TORONTO — If there’s a way to bridge the cultural and religious gaps in the Middle East and achieve peace between Jews, Muslims and Christians, it might be found through music.
At least that’s the belief at Soundstreams, a Toronto-based non-profit centre dedicated to discovering and presenting new Canadian musical compositions and artists. It’s celebrating its 30th anniversary with a concert dedicated to Jerusalem.
Titled The Three Faces of Jerusalem, the Jan. 27 performance at Koerner Hall will feature an eclectic mix of world music representing the three Abrahamic faiths of the region.
Scheduled to represent Judaism are internationally renowned Sephardi vocalist, Paris-based Françoise Atlan, and Israeli oud master Yair Dalal.
They’ll be joined on stage by Palestinian-Canadian singer Roula Said, Montreal-based Persian sitar player Kiya Tabassian, viola de gamba player Pierre-Yves Martel, percussionist Ben Grossman and conductor David Fallis, among others.
Canadian composer James Rolfe will also premiere his Five and a Half Bridges, a musical ode to the quest for peace in the Middle East.
Lawrence Cherney, artistic director and founder of Soundstreams, said the anniversary concert has been in the works for two years and is about fostering peace through music.
“When we originally developed this concert, we had no idea of the significance it would have, given the current political climate in the Middle East,” Cherney said. “Each of the artists who have agreed to participate has illustrated an ongoing commitment to use music and collaboration as a way of bringing people together.”
Speaking to The CJN from New York last week, Cherney said he hoped the show’s audience would come away with a renewed sense of hope for the Middle East.
“The presentation will explore Jerusalem’s roots and the heritages of all three religions,” he said. “Despite periods of strife in the region… there have been times when all three [religions] have got along, and in a way, they’re all joined at the hip. There were periods, especially in medieval times, where if you heard two songs written in Jerusalem, aside from one in Arabic and the other in Hebrew, one wouldn’t know what culture you were hearing.
“The program never had a political agenda. But it has the belief that art and music can bring people together and bridge the gaps between cultures.”
Reached in Paris last week, Atlan told The CJN she was looking forward to working with the other musicians at the event.
Of particular interest to her is the opportunity to work with Dalal, whom she said she has been in contact with ever since the two met in Israel last year and promised each other they would eventually collaborate on a project.
“This will be a nice meeting between artists. All artists on this project present a bridge for one another. We are all artists with specific identities and we will put these all together,” Atlan said.
She is also eager to return to Toronto to perform for the community. She will be singing in Hebrew, Ladino and Arabic, though, as of last week, the specific songs for the gig remained up in the air, she said.
The artists are scheduled to gather in Toronto starting Jan. 23 to choose and rehearse their set lists in the run-up to the show.
For more information, visit www.soundstreams.ca.