Concert Review: Fulcrum Point Commemorates 9/11 with Multicultural Concert for Peace

Fulcrum Point, credit Falaah A. Shabazz

Contrapuntist and I were fortunate enough to attend Fulcrum Point‘s “9/11: 10 Years & Beyond Annual Concert for Peace” at the Harris Theater on September 11. The concert commemorated 9/11 with a program featuring classical pieces and music from the great religions and cultures of the world. Guest artists included the New Classic Singers, Lee R. Kesselman, Kathleen Supové, Drupon Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche, Zeshan Bagewadi, Saalik Ahmad Ziyad, and Alberto Mizrahi.

At the beginning of the performance, artistic director Stephen Burns requested that the audience hold all applause until the end of the program so as to maintain a mood conducive to contemplating the events of 9/11.

The Fulcrum Point Ensemble performed three pieces throughout the program – Aaron Jay Kernis’s Musica Celestis, Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, and the world premiere of Karim Al-Zand’s Lamentation on the Disasters of War. Each of these compositions evoked slightly different musical moods, but they made similar use of sustained seventh chords, minimalistic melodies, and extended emotional climaxes. In fact, Contrapuntist and I both remarked afterwards that the works all bore structural similarities to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Although the pieces created an atmosphere of meditation and spirituality, it would have been interesting to hear the group perform a contrasting work.

The New Classic Singers performed Sensoo, composed and conducted by Lee R. Kesselman. The contrapuntal work combines Japanese, Latin, and Hebrew texts lamenting the realities of war and pleading prayer for peace. A percussionist accompanied the choir by playing the crotales (also known as antique cymbals) with a bow, which created an eerie sense of a ringing in the ears.

Kathleen Supové performed Marita Bolles’ Buddha Girl for piano, recorded soundtrack, 5.1 surround sound, and Immersivedesign technology. The piece is based around a recorded interview with Debbie Borza, who became a peace activist after her daughter was killed on Flight 93 on 9/11. The piano provides musical reflection to the interview which is in turns loving, surrealistic, and hopeful.

Norby Samphell & Drupon Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche. Credit Falaah A. Shabazz

The performance of three traditional Buddhist chants, provided a sense of emotional respite from the  previous piece. Drupon Rinchen Dorjee Rinpoche (resident spiritual director and teacher at the Chicago Ratna Shri Sangha Tibetan Buddhist meditation center) and Norbu Samphell (President of the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago) chanted in honor of the 9/11 victims and prayed for the peace and well-being of the survivors. I’d never experienced live Tibetan Buddhist chants, so I enjoyed the opportunity to hear these gentlemen.

Vocalist Saalik Ahmad Ziyad performed his original vocal work, “Lord give me the Hope”, with accompaniment by a bassist from Fulcrum Point. The piece was an interesting marriage of gospel and jazz.

My favorite guest performance of the evening was by Zeshan Bagewadi (vocals), Josh Fink (bass), and Eric Seligman (guitar, whose name was unfortunately left out of the program). The trio performed “Kya Toota Hai, Andhar Andhar”. Bagewadi’s eclectic background includes training in both Western operatic music and Hindustani classical music. His sweet, tenor vocals floated over the earthy jazz backing of the bass and guitar.

Tenor Alberto Mizrahi (Hazzan of Chicago’s Anshe Emet Synagogue), accompanied by Fulcrum Point, performed the world premiere of David Stock’s Three Yiddish Songs. Mizrahi’s agile voice evoked the mischievous, poignant, and passionate subjects of the songs which express the wonder of life through children.

All of the evening’s performers joined together to close the concert with a Kaddish, the Jewish traditional prayer for the dead. Mizrahi sang the text, interspersed with vocal solos by Rinpoche, Ziyad, and Bagewadi.

The two-hour concert did not have an intermission, which made it a bit overwhelming to digest all that music. In fact, several audience members slipped out about midway through the program. Nevertheless, Fulcrum Point created a fitting and peaceful commemoration of 9/11.

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