she brought the theme to a very tangible place through
the portrayal of several different characters with exquisite Abhinaya.
In giving dignity to such a theme it was possible to find strength in the
midst of sadness, and show the poignancy and beauty that pervades all of
our efforts to reconcile loss. In a brighter and joyous mood, the Thillana
brought together the considerable talents of the ensemble as they explored
and defined a new idiom. Grounded in the outstanding rhythmic Nritta of
the dance and the strong percussion support by Arjun and Varun Sharma,
the expressive quality of this dance spoke to the exuberance of spirit
and the celebration of life. As such it echoed the power and beauty of
the music played throughout the program.
connection in this performance was that each artist understood their own
idiom so well that they were able to forget the parameters of their discipline
to flow together with each other, creating a synthesis of forms with a
unity of spirit. How appropriate that this outstanding program was held
at All Souls Church in Manhattan and put together by the Peace Task Force
in honor of the memory of 9-11.
of 9-11, the program was performed in New York on Sept 10th.
Henry is Program Associate, Pennsylvania Performing Arts On Tour, formerly
Program Director of the Folklife Center of International House