19 June 2007

Arts: An Arabian Passion

Singapore is celebrating the 30th year of the Singapore Arts Festival, which plays host to a number of events throughout the month of June. Last week, I attended the Asian premiere of An Arabian Passion, based on J.S. Bach's St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion. The musicians were drawn from two distinct groups: Ensemble Saraband, which joins together musicians from Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, and Germany, each contributing their own native traditions, and the Modern String Quartet, an improvisational string group based in Germany. The two combined to weave improvisational jazz, Arabian based tones and rhythms, and the baroque music of Bach into a very nice performance. The vocalist is Lebanese, and she sang in German and Aramaic. Particularly powerful was her rendition of Alajum, Mary's Lament on Good Friday, sung in the Maronite tradition. I don't know if you will ever have a chance to see this group of musicians perform, but I would highly recommend it.

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