Feature Stories

Published on May 10th, 2017 | by WMJledger

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Mak’hela concert will support JFS resettlement program

By Stacey Dresner

Mak’hela: The Jewish Chorus of Western Mass.

SPRINGFIELD – In light of the recent struggles related to refugee resettlement in the U.S., Mak’hela: The Jewish Chorus of Western Massachusetts will join with members of the Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble for “Building Bridges of Peace,” a concert on May 21.

Held at the Community Music School of Springfield in its Robyn Newhouse Hall, the concert will help support the New American Program of Jewish Family Services (JFS) of Western Massachusetts, which resettles refugees locally.

“With all the upheaval in the world, and with millions of people fleeing their homelands to escape war, tyranny, and oppression, we wanted to make a musical statement of peace, inclusion, and tolerance,” said Mak’hela Music Director Dr. Elaine “Lainee” Broad Ginsberg.

Members of the Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble will perform with Mak’hela at the “Building Bridges of Peace Concert.”

The Layaali Arabic Music Ensemble, based in Boston, is a group of musicians committed to performing the traditional music of the Arab world and to increase the awareness of Arabic music and culture through concerts, recordings, workshops, and lectures.

Mak’hela will donate 20 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales for the May 21 concert to the JFS New American Program which works with HIAS and the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees.

“We value any efforts to raise awareness of the plight of refugees from war-torn countries, and we hope the music of Mak’hela and Layaali inspires others in the community to support and welcome refugees with open arms,” said Marsha Shapiro, a JFS board member.

The May 21 concert will feature “music related to peace, understanding and cooperation,” Ginsberg explained, with a version of “Hinei Ma Tov” composed by members of the Abayudya Jewish community in Uganda; Linda Hirshhorn’s “Circle Chant”, “Shalom” a composition by Rebecca Fisher, a composer and member of Mak’hela; and several versions of “Oseh Shalom” including one by the late Debbie Friedman and one in Spanish and Portuguese.

Layaali members Michel Moushabeck, a percussionist, and Mohammed Mejaour, who plays the nay, or reed flute will play a “15-minute duo set that will include a medley of folk pieces and improvisation that will illustrate the art of the nay as well as popular rhythms from the Arab world…” Moushabeck said. They will join Mak’hela for “Fog El Nakhel,” arranged by Salim Bali.

“Fog El-Nakhel is a very popular folk song throughout the Arab world, but especially in Syria where it was sung and recorded by leading Syrian vocalist Sabah Fakhri,” explained Moushabeck. “To the Arab listener, it is a song that conjures a multitude of emotions from longing for the homeland, to love of the land, and beauty of the landscape.”

Moushabeck will also accompany Mak’ hela when they sing Debbie Friedman’s “Oseh Shalom.”

“We are facing toxic times and have entered the age of resistance. Our work is cut out for us and we each have to do our part to end this insanity,” Moushabeck said. “One can never underestimate the influence of music and the arts in building bridges and changing the way people think about the world. Through music we speak with the loudest voice. Watching the distressing images of the Syrian people fleeing the ravages of war, violence, and persecution have touched me deeply.

The sheer magnitude of Syrian refugee crisis makes this a humanitarian catastrophe that demands the immediate attention of each and every one of us.

“I support wholeheartedly the Jewish Family Service’s refugee resettlement program and all other projects by caring Americans and people from around the world that are helping to ease the suffering of the Syrian refugees. It is shameful that our government has done little to stop the war or give refuge to families who no longer have a home.”

In addition to the money being donated to JFS’s resettlement program, Moushabeck said that his publishing house, Interlink Publishing, has donated more than $300,000 from the sales of the cookbook Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity.

“Building Bridges of Peace” will take place Sunday, May 21, at 2 p.m. at CMSS, 127 State St., Springfield. The concert is sponsored in part by a grant from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Ticket: Suggested donation of $15; JFS’ Refugee Resettlement program: (413) 737-2601; Michel Mousabeck’s Syria relief program:www.soupforsyria.com.


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