Egyptian artist launches project raising awareness of classical music in Oman

Ahram Online , Thursday 2 Apr 2015

Brain child of Ahmed Abouzahra, an Eyptian pianist and art manager, the Muscat Chamber Music Series will launch in Muscat, Oman, aimed at giving the Omani community an opportunity to explore classical music

Ahmed Abouzahra
In an event organized at the British Ambassador's residence in Muscat, Ahmed Abouzahra plays Bach's Aria of the Goldberg variations during the first pre-launch event of Muscat Chamber Music Series. October 2014. (Photo: courtesy of Arabesque International)

Promoted by Arabesque International, the Muscat Chamber Music Series aims at bringing the experienced, high-quality chamber music ensembles to Omani audiences for a time period that will range between one and three weeks. The series will be ongoing on a regular basis to assure the projects sustainability.

"Our goal is to engage with the community, and to offer educational opportunities that foster cultural exchange and inspire individual excellence," read the Arabesque statement. Arabesque International is founded and managed by Ahmed Abouzahra, an Egyptian pianist and arts manager.

Though already well-known to Egyptian and Omani audiences, as well as in the regional music scene, the Music Series is Abouzahra's first large-scale and long-term initiative to make live classical music accessible to the younger generations in Muscat, a city that holds a state-of-art Royal Opera House.

One of the samples of the Arabesque music engagement targeting the young audience in Oman was through “Music by and for Children” conducted in 2014, when an eight-year­-old violinist Amira Abouzahra toured schools in Muscat.

Moreover, a number of pre-launch workshops and concerts -- which took place in Muscat since October 2014 -- have already given the variety of audiences an idea of what is behind the vision carried by Abouzahra's project. They included a recital with Nicolas Altstaedt on cello and Marcus Becker on piano, a workshop with the Omani Oud Association, and an evening with Om Kolthoum songs, among other events.

However, the grand launch of the Muscat Chamber Music Series will kick off on 9 April with a concert by the members of the Grammy Award winning Kremerata Baltica, a chamber ensemble founded by the renowned Latvian violinist Gidon Kremerin which  incorporates musicians from Baltic countries.

According to Abouzahra, apart from the concerts, the Muscat Chamber Series will also include an educational outreach with master classes tailored for the young musicians and team-building workshops.

In it's first series, the project will reach out to a number of schools across Muscat -- Watiya public as well as the American-British Academy and the American International School Muscat -- with workshops targeting young teenagers. On the other hand, Arabesque will also extend its educational activities to the Oud Association in Muscat.

"Arabesque International has been active in the region for the past two years, and has observed that rarely do the local [Omani] population take an active interest in artistic performances. Common feedback in this regard attributes it to the fact of a lack of a familiarisation. Knowing the concrete benefits that music and the arts bring, today it is our goal to reach out and to familiarise the broader public with it. In the pursuit of an effective approach to do so, we identified the concept of chamber music a format that would suit our purpose," Arabesque clarifies in the project's statement.

It also pointed out that by taking advantage of the world’s cultural heritage, the chamber series hopes to cultivate a prosperous future, in full respect of the Omani Renaissance vision.

The Egyptian pianist and art manager, Abouzahra, is known in Egypt and the regional scene for many of his endeavors aimed at bringing the finest orchestras and musicians to perform in the Arab countries. Among his many projects, he often places children on his list of priorities, believing that bringing to them and engaging them in the classical music activities is one of the crucial elements of their personal and creative development, and represents factors that bring big benefits to their futures.

In previous years, Abouzahra has launched a number of activities in Egypt which addressed children. They included bringing the Colonne Orchestra to perform a special concert back in 2010. Most recently, in late 2014, the Horus Piano Duo, in which Abouzahra plays together with his wife Nóra Emődy, was accompanied by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Chamber Orchestra, in the performance of Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals. The event was narrated by the renowned Egyptian actor Abdelrahman Abouzahra with the text in Arabic written by Nader Salah El-Din.

This time in Oman, with the Muscat Chamber Music Series, once again Abouzahra underscores the importance of musical education in the lives of children and teenagers, as well as raising awareness of the values that classical music carries.

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