Beirut Chants braves protests

Or­ga­niz­ers hope mu­si­cal events will spread mes­sage of peace, hope, tol­er­ance

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ARTS & CULTURE - BREVIEW By Maghie Ghali beirutchan­

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.

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