The Spring Festival del Magnificat
Each year, in May, the Magnificat produces the Ayyar music festival (Ayyar is the Arabic word for May). With this event the school of music of the Custody of the Holy Land celebrates the arrival of the spring, presenting its students and professors to the city of Jerusalem. The basic idea of the festival is, in fact, to “open” the Magnificat to the community surrounding it, in order to show to the inhabitants of the Holy City and to people passing by, the history and activities of the school.
Ayyar’s first concert took place on Wednesday, May 22, at the Immaculate Hall in the Monastery of Saint Saviour. Presented by the Director of the Magnificat, Br. Alberto J. Pari, the event opened with Ariel Spitkovsky performing on the piano the Impromptu by Thomas. The Wind Ensemble, curated by Prof. Eugene Ratner, came after Ariel’s convincing artistry. Much appreciated was the cello duo formed by Prof. Fabienne van Eck and the very young Faris Nuseibeh: together they played the first movement of the Sonata in C Major by Breval.
One of the most exciting moments of the evening coincided with the appearance on stage of the Yasmeen Choir, this year curated and directed by Prof. Giuliana Mettini. The teenagers of the Yasmeen sang a repertoire ranging from Pergolesi to Lloyd Weber.
Adel Bishtawi, on the other hand, recreated the rustic atmospheres of early twentieth century Romania with a refined interpretation of Bartok's Romanian Dances.
The concert ended with guitar professor Itamar Zamir who played a Barcarola, a typical melodic composition of the Venice gondoliers.
The second concert of the Festival took place the following day, May 23rd, at the Cathedral of Saint George. The cathedral, the center of Anglicanism in Jerusalem, is built in the typical Neo-Gothic style of English churches. Despite the torrid day, the central nave of the building was filled with crowds of parents, relatives, pilgrims or just passersby, who embraced with enthusiasm the young musicians of the Magnificat. Also in this concert, the audience was offered a variety of music and styles: from Bach to Handel up to Nino Rota!
The students of the pipe organ program had the chance to perform on the majestic Rieger of the church: George Karkar, opened the Concerto playing a Bach Musette while Nataly Tabar performed the Complainte by Vierne.
Guitarists Berj Gejekoshian and William Obeid introduced Latin American atmospheres into the Neo-Gothic building, while Sophie Fradkin and three members of the Jean family (Tala, Hesham and Lour) played a poignant Sarabande by Haendel.
A week after the concert at the Cathedral of Saint George, the Ayyar Festival returned to the Immaculate Hall in the Monastery of Saint Saviour.
Formed by the youngest students of the Magnificat, the Buds Choir opened the evening with a selection of traditional Arabic songs. Under the direction of Professor Mirjam Younan, the small voices infused new energy into musical compositions handed down from generation to generation.
The student Andrea Taweel and Professor Katia Samson, sitting on two grand pianos positioned one next to the other, played Nikolai Silvanski's Easy Concert; Maria Habash and Professor Mirjam Younan, presented Nassem Alayna Alhawa of the Rahbani Brothers. Played together, the two pianos exemplified the concept of harmony in music, displaying the ideal relationship that is created between the student and his teacher.
The talented Yeun Park performed together with Professor Robert Canetti: the duo played Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, considered one of the best examples of late-baroque music. Yeun, not only showed to have a great technical ability but was able to interpret the piece with great sensitivity, leaving the public pleasantly surprised.
Sara Katbeh, Justeen Rock and Mirjam Younan played on the piano the famous Wedding March by Mendelssohn while Aida Gejegoshian proposed the Elegia, a piece of the Armenian composer Arno Babadjanian in 1978. For the Elegia, Babadjanian was inspired by the traditional music of his country, updating it with suggestions coming from the pages of Rachmaninov and Khachaturian. Like the Buds Choir had already done at the beginning of the evening, so Aida conducted a refined operation to recover the musical memory of a people.
Clarita Tabri evoked the gravitas of Beethoven's Sonata No. 1 while Katia Samson’s Ensemble measured itself with the classic lightness of the immortal Beatles melodies.
The evening, presented by Br. Alberto Pari, ended with the trio composed by Robert Canetti on the violin, Bella Canetti on the viola and Katia Samson on the piano. The three professors performed Mozart’s Trio in E flat major, interpreting the pages of the famous Austrian composer in a precise but very intense way.
The Ayyar's closing concert was scheduled on May 30th, again in the Immaculate Hall. A real gala concert, the best students of the Magnificat, the crème de la crème of the Institute, participated in the event. Among the audience were the Secretary of the Holy Land, Br. David Grenier and the Consul General of Spain in Jerusalem, Rafael Matos González de Careaga.
Fadi Sabat was the first student to perform, playing Chopin’s Nocturno Op. 27 on the hall’s Steinway. Sabat literally hypnotized the audience, half surprised and half enchanted by such expressiveness. Chopin’s music resounded not only in the large hall but also in the hearts of those present.
Ruthi Amar and Professor Hagai Ashdot presented Mozart’s Duet No. 5, while Tareq Wahba, with his majestic voice, sung the air Non più andrai farfallone amoroso from the Figaro of Mozart.
The string ensemble, curated by Professor Tanya Beltser, was delightful.
Student of the academic course of the Magnificat, the mezzo-soprano Eleonora Lue’ conquered the audience with the Habanera by Bizet. Lue’s powerful voice, rich in tonalities and colorings and accompanied by an engaging stage presence, is hard to forget.
Mohammed Al Sheikh is one of the most talented students in the history of the Magnificat. Already a winner of numerous international awards, the young pianist from Ramallah played two compositions by Liszt. The second movement of Les Cloches de Genève characterized by a progressive amplification of the melody that recalls the tolling of the bells, left everyone breathless.
Flutist Idit Shemer along with the violin of Robert Canetti and the viola of Bella Canetti, played Beethoven’s Serenade. Distinguished by a vibrant sound of colors, Idit Shemer’s interpretation aroused great enthusiasm.
The same can be written about the duo Eleonora Lue ’and Giuliana Mettini who sang the aria La via resti servita from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Accompanied on the piano by Maria Spitkovsky, Lue’ and Mettini transformed the stage of the Immaculate into an opera theater: voices and movements made up for the lack of sets and all the expressive power of the opera materialized for a moment in the heart of Jerusalem.
After listening to Tanya Beltser’s violin, the audience was able to appreciate the Vocal Ensemble of the Magnificat. Composed by Giuliana Mettini, Eleonora Lue’, Tareq Wahba and the director Br. Alberto Pari, the ensemble sang Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herze, a motet by Loewe in which the consolatory power of God is evoked.
At the end of the concert, all the participants were invited to take part in a celebratory buffet. Between toasts and photographs, affectionate hugs and sincere compliments, the Ayyar came to its conclusion: it was an event in which, for two weeks, the wealth of talents of the Magnificat and the creative force of the world's musical heritage met to produce moments of pure artistic beauty that will accompany us for a long time.