BEIRUT: As the doors closed and the lights dimmed, the music started enveloping the Lebanese American University's Irwin Hall.
Choosing cultural exchange as this year’s theme, the Imagine Workshop and Concert Series (IWCS) kicked off its Spring Residency with the orchestral concert “From Far Away” on Sunday with Taipei Civic Symphony Orchestra, Tunisia88 Honors Choir, and Kairos Arts.
“This year’s theme is cultural exchange and today marks a milestone for the 'Imagine' Initiative because we welcomed 100 guests from different countries to Lebanon,” Seba Ali, founder and artistic director of the Imagine Workshop and Concert Series and Assistant Professor of Music at the School of Arts and Sciences at LAU, told Annahar. “The more exposure we have to different cultures, the more it leads us to more equality and acceptance. We need diversity; diversity is our savior in the 21st century.”
IWCS aims at broadening the field of education to include the core ingredients of inventiveness and expressiveness; art, music, and culture. In theory, the presence of such diversity might lead to a cultural clash. The purpose behind this initiative, however, is to embrace, rather than fight the different cultures in the Arab region. In the name of culture and art, several countries came together to stage and spoke in one common language; music.
“Music is a universal language. When words fail, music succeeds in delivering positive messages. Positivity in the art is very contagious,” said Ali.
The concert took the attendees on a cultural tour and had several stops in different countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syrian, Palestine, and Turkey. Some of the songs included “What a Wonderful World” and “New York, New York” performed by Ulrich H. Brunnhuber, “Voices of Bird” performed by Kimball Gallagher, and “Taipei” performed by Kai-Yin Huang.
“I sang an Egyptian song called 'Akhet' by Ryan Francis. The experience was very interesting and challenging at the same time because it's the first time I sing a song that's neither Lebanese nor Western,” Aya Torbey, Mezzo-Soprano, a performing arts and communication student at LAU, told Annahar.
After years of work, the founders of the three main initiatives, Imagine, Caerus Art, and Tunisia 88, discovered that they have all started initiatives with the same vision and mission. To bring the three communities together, they expressed their purpose through the orchestral concert celebrating culture, acceptance, and friendship.
"What we saw today was very moving," Hanin Haidar Ahmad, LAU student who attended the concert, said. "To witness a concert contributing to cultural richness through music is what I have admired the most in today’s performance."
LAU, with the effort of its Department of Communication Arts, embraced the different artistic disciplines not only through this concert, but also through a series of events that ranges from workshops, panel discussions, art exhibitions, and outreach and education programs.
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