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Boston Musicians Play for Hope


Woman playing the ney ca. 1669
Woman playing the ney ca. 1669

Some distinguished performers joined together in “Journey Towards a Home” last Friday at Harvard’s Memorial Church in a benefit for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, setting an important precedent; according to WQXR, the event was the first of its kind to be held in the United States. BMInt’s preview is here.

Yasmina Kamal, the North American coordinator of Camerata Mediterranea, tells the Intelligencer that the concert was a resounding success. “Raising over $3500 for refugee relief with an ad-hoc volunteer team and in a very short times was a significant accomplishment. Beyond that, the event generated a sense of purpose among those involved, a result both comforting and energizing in the face of such dire crisis.”

She goes on, “The mission of Camerata Mediterranea, which co-produced the event with the Harvard University church, is to create exchanges and improve understanding among Euro / American and Eastern / Middle Eastern civilizations and cultures via music, and that is exactly what the concert did. Not only did attendees get the chance to enjoy beautiful musics while supporting a worthy cause; as Artistic Director Joel Cohen put it, there was truly “some sort of musical discovery for just about everybody in the room.” The diverse roster of performers represented a true cross-section of musical cultures, of the various nations that have been touched or concerned, near and far, by this crisis. Regardless of personal experiences, everyone was moved by the yearning ney, the pensive oud, the hopeful santouri.

‘The camaraderie in the room was almost palpable, culminating in a standing ovation and an encore to loud cheers of support. Tears were shed, donations generously made, and calls heard to renew this spirit of common humanity through similar events.

‘Participating ensembles included the Boston Camerata, the Harvard Choral Scholars, Blue Heron, Dünya, Les Fleurs des Caraïbes, as well as distinguished soloists from Greece, Syria, and Morocco. Many of the pieces from the musical traditions had to do with pilgrimage, wandering, and exile. Some, however, like the Judeao-Spanish “La Rosa Enfloresce” from Istambul, with Camerata’s Anne Azéma and Dünya’s Mehmet Sanlikol as soloists, or the Afro-Mexican guaracha “Convidando esta la Noche,” featuring soprano Camila Paris and Les Fleurs, contributed welcome accents of joy and hope. At concert’s end, Cohen led the combined musical forces in a powerful, determined shapenote song from the Sacred Harp, “Weeping Pilgrim.” The audience sang along with the musicians on the refrain: “I move slowly on … I’m bound for Canaan’s land.”

cohen benefit
Joel Cohen directs singers (Elias Roustom photo)

‘Talks are under way about presenting this program in other important urban areas, and again in Boston.’

To donate and contribute to vital relief efforts by the White Helmets, the Syrian American Medical Society, MercyCorps, and the American Friends Service Committee, please click here and In the Comments / Other Designation field, enter Syrian / Iraqi Refugee Relief Concert. Funds are distributed impartially by Mem Church.

For more information about Camerata Mediterranea and its intercultural efforts, visit Contact with questions, thoughts and ideas. The organization, incorporated as a nonprofit in Massachusetts, is actively seeking new members and donors to help with future projects.

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