Simon Shaheen to Premiere His Oud Concerto with Chicago Sinfonietta

Simon Shaheen by Joslyn DuncanThis spring the Chicago Sinfonietta, under the direction of Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, examines the common struggle for human dignity by featuring works that reflect the history and beauty of their respective cultures around the globe when they perform concerts in downtown Chicago, April 19, and in Naperville, April 20.

The Arab Spring uprisings are represented by Palestinian-American composer Simon Shaheen’s Chicago-premier performance of his own Oud Concerto in C Minor. Shaheen, an internationally acclaimed master of Arabic traditional music, infuses his own works with jazz and Western styles. He is a virtuoso on both the violin and the oud, a traditional Arabic stringed instrument that is a predecessor of the guitar.

“Since I am versed in both Arabic and Western classical styles,” Shaheen says, “I worked on bridging the sounds with the oud and the orchestra. I used some of the Arabic music scales and rhythmic modes so that the orchestra doesn’t sound like the typically Western classical harmony, but has certain colors and textures.”

The Chicago Sinfonietta will then perform a work which explores the struggle against slavery in the United States with a performance of William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony (1934). Dawson incorporated themes from Negro spirituals in the three-movement work. The movements of the symphony are entitled The Bond of Africa, Hope in the Night and O, le’ me shine, shine like a Morning Star!  Dawson revised the score after a 1952 trip to West Africa to give it a more authentically African rhythmic underpinning.

The concert will open with a performance of Mozart’s overture from his opera Abduction from the Seraglio. The composer made use of Turkish melodies in a story that, at its heart, tells a tale of escape from bondage.

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