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March 1, 2005

Harmony singing helps build bridges in Mid-East

Jerusalem Post (Israel):

If one were to bake a virtual peace cake, one of the ingredients would undoubtedly be harmony. It is harmony that characterizes a melodic new venture whose pioneers hope will become an annual event. It was the result of a chance meeting between Naomi Faran, founder, conductor and musical director of the Moran Choir and Mike Naftali, director of Topaz, the Association for the Advancement and Empowerment of Children and Youth, who was complaining about the failed attempt to get a women-cycling-for-peace project to Israel. Faran, who has been a guest conductor around the globe and who has appeared with the Moran Choir at festivals and choral competitions in Europe, North America and South East Asia, suggested that singing for peace might be more successful. Thus was born the concept of Women Singing for Peace, jointly sponsored by the European Union and Topaz.

The initial week-long experiment, which concluded on Saturday, brought in representatives from the Quatoir feminin de Paris, France; the Orfeon Chamber Choir, Turkey, the Akademski Pevski Zbor Tone Tomasac, Slovenia, the Kay'an Arabic Choir comprising Israeli Arabs, most of whom are students at the University of Haifa, and the Israeli-based Moran Choir.

Each choir sent four high-quality singers, who brought five songs in their own language for the others to learn, in addition to large repertoires that enabled each quartet to present its own concert.

"There was instant harmony," said Faran. "It was yet another proof that you don't have to talk much; singing does it all."

In addition to singing workshops, the group held discussions, toured the Galilee, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ra'anana, met with some of Israel's outstanding women, and performed in different parts of the country, including the Tabcha church in Nazareth and the Knesset in Jerusalem. "It's been very dynamic," Faran enthused.

Rana Hajo, a breathtakingly beautiful law graduate from the University of Haifa who specializes in classical Arabic music as well as Mediterranean music, said she'd found great pleasure in learning the music of other cultures, meeting other open-minded people, and learning where they were coming from. Asked whether there had been any curiosity about where she fitted into the scheme of things as a member of the Israeli-Arab community, Hajo replied: "They just look on me as Israeli."

Laura Holm from Paris has been in similar group situations, but not outside France. This time, she found it very interesting to meet people from different cultures and countries, "because we can learn so much about each other." There was no fear in coming to Israel, she said. "We were told that it could be dangerous. But it can also be dangerous walking out your front door," noted Holm who thought that Hajo could do well in France, where there is a large Muslim community, aside from which "a lot of Europeans like Arabic music.

Posted by acapnews at March 1, 2005 12:07 AM