Musical Encounters Across Philadelphia

Posted On:
20 June, 2016

Amazing cross-cultural collaboration by musicians of the highest caliber!

May – June 2016

On May 7, with 120 people in attendance at an evening concert and over 20 youth and adults in the afternoon percussion workshop, the first event of  Musical Encounters Series was held at the Unitarian Society of Germantown, bringing together varied musical genres to an area of Philadelphia previously unexposed to Al-Bustan’s Concert Series.

The concert blended the aesthetics of East and West, incorporating and synthesizing the talents of Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble and Prometheus Chamber Orchestra. The musicians performed canonical pieces by renowned composers Vivaldi, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Rafael Hernandez, and Chick Corea, as well as a new composition Lebanese Rhapsody by Serge El Helou — composer and teaching artist with Al-Bustan.  Moving seamlessly between Arab, Latin, and Western classical, the concert highlighted the universality of certain musical elements, while distinguishing the uniqueness of each musical tradition.

A wonderful combining of two kinds of music, while also displaying differences. The inclusion of a Chick Corea piece was brilliant.

The string instruments fused between genres and cultures to sound like a group larger than an orchestra and larger than a single confining type of music.

The music was superb, both in terms of quality and because of the collaboration. The performance was warm and engaging, and the venue was wonderful.

While many of Al-Bustan concerts include some audience participation (usually clapping during Hafez Kotain’s solos), the Musical Encounters Concert took this to the next level by giving audience members egg shakers and inviting them to use the shakers in the final piece El Cumbanchero.  Earlier in the afternoon, Hafez Kotain led a percussion workshop open to youth and adults.  Participants learned some basic Arab rhythms and a percussion solo which they played on a variety of instruments, from doumbek to a plastic snare-drum and a krin (West African log drum).  The participants clearly enjoyed the workshop and returned that evening to enjoy the concert.

The Musical Encounters Series was presented again on  Saturday, June 4 in the West Kensington neighborhood at Mascher Co-Op and Oxford Mills, and Friday, June 17 in North Philadelphia at the Church of the Advocate.

Fantastic drumming and energy, I was transported to a new world and loved the interactive portion!

I loved the audience participation with the shakers and Hafez Kotain’s drum solo.

The venue was amazing, a really beautiful awe-inspiring baroque church. The percussion was very tight. Perhaps the most awesome and unexpected part was the free food and drinks after the event.

See media coverage of Musical Encounters in Spirit News, G-Town Radio, and The Temple News.

Photos by Chip Colson:

Watch video clip excerpts below of May concert, and click here to see playlist of 4 videos on Al-Bustan’s YouTube channel.

We are grateful to the support of PNC Arts Alive and William Penn Foundation for making this program possible.