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(Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)— Atzilut, a Jewish and Arab musical group, will be performing at Moravian College on Wednesday, October 22 at 7:30 p.m. in Foy Concert Hall. “Concert for Peace” will feature the musical stylings of both the Jewish and Arab traditions and celebrate the common roots between these two traditions. With violins, flutes, double reeds, percussion, and various vocalists, the musicians show extraordinary creativity in the spiritual and classical Middle Eastern songs they perform.
Balleghu is a modern Arabic piece in the classical style and was originally performed by the great singer Feyruz. From Jewish literature, texts from Kabbalah, the mystical tradition, will be performed. One such text, Im Ninalu, is a Yemenite Jewish piece for experiencing higher dimensions of existence.
Atzilut is an all-male group made up of 11 members. The music director, Hazzan Jack Kessler, is a vocalist and a composer-arranger who has had a 20-year career in traditional Jewish synagogues. In addition to participating in this ensemble, Kessler teaches cantorial students. Maurice Chedid, a graduate of the Lebanon Conservatory in Beirut, is an Arabic vocalist who has toured the world with the Lebanese Folkloric Group as a singer, classical composer, and Oud player.
Stan Slotter is a trumpet and flute player who has been a professional musician since he was 15. He has performed with such notables as Cecil Taylor, Grover Washington, Philly Jo Jones, Reverie, Minas, and Seamus Eagan. Samuel Heifetz, who plays double reeds, released his first album in 1988. This album featured Jewish music in the USSR, “Jewish Impressions.” In the United States, Heifetz performs with his groups “Jewish Trio” and “Classical Serenade.” He is also a professor of piano at Arcadia University.
One of the most sought after ethnic violinists in the Northeast, Josef Kessler is a master on the electric violin. He plays Middle Eastern, Irish, Balkan, and rock. He has performed with Led Zeppelin, Morphine, Boiled in Lead, Wooden Leg, Sunday’s Well, and Klingon Klezmer. Roger Mgrdichian is a second generation Armenian-American musician. Family members taught him how to play Armenian and Middle Eastern music, especially his uncle, the great George Mgrdichian.
A respected jazz bassist, Bruce Kaminsky is a master at Middle Eastern bass technique. He earned a Master of Music from The Combs College of Music, studied Jewish liturgical music at Gratz College with Dr. Irving Cohen, and is a faculty member at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Joe Tayoun is one of the few dumbek virtuosos based in the United States. He has played with musicians such as Ferhat Alpar, Zakir Hussain and Simon Shaheen. He has played in a wide range of concert stages, including Dag Hammerskjold Hall at the United Nations. Jim Babb is a Middle Easter percussionist although he has a western classical background. He has performed with numerous Philadelphia ensembles including the E-Tribe and percussion band, Klingon Klezmer.
Joseph Ruscitto is a percussionist as well as videographer. He founded the jazz trio, “Triception,” in which he arranges and performs on drum kit. His film, “Between the Edges” was accepted into the public television station WYBE’s series, “Philadelphia Stories, and premiered just this year. Lenny Seidman has integrated electronic music with his percussion playing, composing pieces for dance companies and other musical ensembles. He has performed around the world with musicians Zakir Hussain, Kenny Endo, Simon Shaheen, Michael Daugherty, Butch Morris, and choreographers Rennie Harris, Helmut Gottschild, Roko Kawai, Nina Martin, and most recently with Kim Arrow on “Quasimodo in the Outback”. He is director of the fourteen-member Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra.
This project is partially supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by the Vira I. Heinz Endowment; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and the Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
Foy Concert Hall is located on the Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus, Main and Church Streets, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Admission is just $12 for adults and $6 for students, senior citizens, and children (12 and under). For more information, contact the Music Department at 610-861-1650 or visit www.moravian.edu.