Unmusical Easter

Ati Metwaly, Sunday 17 Apr 2011

As Christian families in Egypt prepare to celebrate Easter, they’ll have to wait until 25 April to get a hint of any of the traditional, classical masterpieces from any of the arts and culture centers


Easter and Christmas enriches the music scene with many gems: from Baroque sacred music based on biblical stories, through similar works of Classicism, Romanticism to 20th century music. Orchestras reach for Masses, Passions, Requiems and other choral works and even some cantatas devoted to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ in the countries where the majority of population celebrate Easter.

Cairo and Alexandria last year saw a Christmas especially rich in Christmas songs, carolling and other seasonal music performed by almost every music ensemble in Egypt. 

This Easter, however, has not been given much attention by culture and arts centres.

Cairo Opera House welcomes Easter season with “The Best of Broadway” show and others completely detached from Easter festivities. A pity, as in past years, especially the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, choirs and Cairo Opera Company soloists performed many works that would be highly suitable for Easter time.

The opera schedule includes one concert by Jesus Heart Choir on 25 April at Gomhouria Theatre. Even though concert details are not provided, knowing the choir’s faithfulness to all seasonal events, we may assume that the concert will relate to Easter. The same schedule of the Cairo Opera House mentions “Om El Nour Choir - Easter Concert” which already took place in the first days of April. And this is where the Cairo Opera House involvement in Easter ends.

Other institutions offering music concerts on regular basis do not seem to do better.

El Sawy Culturewheel (El Sakia) is filling the Easter week with “Sakia’s first festival for Metal music,” which kicks off on 20 April and occupies both Wisdom and River Halls until 22 April. With a totally unprecedented number of festivals being held at El Sakia – many of them of one-day duration – a small Easter accent, even in a form of their classical “one day” Easter festival wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

El Sakia tries hard to keep pace with the changes taking place in the country and allows young people to express themselves ‘freely’ through music and other art forms (although El Sakia has come under much criticism for stringent self-censorship), but in this marathon to meet their own mission the centre seems to have forgotten festivities important to a considerable chunk of the Egyptian population. El Sakia’s event titled “The sunrise of the January 25 Revolution” that overshadows Easter Sunday fits the occasion just as much as the Broadway show does at the Cairo Opera House. 

The American University in Cairo (AUC), where the music department is usually responsive to all festivities, excuses itself out of Easter for the whole duration of Spring 2011.

Yet, if we only look a few weeks into the future, we’ll notice the Cairo Choir Society’s (operating under the umbrella of the AUC Performing and Visual Arts Department) plan to perform Schubert’s Mass in G Major on 17 May at All Saints' Cathedral and on 18 May at Ewart Hall (AUC Downtown Campus). Though coming a bit late, Schubert's Mass in G seems to be the only big work offered to the Egyptian audience for Easter festivities.

A glance at other locations in Cairo brings us to the conclusion that either Easter is not on the minds of many institutions that traditionally offer a load of concerts or they are too timid to advertise them. Music centres continue with their regular activities and many open their doors to events related to Egypt’s January 25 Revolution. It seems, for the music world in Egypt, this Easter will be limited to the events organised in small community centres, possibly embassy gatherings and churches.

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