Experience the atmosphere of Christmas in the Arab world as St Martin-in-the-Fields resounds with Syriac, Coptic and Byzantine chants, harking back to the time of Queen Zanubia’s Palmyra in the second century CE.
The acclaimed singer and broadcaster Reem Kelani, aka the unofficial Palestinian cultural ambassador, will lead the evening as compere.
Line up :
- Najib Coutya
The Lebanese singer and ‘oud player, Najib Coutya, learned the chants from his father, who was a renowned choirmaster and singer of Byzantine and Arabic Church music. The music which Najib practises is an oral tradition, consisting of a system of about 20 complex modes, full of quarter-tones, drawing from the Arabic maqam and Greek Byzantine conventions. He leads a choir, based at the Antiochian Greek Orthodox church, St George Cathedral, in St Pancras.
Najib places equal importance on continuing these traditions and innovating within them; by playing them correctly and authentically, but using new improvisations to make them vibrant and fresh.
- Merit Ariane Stephanos
Half-Coptic Egyptian, half-German singer and composer, Merit Ariane Stephanos draws on Arabic classical and Western contemporary influences in her music and is passionate about exploring a dialogue between both cultures. Merit has also researched Arab Christian chants in the field in Lebanon. Her music illuminates the earliest roots of Christianity and celebrates the diverse musical traditions of the ancient Middle East.
- Rev Dr Shafiq Abouzayed
A specialist performer of Byzantine chant, Shafiq Abouzayd, is the senior Melkite Greek Catholic priest in Britain. Rev Dr Abouzayd studied Aramaic-Syriac and Arabic at the monastery of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries in Jounieh and is director of the Aram Centre for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies at Oxford University.
- Jon Banks
Merit and Dr Abouzayed will be joined by Jon Banks on qanun and santur. Banks has toured, broadcast and recorded with groups including The Dufay Collective, The Burning Bush, Joglaresa, the Jocelyn Pook Ensemble and Iranian ensembles with Fariborz Kiani and Davod Azad. He lectures on Middle Eastern music at Anglia Ruskin University.