In cooperation with the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Goethe Institute and under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, the European-Egyptian Contemporary Music Society (EECMS) brings the Contemporary Music Days 2011 festival to Cairo today, Thursday 28 April until 3 May.
“By contemporary we mean the modernisation of classic music, using percussion for example, in addition to other modern instruments,” EECMS programme manager Mohamed Ezz Aldin tells Ahram Online.
“We aim at presenting classic music in a non-traditional way and broadening this concept among Egyptian and European societies,” he states.
To make the idea appealing, the EECMS has decided to organise these 5-day musical events across Cairo, providing classic music concerts free of charge for everyone to enjoy and learn more about the modern classical music concept.
Despite the difficulty of organising such events in Egypt due to the current political uncertainty, Aldin found it manageable and easy in comparison with the former regime.
“We first thought that given the current situation in Egypt, this festival would have to be postponed, but to our surprise the Ministry of Culture and the minister himself immediately facilitated things for us,” Aldin says.
“The Minister of Culture Dr Ghazi responded to our request right away; whereas during the days of former minister Farouk Hosni our requests and petitions were always ignored,” he elaborates.
Touring cosmopolitan Cairo are a number of music ensembles, musicians, composers and conductors during the festival including the “Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart”.
Established under the artistic management of Musik der Jahrhunderte(Music of the Centenary) in 1984, the ensemble specialises in the interpretation of contemporary vocal music. Each of the seven concert and opera soloists forming the group; with a collective range reaching from coloratura soprano, to countertenor, and “basso profondo”; shapes the work on chamber music and co-operates with the composers and other interpreters through his/her renowned artistic creativity.
Another music group performing during the festival is the “Hague Percussion”. Founded in 1977, these musicians focus on performing and developing contemporary percussion music in its most diverse forms: from an existing repertoire, via a large number of new commissions and ongoing collaborations with composers; to researching the utmost limits of organised sound.
Ever since its foundation, the group has built and maintained a leading position internationally across many European countries, the United States, the Middle East, Japan and Korea.
The festival will feature musicians like Alex Garrobé and “Conjunt Instrumental BCN216” from Spain, and the “Ensemble Slagwerk Den Haag” from Holland.
There will also be several workshops for writing and conducting classic music using modern instruments and techniques. These will be taught and monitored by eminent European musicians, including Spanish musicians José María Sánchez-Verdú and Benet Casablancas.
José María Sánchez-Verdú, 43, finished his postgraduate studies at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts in1999 and gained his first experience as a composer at the Spanish Academy in Rome. As a conductor, he has worked with different ensembles of new music in Spain, Italy and Germany.
Catalonian musician Benet Casablancas’s works are distinguished with numerous commissions and awards, including the Ciutat de Barcelona, Musician’s Accord of New York, and the Composer’s Arena of Amsterdam to name a few.
His works have been performed regularly around Europe, Canada, the USA, Japan and Latin America by prestigious ensembles, soloists and conductors, including London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, Ensemble 13 de Baden-Baden, and the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne to name a few.
In 2008 he made his debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and his New Epigrams represented Spain at the SIMC World Music Days held in Vilnius.
Moreover, reputable Arab musicians who won the Society's music composition contest in 2009, are also invited to perform in the festival and teach in its workshops.
“We want to engage Arab composers into these workshops, like Jordanian classic music composer Saeed Hadad and Egyptian professor Ahmed Abdallah, to train participants,” Aldin explains. They will also perform their winning pieces throughout this festival.
“Following the success of this event, we will be inviting Egyptian musicians from the workshops and others to our next contemporary music festival in October, to be held in Germany, as a means to integrate Egyptian culture with that of Europe,” Aldin says.
Egyptian musician Sherif El-Razzaz, who currently resides in Stuttgart Germany, established the EECMS in 2009, following the successful first Contemporary Music Biennale in Alexandria of the same year.
It is a non-profit organisation based in Germany, for the management of future festivals, concerts and other projects. The EECMS is eager to develop cultural relationships at a national and international level, promoting contemporary music in all its forms in Egypt and the wider Arab world.
Concerts during the festival are scheduled to take place at a number of venues across Cairo.