Our recent concert, Aşkina, was a triumphant success! We are so grateful to all those who joined us for this special sold-out evening dedicated to developing cross-cultural understanding and communication between the cultures of the Near East and beyond, and we’re excited to share some highlights from the program.
Presented by the Yunus Emre Institute and co-produced alongside Apricot Music & Art, Aşkina was dedicated to celebrating a multi-cultural vision of peace and love. That theme was reflected in the full concert title, “Aşkina Ashkina – Sakinah – Shalom,” which ties together words of unity from the cultures represented in the program: “Love” (Turkish) – “Peace/Serenity” (Arabic), and “the spirit of God” (Hebrew) – “Peace/Harmony” (Hebrew) – “Peace” (Arabic/Hebrew). In keeping with that message, proceeds from Aşkina supported UNICEF USA’s emergency work for the children affected by the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“Preparing for this concert introduced me to the amazing music of Turkish composers past and present,” said Dr. Noreen Green, Founding Artistic Director and Conductor of the LAJS. “It was an opportunity for me to learn about the richness of their cultural heritage and marvel at the similarities in our musical traditions. We tend to focus on our differences – but the Middle and Near East truly are our brethren in many ways. It was so moving to see how we all connected from the performers on stage to the diverse audience that was in attendance. Everyone was so appreciative, with multiple standing ovations – it was really quite overwhelming!”
In keeping with the evening’s theme, the concert featured an all-star assemblage of soloists from diverse backgrounds, including Turkish-American pianist and Apricot Music & Art Founder Dr. Ayşe Taşpınar Gatenyo, Turkish ney/oud virtuoso Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Persian-American vocalist Chloe Pourmorady, Syrian oud player Asher Shasho Levy, ethnic percussionist M.B. Gordy III, Honduran guitarist Alfredo Schiftan, Turkish Hazan Haim Mizrahi, kanun player Jim Grippo and Sufi dancer Vedat Gursoylu.
“What an incredible evening of music,” Levy said. “It was a great joy and honor to work with everyone in realizing this program and bringing life to this music.”
The audience was taken by Aşkina’s unique fusion of artistic styles, hailing it as “a truly imaginative program” that was “musically, spiritually, artistically, meaningfully, and beautifully performed.”
That mixture of cultural backgrounds was key for the performance of Grammy Award-winning composer Sharon Farber’s “Ashkina,” which had its West Coast Premiere during the concert. Commissioned by The Foundation for Universal Sacred Music, “Ashkina” – the namesake of the concert – was appropriately the opening piece. Named after the Turkish word for love, “Ashkina” moves freely between Traditional, Western and Middle Eastern musical influences to reflect the essence of the composition: the desire for understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and peace among all peoples.
I feel truly blessed and grateful for the way [the LAJS and the featured musicians] performed ‘Ashkina,’” Farber said, “and it was exhilarating to see the inspired audience react with long standing ovations.”
Other noteworthy premieres included the US Premiere of pioneering Turkish composer Ulvi Cemal Erkin’s “Piano Concerto No. 1,” the World Premiere of Erberk Eryilmaz’s “Yan Yana,” and the World Premiere of “Journey to Love,” a medley arranged by Önder Özkoç based on melodies of influential Turkish poet Yunus Emre. Rounding out the program were Tekbilek and Brian Keane’s “Ghizemli,” a trio of multicultural traditional folk songs arranged by Levy, David Eaton, and Shaul Bustan, and Palestinian composer Nabil Azzam’s “Dance of Abraham,” which you can watch below!
We will next present the music of Israeli American video game composer Inon Zur, including the premiere of his emotional suite from the game Syberia: The World Before, at The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, November 20, 2022. Longtime friend of the Symphony and Grammy Award-winning pianist Emily Bear, who contributed to the soundtrack for Syberia: The World Before, will join the LAJS in bringing Zur’s work to life.
The program will also feature suites of Zur’s work in the Fallout series, the Dragon Age series, The Elder Scrolls: Blades, and the highly anticipated upcoming game Starfield. Tickets are on sale now!