As a longtime Rose Ensemble fan, I expected to enjoy Jerusalem: Treasures from the Holy Land, the program it performed last Saturday night at Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis after a series of concerts around Minnesota. But I was not expecting to be quite so moved by it.
Joining the Rose Ensemble were three soloists Yair Dalal, Iraqi-born, Israeli violinist and oud player; Zafer Tawil, Jerusalem-born, Palestinian multi-instrumentalist; and Dror Sinai, Israeli-born, Middle Eastern percussionist performing music representing the three Abrahamic faiths whose adherents passionately claim Jerusalem as their spiritual home.
A Yeminite call to God sung in Hebrew opened the concert, followed seamlessly by a call for peace in Latin plainchant, then a call to prayer in Arab a sequence both highly charged and profoundly calming. From there the spell deepened, drawing us into sets of microtonal Arab cultural songs, hypnotizing sweeps of percussion, voice, violin and Middle-Eastern instruments, as well as Renaissance polyphony, both Jewish and Christian. The flow from one tradition and era into another brought out their fascinating distinctions while pointing to a common source.
In a time of open xenophobia, intercultural violence and daily reports of atrocities rationalized by faith, we need these points of connection as much as ever, if only for a few hours in a concert hall especially when those ties are as unforced and irresistible as the ones woven this week between the Rose Ensemble and its extraordinary guests.
There are two more chances to see the concert in Minnesota: Thursday, Sept. 29, in Marshall; and Friday, Sept. 30, in Rochester. Details are available on the Rose Ensemble's website.