« Murder suspects saw through bars and escapes. | Main | Vox Consort delights with stylish 'Galatea' »

November 23, 2004

“Al-Fawanees” Wows Them in Ramallah

Washington Report:

Palestinian oud player Nizar Rohana looked relieved and amazed as he bounded off the stage and headed for the door of the brand new Ramallah Cultural Palace. He had just finished playing with the Young Sound Forum of Central Europe in the first musical play to be performed in Palestine. “The European musicians just arrived on Sunday, so we only had four days to rehearse together. We were afraid it would be a disaster,” Nizar said with a smile, knowing the evening’s debut performance was anything but. Lengthy standing ovations kept everyone’s spirits up—“at a time when spirits have never been lower,” Rohan added.

Dedicated three months ago, the Cultural Center was built with the help of Japanese donors. The hall seats more than 700 people, has excellent acoustics, comfortable seating, state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, a recording studio, and a control panel to oversee the electronics. When the lights went down the curtain rose to reveal a sophisticated stage set of diaphanous screens, misty mountains and magical light beams that slowly exposed the children filling the stage in splendid costumes. They wore headset microphones close to their mouths through which they sang solos, duets and choral numbers as they danced and moved across the stage with professional timing and precision unlike anything ever seen in children’s theater in Palestine. “We trained for almost two years…something like 350 hours, where we sang, danced, acted, learned all about theater and musicals,” said Zeena Amer, 15.

Two years ago, with help from the European Union, Khoury explained, he and producer Dahlia Habash began a talent search throughout the West Bank. They ended up auditioning 500 children between the ages of 9 and 15, mainly from schools in Ramallah and Bethlehem, due to the tight closure permanently in effect in the Israeli-occupied territories. Once the final cast of 58 children was chosen, the strenuous training began.

Director Nopé, originally from Colombia, added that the experience changed his life. “As an artist, this entire experience was worth any ‘danger’ I may have confronted,” he stated. “These children could very likely be future leaders of the Palestinian people and, in addition to their talent, they have learned very valuable lessons about discipline. We always stressed the concept of mutual collaboration and that they never forget their friends.”

According to Zeena Amer, a junior in high school, when she first began rehearsing “Al Fawanees” she thought she might like to be a performer when she grew up. As the two years passed, however, she decided she would become a music therapist, having seen the wonderous effects of music, song and dance on children, including herself. Indeed, one of the more famous photos of an 8-year-old boy boldly lobbing a stone at an Israeli tank in 1987, during what is known as the first intifada, has been juxtaposed onto a poster hanging in the halls of the National Conservatory of Music—where, 10 years later, the same Ramzi Hussein is playing a violin. More

How so very much I wish I could read more articles like this about the Middle East. The children are the future, and involving them in the Arts can only have a postive effect. - Editor

Posted by acapnews at November 23, 2004 12:14 AM