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Unique Collaborative Concert With NZSO And International Stars

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra joins with Aotearoa New Zealand’s Muslim communities and acclaimed international artists to present a unique concert experience in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland in March.

Beyond Words is a special collaboration to promote unity and peace through music and to honour the lives lost and changed forever in Ōtautahi Christchurch on 15 March 2019.

The Wellington performance is presented in association with the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts and the Auckland performance is presented in association with Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Arts Festival.

Conducted by Fawzi Haimor, featuring powerful Moroccan vocalist OUM and oud virtuoso Kyriakos Tapakis, the NZSO performs the New Zealand premieres of remarkable works from American Valerie Coleman, Iranian Reza Vali, Estonian Arvo Pärt, traditional songs and the world premiere of a new work from renowned Aotearoa New Zealand composer John Psathas.

Psathas’ Ahlan wa Sahlan, composed in collaboration with OUM and Tapakis, uses the Arabic welcome to let people know they are in a place where they belong. Finding inspiration in a quote promoting peace, love and forgiveness from terror attack survivor Farid Ahmed’s memoir Husna's Story, Psathas, OUM and Tapakis have fused together musical styles from Eastern and Western cultures in Ahlan wa Sahlan.

This work has been created with guidance from The Central Iqra Trust and communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.

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Vali combines Western orchestration with Persian style for the New Zealand premiere of Funèbre. Coleman’s Umoja, Swahili for ‘unity’, was the first work by a living African American woman premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Pärt’s Silouan’s Song is a powerfully spiritual and meditative work.

Vocalist Abdelilah Rharrabti, vocalist and daf musician Esmail Fathi, and saz player Liam Oliver from Ōtautahi Christchurch’s Simurgh Music School, also join the Orchestra to perform traditional music of the Middle East.

“It is not often one has the opportunity to offer a message of solidarity, love, and compassion through one’s artistic work,” says Psathas.

“This is a rare gift from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and I am even more fortunate to be able to share this creative journey with two fellow artists: OUM and one of Greece’s most celebrated oud performers, Kyriakos Tapakis. Together we are creating a musical message of welcoming – Ahlan wa Sahlan – a greeting used to tell someone that they’re where they belong, that they’re a part of this place and they are welcome here. It’s a way of saying ‘You’re with your people’.”

Alongside the concerts are a series of free community engagement events in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland in collaboration with Muslim communities and Unity Week, the official commemoration to be held from 15 March.

In each city there will be a community panel discussion with Beyond Words artists about the project. In Christchurch the events include a workshop by the Simurgh Music School, where the public can experience traditional instruments from the Middle East and Islamic world, a spoken word workshop and Share Kai Share Culture, run by InCommon and Mahia te Aroha, both founded in Christchurch in response to 15 March 2019.

On the day of each performance, a prayer room will be provided at the venue.

In Auckland Town Hall a special calligraphy exhibition will feature works created by distinguished calligraphy artist Janna Ezat. In the Islamic world, Arabic calligraphy is both an art form and an expression of devotion, identity, and cultural heritage. The exhibition includes a powerful piece dedicated to Janna’s son Hussein Al-Umari, commemorating his bravery, and honouring his legacy in the aftermath of the tragic attack.

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