Home April 2013 Cultural Harmony through Music

Cultural Harmony through Music

A unique Jewish-Arab musical ensemble, Shesh Besh, will bring a message of peace and tolerance between cultures and religions with a performance at the Orange County Soka Performing Arts Center on April 6.
Shesh Besh, a highly skilled Jewish-Arab ensemble searching for an elusive balance of East and West in music, embodies two cultures living together in harmony.  Consisting of three members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra along with four musicians from Israel’s Arab community, the group musically reflects a multicultural context of classical Western and Eastern works and original compositions.  Shesh Besh’s onstage presence and repertoire has been called a “living metaphor for people striving to coexist, a model of tolerance and mutual respect in a turbulent, violent Middle East.”  In 2006 the group received the European Medal of Honor Prize for Tolerance, for its commitment to Israeli-Arab relations.
Created from the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997 by principal solo flautist Yossi Arnheim, the group’s endeavor was to show the world that music can transcend the aggression between conflicting cultures and religions.  “Our repertoire,” he said, “includes Oriental material alongside works by Bach, Mozart and Haydn; an ancient ‘Mouwasha’ from Moorish Spain paired with a Bach violin Partita; a Mozart aria with a folksong by the legendary Fairouz of Lebanon; and original compositions by both Jewish and Arab composers.”
The name “Shesh Besh” derives from a Turkish game, similar to Backgammon, which, according to Arnheim, “is a game everyone plays in the Middle East, regardless of background or race or religion or age.  It is a game that brings people together, which is our objective.”
Shesh Besh’s onstage presence and music reflect the performers’ belief that the language of music may bind the hearts and build a real bridge between peoples.  The players aim to demonstrate that people of different nationalities and beliefs can produce beautiful music despite difficult political situations and cultural differences.
Performing will be Yossi Arnheim, flute; Sami Khashibun, Oriental violin; Saida Bar-Lev, violin and viola; Alfred Hajor, ney (a Persian wind instrument played continuously for 4,500 to 5,000 years, one of rhe oldest musical instruments still in use); Bishara Naddaf, deff and darbuka ( a Persian instrument of Arabic origin used throughout the Middle East); Peter March, double bass; and Ramsis Kasis, oud (a pear-shaped string instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music.).
Since becoming an integral part of the Israel Philharmonic’s education program, “KeyNote,” Shesh Besh has appeared at the Tanglewood Music Festival, St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York and for the Alliance for Religion and Conservation and at Carnegie Hall for the JVC Jazz Festival hosted by Michael Feinstein.  In 2004 the group was the recipient of two prizes at the International Oud Festival in Jerusalem.
David Palmer, who researched and chose the personal performance of Shesh Besh, joined Soka University as general manager of the new Soka Performing Arts Center in 2010.  Since its opening in September 2011, the Arts Center has had a significant impact on the Orange County arts community, including performances by Carl Sinclair and the Pacific Symphony.
According to Palmer, “In addition to the performance on April 6, there will be an open forum at 7 p.m. for the general public to meet the artists and learn a little bit more about the music and initiative for peace that they embody.  This event will be held in the Black Box Theatre, located in Maathal Hall.  Tickets and reservations are not required.”
He added, “The group will also hold a special outreach program for elementary and middle school children at 11 am. on Friday, April 5.  This special one-hour presentation will include music performed by the group and a question and answer period for students to find out more about the music and the relationship between the artists and their backgrounds.”
The performance on April 6 is at 8 p.m. at the Soka Performing Arts Center of Soka University, located at 1 University Drive, Aliso Viejo.  Tickets, $38, $28 for students and seniors 62 and over, may be purchased by contacting the box office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., calling (949) 480-4278, emailing the box office: tickets@soka.edu or visiting www.performingarts.soka.edu.

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