PEACE THROUGH MUSIC
GIUSEPPE PENNISI reports on
Christmas concerts in the Holy Land
Christmas concerts in the Holy Land
Since 2007, Palo Olmi has been organizing Christmas Concerts in the Holy Land with an international orchestra of young people, the Young Musicians European Orchestra. Paoli Olmi is well known internationally as a conductor of operas and symphonic music; he is also a visiting professor at the Guildhall School for Music and Drama in London. For these Christmas Concerts in the Holy Land, he runs a very competitive and very rigorous competition worldwide. This year, the group consisted of about thirty musicians, including four soloists. The program, under UNESCO patronage, is financed by several institutions, including a few local and national Italian authorities, the International University of Venice and the Japan-Italian Foundation. The musicians, from fifteen different countries, had an average age of twenty-three. Israeli and Palestinian musicians played side by side, of course: the main theme of the concerts is peace through music. This year, I was invited to join the orchestra on its travels to the Holy Land.
Before taking off for Israel and Palestine, the orchestra, which has its headquarters in Ravenna, ran several open rehearsals in Emilia and Romagna, as well as a special concert in Rieti for people who are suffering because of the recent earthquake in Central Italy. Before taking off for the Holy Land on the morning of 11 December 2016, a concert was offered in the 'Cappella Paolina' of the Quirinale Palace — the residence and office of the President of the Republic of Italy. This is a magnificent Renaissance Chapel inside the Palace. The concert was broadcast live on the major public radio channel. The acoustic is perfect and provided an excellent environment.
After a bus tour of Rome on 11 December, the group assembled at night at Rome airport and reached Jerusalem at nearly 3am on the following day. The young musicians had almost no sleep as they were attracted to visit the holy places of the old town. Then there followed a rehearsal and an 8pm concert in the Chapel of the Pontifical Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, a large auditorium with every seat occupied.
All the Christian authorities of Jerusalem attended the concert and the dinner after the performance on a terrace overlooking the old town under full moonlight.
The following day, on 13 December, the concert was at 6pm, in the Peace Center Auditorium in Bethlehem, just next to the Nativity Church. The mayor of Bethlehem, a young Palestinian lady, made a short but effective speech on music as a path to peace. The auditorium was full; the audience was mostly Palestinian. Ovations followed the concert. At 6am the group left Bethlehem for Tel Aviv airport. My part of the trip ended there, but the orchestra went to the South of Italy to perform in Matera, selected as the 'European Capital of Culture in 2019'.
This is more a chronicle than a review. Let me say a few words about the music. The concerts included, with some minor modifications, four pieces for soloists and orchestra: Arcangelo Corelli's Sonata a Quattro for Trumpet (Andre Dubelsten) and String Instruments; Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme for cello (Jonathan Roozeman) and orchestra; Paganini's Bravura Variation on Moses' Prayer by Rossini (with Yury Revich, violin); and Giovanni Bottesini's Gran Duo Concertante for Violin and Double Bass (with Yury Revich, violin and Luis Cabrera, double bass). Thus, quite a sophisticated program — not the usual Christmas music. Yet the audience was very attentive and was really moved by the Paganini piece: a strong prayer to God for peace.
Copyright © 25 December 2016 Giuseppe Pennisi,