The Latin Patriarch Church in Gaza is the backdrop for a December 2013 international concert featuring (L to R) : Violinist Michael Dabroski,  Violist Peter Sulski, Cellist Ariana Falk and Oboist Demetrios Karamintzas.

Cultures Connect in Gaza

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Thursday January 09, 2014

This December, Burlington Ensemble went international, with a remarkable humanitarian mission to Gaza.  Co-Artistic Director and violinist Michael Dabroski states, ”Bringing  Bach’s Goldberg variations to Gaza ... is a powerful way to connect with people across culture, language and politics — and a tremendous gift to people who are suffering.”  Gaza is the war sieged portion of Palestine, currently under flood conditions, whose people starve for clean water, art, music and freedom.

The concert was not unlike other performances my husband, South Burlington resident violinist Michael Dabroski has led;  a church full of eager faces, mesmerized by the mathematical beauty of Bach, engaged by Michael’s animated style, only this audience was in Gaza, before people nestled together for what is their only concert of the year.  Christians and Muslims together joined in their desire to connect with “the outside,” and the beauty of Bach.  Said one parting guest, “We want people to understand that we are like you.  We want to do things, we want to play music, we want to learn…”

Michael was invited to participate in a Baroque music festival centralized in Ramallah, in the West Bank, created eight years ago by Palestinian native, Ramzi Aburedwan.  Aburedwan, himself a violist, began the “Al Kamandjati” (the Violinist) music program with the intent to engage Palestinian youth to play music, many who cannot afford lessons and do not have access to instruments.   Ramallah’s population is largely youth — by some estimates over 65% are under age 18, and they are a handsome, strong, energetic population — with nothing to do.  There is a simmering energy evident in this growing, occupied population and music (both classical and middle eastern styles) harnesses this energy into a creative flow that satisfies both listener and performer.  

The festival united musicians from around the globe: Italy, Belgium, Germany, France, England, and Palestine, along with a chorus from Worcester, Mass, to raise awareness of the plight of an occupied people, while sharing in a chamber music experience that is inherently collaborative and accepting.  As Italian cellist and festival participant Luca Franzetti explains, “Music is all about acceptance--you blend one instrument along with another, just like that --and you must accept and adapt or there is no music.”

The tour included a moving performance of Handel’s “Messaiah” at the colossal and historic St. Ann’s church in Jerusalem, before a full audience of Israelis, Palestinians and internationals, singing “Their sound is gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world,” followed by a standing chorus of “Halleluiah!”

Back in the United States, Michael and I hope to continue raising awareness of the human rights struggle in Palestine by bringing Palestinians to Burlington College where Michael serves as Director of Music and through ties with “The Tree of Life” education foundation. 

SOURCE: Jill Rinehart, MD, Guest Contributor