Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale hosts two international concerts

Multi-cultural concerts hosted in Mdina 

The Cathedral Museum in Mdina • Photo by Joe Borg
The Cathedral Museum in Mdina • Photo by Joe Borg

The Mdina Cathedral Contemporary Art Biennale which is currently being held in different prestigious venues in the old capital, is hosting two concerts in collaboration with Caravan.

Caravan is a trans-cultural initiative, which organises a multitude of arts events with the intention of creating peaceful dialogue between diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Caravan will be coordinating a number of projects for the Mdina Biennale, including the Maltese Donkey sculptural installation and a series of concerts.

On Saturday November 28, noted American organist Calvert Johnson will perform an East-West recital titled ‘On A Caravan’ at the Mdina Cathedral at 19:30. ‘On A Caravan’ will musically explore Arab and European cultures in two parts.

The first part will include Spanish Renaissance music that demonstrates lingering influences of Arab musical culture (composers such as Antonio de Cabezón, Sebastián Aguilera de Heredia, Pablo Bruna, and José Jiménez).

The second part will feature contemporary music by Arab composers (Lebanese Naji Hakim’s ‘Aalaiki Salaam’) or those influenced by Arab music (John Baboukis, an American composer on the faculty of the American University of Cairo, Jewish composer Doron Kima, and Alan Hovhanness, an Armenian-American whose father was from Turkey). 

The second part will also consist of some American works featuring conflict and resolution (African-American composer Sharon J. Willis on the Civil Rights movement, including the triumphant ‘Black and White Together: We Shall Overcome’).

On December 4 at 20:00 Caravan, will perform ‘Notes of Faith’ at the Mdina Cathedral. A musical concert of original compositions by four contemporary composers, the concert grew out of an initial discussion between Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, President of Caravan and the Mdina Biennale artistic director Dr Guiseppe Schembri Bonaci about hosting a musical performance that ties Middle Eastern and Western traditions together in such a way as to further explore the theme of the Biennale, ‘Christianity, Spirituality and the Other’. 

In today’s fast-paced world of stereotypes and media hype, music, with its emotive and transformative nature, serves as a valuable vehicle to change misconceptions and engender understanding and harmony. With this in mind, Rev, Chandler, together with Brian Schembri, Principal Conductor of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, shaped the ‘Notes of Faith’ concert around award-winning Jewish composer Doron Kima’s ‘Seeds of Hope’ composition.

‘Seeds of Hope’ is an East-West composition for oud (Middle Eastern lute), nay (Middle Eastern reed flute) and Western symphony orchestra. It is a fusion of two different musical traditions, Western classical and Arabic music, into a single cohesive work.

Composer Doron Kima refers to himself as coming from a “mixed background” as while Jewish, he came from Iraq and only later in life did his family move to Israel. Growing up in this “Jewish-Arabic” context formed the basis of his ‘Seeds of Hope’ composition. Doron Kima’s love for Arabic music led to his vision to compose for orchestra and Arabic musical theory, including Arabic instruments, with the objective of fostering collaboration between Jews, Muslims and Christians.

With Raoul Lay as conductor, the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra agreed to perform the world premiere of ‘Seeds of Hope’ as they resonated with the humanitarian, peacebuilding nature of the work and the critical need at this time to build bridges between the Middle East and West. Solo Middle Eastern artists for ‘Seeds of Hope’ are the renowned musicians, Nizar Al Issa, oud, and Bashir Abdel Aal, nay.

In addition to ‘Seeds of Hope’ by Doron Kima, the ‘Notes of Faith’ concert will also feature three other contemporary composers: Albert Pace: In Amore illo ardeas, Cristina Vilallonga:  Aspiratio  andKarl Fiorini: Rêves Obscurs.

Admission for both concerts at the Mdina Cathedral is free