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Arts Blast: 'Playing for Peace' world musicians at Gammage Saturday

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Six world-renowned artists from across the globe are coming together Saturday and using music to bridge the divide between cultures in conflict as part of the ASU Gammage BEYOND series in a Playing for Peace concert. Israeli pianist Sally Pinkas, one of the six, talked yesterday by phone about the music and its reach.

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"Chamber musicians, by nature, must listen closely," Pinkas said. "They negotiate. They compromise. There's give and take in the music. The traits necessary for peace and better relations are ones chamber musicians call on daily."

As such, the musicians and the program they bring to Gammage are all about peace. The famed Apple Hill String Quartet, currently comprised of dedicated teacher-performers Elise Kuder and Colleen Jennings (violin), Michael Kelley (viola) and Rupert Thompson (violoncello), began the Playing for Peace program in 1988.

For more than two decades, Apple Hill has been traveling to the world's "hot spots" --Israel, Jordan, Syria, Northern Ireland, inner-city U.S. neighborhoods, to name a few--to place "musicians from each community together, in small chamber ensembles," according to the group's literature. In learning a piece of music together, a sensitive dialogue between cultures begins.

Both Pinkas and the sixth musician, Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, have been faculty members at the Apple Hill Summer Chamber Workshops (that are nestled onto 100-acres of farmland in Southern New Hampshire) as part of each of their very successful and busy individual, professional music careers.

"We're all very keen on Playing for Peace," remarked Pinkas, stressing that music is always at the heart of the group. "We actually don't talk politics. First and foremost, we are musicians. Music brought us to each other. Then we are friends."

Saturday's concert features a co-commissioned by ASU Gammage work written by Kareem Roustom, an Emmy-nominated composer who has worked with a wide range of orchestras and written acclaimed film scores. Titled Traces, and commissioned explicitly for Pinkas, Azmeh and the Apple Hill String Quartet, the piece premiered in New Hampshire in November 2013.

"Traces is a personal testament of Kareem's," Pinkas said of the Syrian composer's new work that draws upon poetic imagery of an abandoned Bedouin encampment, a common theme found in classical pre-Islamic Arab poetry . "It's very anguished and beautiful."

The concert program also includes the haunting Piano Quintet by Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919-1996), composed in 1944 soon after Weinberg, a Polish Jew, escaped to Minsk with his family. Apple Hill will also perform Joseph Haydn's String Quartet in G minor, Op 74, No.3 "The Rider," and Azmeh will play another new piece by Roustom, A Muffled Scream, for solo clarinet.

Beyond performing Saturday night, the Gammage BEYOND Playing for Peace group is connecting to many Valley residents through Gammage's Cultural Participation programs. From Arabic language classes to master classes in music performance to leadership presentations at ASU's College of Business, the artists are serving audiences of all ages and backgrounds throughout the week.

Arts BLAST!
because art IS a BLAST
because sometimes a quick heads up makes you want to head out
BLAST off!

-Jennifer Haaland

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