Beirut Chants braves protests
Organizers hope musical events will spread message of peace, hope, tolerance
BEIRUT: At a time when many cultural events have been canceled or postponed due to the ongoing demonstrations, Beirut Chants is determined to persevere and bring the festive spirit to protesters.
Founded in 2008, the monthlong December music festival has become a seasonal celebration of local and international performers, focusing on choral and classical repertoires.
Organizers hope that through music, the event can spread a message of peace, hope and tolerance among people from different backgrounds – a message that many protesters have reiterated in the streets. The program (Dec. 1-23) is designed to get everyone into the Christmas spirit. And with the performances taking place in various public spaces around Beirut, free of charge, Beirut Chants seeks to invite protesters to take a moment to experience the music too.
“In the wake of the protests taking place in the country for the past month, and after deep thinking, the organizing committee of Beirut Chants … has decided to keep its schedule for this year’s festival, aiming to preserve this yearly cultural rendezvous,” founder Micheline Abi Samra told The Daily Star, “with belief that culture is not a luxury, but rather an essential component in social, economic and intellectual development in any community.
“As we are all committed to preserving the mission of Beirut Chants in giving back to the community and all its components, we believe in the power of music to unite,” she added. “Today more than ever our role is to expand common grounds for people to interact.
“We witnessed beautiful and genuine cultural initiatives from protesters. They showed the real face of Lebanon and revived the public domain, and this is exactly Beirut Chants’ raison d’etre,” Abi Samra said. “Music for everyone while reviving the historical churches and venues in Beirut. We invite all people, protesters included, to join us this year to chant for change and to stand for our values.”
The festival’s 12th edition will open on Dec. 1 with a recital celebrating the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, with “Mass in C Major.” Taking place at the St. Joseph Church, the concert will gather musicians from the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra and the Antonine University Choir led by Tawfiq Maatouk.
Other highlights of the program include “Anthem Cantique des Cantiques,” a tribute to the poet Mahmoud Darwish on Dec. 12, in collaboration with the Institut Francais.
Performances by the 2016 Best Soprano of the Year Jessica Pratt and pianist Bertrand Chamayou, the three-time winner of the Victoires de la Musique Award, will be given on Dec. 13 and 21 respectively. Two Sufi music nights will also be held – Ghada Shbeir will collaborate with Sheikh Ahmed Hawili and Sufi musicians on Dec. 7, while Jahida Wehbe will perform Sufi chants on Dec. 3.
Due to the ongoing protests, concert venues and times are subject to change. Always refer to for updates, as well as the full program.
A performance by pianist Bertrand Chamayou, the three-time winner of the Victoires de la Musique Award, will be given on Dec. 21.