Francis and the Sultan

October 3rd 2019

The Magnificat participates in the celebrations

The year 2019 is particularly dear to the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land because it marks 800 years since the pilgrimage of peace that Francis made in the Levant. To celebrate the event and to remember the meeting between Francis and the Sultan Al Malik Al Kamil—which occurred during the time of the Fifth Crusade—the Custody organized a conference and a series of cultural events, which took place in Jerusalem from September 30 to October 4. Along with fascinating events that dealt with the historical documents reporting Francis’ meeting with the Sultan and others elaborating on the meaning of such event for the contemporary world, between field trips and religious ceremonies, there was also a Thanksgiving concert featuring students and teachers of the Magnificat Institute, the music school of the Custody. 

Introduced by Fr. Narcyz Klimas, one of the main organizers of the celebration, the concert of the Magnificat was a joyous performance attended by the Custos, Fr. Francesco Patton and the Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. 

The Buds Choir conducted by Mirjam Younan and accompanied at the piano by Basel Awwad delivered the opening act of the concert. The choir sang traditional compositions of the Arab repertoire: the sounds of the local musical tradition filled the naval of the Church of St. Savior, thus symbolically recreating the encounter between Francis and Al Malik Al Kamil. The talented Caterina D’Agnanno played on the recorder the Sonata in F Maj. Op. 2 by Loeillet. Accompanied at the piano by Annie Aslanian, D’Agnanno offered a convincing and refreshing performance, infusing Baroque music with the fragile energy of youth. Lina Baransi transformed her violin into an instrument of poetry with her interpretation of Massenet’s MeditationAfter the poetry, it was time for the Spanish sounds of Tárrega’s Capricho Arábe played by William Obeid on the guitar. This composition, another example of the encounter between West and East, electrified the audience with its rhythm and evocative power. Marianne Baddour, accompanied at the piano by her teacher Alexander Fine, played Danzi’s Concerto for Bassoon N. 2. Baddour’ fingerwork was clean and smooth and the acoustics of the church served her performance very well, enriching her sound with a wrapping effect. The Cello Quartet, curated by Fabienne Van Eck, proposed a rendition of Beethoven’s Equale, N. 1. Constructed around long homophonic phrases, this composition renders well the concept of equals working together. The four cellists (Aynoor Taweel, Siwar Baseer, Fares Nuseibeh, and Fabienne van Eck) expressed this idea with humility and controlled passion. The closing act of the concert was a performance of Robinson’s Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, a popular Christian hymn from the 18th century. Played by Tamara Ghrayeb (violin), Sweem Tawil (violin), Tanya Beltser (violin), William Obeid (guitar) and Fabienne van Eck (cello), the piece communicated a sense of peace and calm that filled the hearts of all the audience. It was the perfect ending for a concert that celebrated the peace that is born from the encounter between people.

And, at the end of the concert, the Custos Francesco Patton gave a brief speech in which he hoped for the Middle East a future inspired by the harmonious music played at the Magnificat Institute.