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December 10, 2004

Powerful voices for The Shouting Fence

The Daily Star (Lebanon):

The Westergasfabriek Culture Park in Amsterdam provided a natural setting for a unique performance at the end of last month of "The Shouting Fence," a musical expression of emotions about the separation wall built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Aimed at shedding light on the situation in Palestine over 1,500 people provided their voices for this powerful choral performance.

These groups included a professional choir named "The Shout," were directed by Orlando Gough and Richard Chew; the "Exile choir," "Trajecti Voces," "Utrechtse Studenten Cantorij," "Childrens' choir De Kickers" and 400 singers from various other national and local choirs. "In the shadow of the wall, in the shadow of the wall, we are waiting, we are waiting for peace, we are longing for peace," comes the chanting. It is at first a soft tone, whispering before gradually becoming louder and louder, merging into hundreds of voices shouting. Between what resembles concrete parts of the wall and the audience in the middle, inside a fence and barbed wire, on two sides of the arena two large groups of singers shout, sing and whisper.

"The Shouting Fence" is a vocal story of a community split in two. The story is based on the Majdel ShamsDruze community. Following the 1967 war, Israel occupied and illegally annexed the Syrian Golan Heights. Majdel Shams is a community of 11,000 Syrian Druze. Israel decided to divide the valley into two parts and to prohibit any communication and any access to the Syrian Druze community residing on the other side of the valley. The families separated by this border have called it the "shouting valley," because it is the single means they have to communicate.

On the Syrian side a platform has been built that can accommodate about 200 people. Across the cease-fire line, in front, about 110 meters away, is the bustling Druze village of Madjal Shams. The Druze from the village of Haddar on the Syrian side and the villagers of Madjal Shams across the fence, shout to each other through hand-held microphones. A lone United Nations post stands about 50 meters from the platform. The reality then of "The Shouting Fence" in 2004 is striking. Soon Israel will complete the construction of the wall built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The wall will leave Palestinian families marooned. Villages and towns will be almost completely cut off.

The venue in the Culture Park, "De Gashouder" (Gasholder), a 3,000-square-meter structure erected on a former gas works complex, was the perfect location for "The Shouting Fence." Two large choirs stood on each side, separated by barbed wire fences, 20 meters from the audience in the middle. In this way, the audience directly experienced the attempts of the choirs to connect with each other. The audience represented the wall and barrier. From three sides, the two big choirs on either side and the exile choir in the back, voices sang together and alone, mixed and toward each other. Part of the intention of "The Shouting Fence" was to make the audience feel what the wall does emotionally to communities when they are separated. It made the audience understand that the wall is divisive and destructive. It also showed that whatever barriers are made, human beings will always find ways to connect through them, over them, across them or under them.

Posted by acapnews at December 10, 2004 12:57 AM