On Sunday evening in Leffler Chapel and Performance Center, Intercultural Journeys hosted a concert filled with a variety of music from several cultural backgrounds. Intercultural Journeys was founded by Ohad Bar-David, an Israeli-born Philadelphia Orchestra cellist.
Bar-David, along with Carole Hass Gravagno, a local activist and philanthropist, Sheldon Thompson, former Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Sunoco Inc. and Majid Alsayegh, an Iraqi-born engineer formed the group in hopes of creating intercultural dialogue through music.
Intercultural Journeys’ mission was to provide an avenue of discussion among people of different dialogues. Before the group was founded, Bar-David and Gravagno led a small group tour to Arab, Jewish and Buddhist villages to promote intercultural dialogue. In 2001, Bar-David and Gravagno joined Thompson and Alsayegh to formally create the group. The number of regular artists for Intercultural Journeys has increased to 16 members and has performed over 160 concerts.
Sunday evening’s concert, sponsored by Gretna Music, featured Jiebing Chen on erhu, Ricardo Morales on clarinet, Bar-David on cello and Hafez Kotain as a percussionist. Chen has been known in musical circles as one of the top erhu virtuosos in the world. Her unique Chinese instrument has garnered her fame in concert halls with Chinese, American and European orchestras.
Morales is the principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and is a native of San Juan, P.R. He was featured as the principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra at the age of 21. Bar-David is widely considered as one of the most versatile cellists in the world today. His classical music training began when he was seven in Tel Aviv and he went on to study at the Julliard School and Curtis Institute of Music. Percussionist Hafez Kotain familiarizes with both Latin and Arab influences in his music. He first performed on stage at the age of nine and went on to become an educator of percussion for Philadelphia area nonprofits.
The concert featured selections from a multitude of pieces. “The program we try to follow goes from east to west,” Bar-David said. To open, Intercultural Journeys played “Butterfly Lovers” by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao. This traditional Chinese piece featured Chen on the erhu. “This comes from a very popular Vivaldi concerto from China,” Chen said. The ensemble has been featured in China previously in Hong Kong and Beijing.
Next was a children’s song with Brazilian origins, but is well-known in China. “It’s a famous children’s song,” Bar-David said. “When we played it, a lot of kids came by that were so excited about it. It’s called ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ based off of the story.”
A traditional Jewish folk song, “Motherless Child,” followed. This song featured a folky sound featuring cello and a diverse percussion sound. Next was Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos, RV 531” which featured the duet of erhu and cello by Chen. The group refers to this piece as “Vivaldi Gone Wild.” The group took the classic piece and gave it an upbeat, vibrant sound featuring the ehru, giving it a Chinese influence.
The rest of the concert featured selections from Rafael Hernandez’s “Lamento Borincano,” Luis Miranda’s “Recuerdos de Borinquen,” Riad al Sunbati’s “Longa Farahfaza,” Moshe Vilensky’s “Hora Mamtera” and Chen Yao Xing’s “Galloping Horses.”
Intercultural Journeys and Gretna Music at Elizabethtown College is sponsored by the Anne M. and Philip H. Glatfelter, III Family Foundation. For more information about upcoming events, go to gretnamusic.org.