Carols for the Islamists: Christmas concerts in Cairo

Ati Metwaly, Thursday 8 Dec 2011

Christmas invites the opportunity for music, and also reflection with concerts taking place in Cairo


This year Santa Claus comes to Egypt under very difficult social, religious and political circumstances. With all the changes taking place, it is hard not to remember people who lost their lives in the as yet still ongoing revolution. Many young people will not join their families for Christmas and to many the festivities will be far from sparkling.

But Christmas is also a time for reflection. Maybe it is an opportunity to think about challenges lying head of many people: concerns expressed by the Christian community in particular as well as the worries of many strata of Egyptian society, artists not excluded. With the rising influence of Islamists, many wonder about the future of arts in general and music in particular. Though we still do not know how the new parliament and its apparent Islamic majority will approach culture, some statements made by Islamist conservative representatives are troublesome to artists and intellectuals. Art can flourish only when freedom of thought and creativity are guaranteed, and there are signs that those values will be undermined by a new censorial apparatus in the making. What the future of music will be is a question that has to be yet answered…

Still, Christmas invites reflection, which will hopefully generate an analytical and pragmatic approach to the fears we are verbalizing, social and artistic limitations we are anticipating. Some artists feel that many cultural sectors were not reaching out to the general audience, and as such have become disconnected from society. It is high time that artists and musicians should unite to find and implement a solid and effective formula for attracting their audiences. There is a lot that both musical managers and musicians can do a lot to prove their artistic presence on the one hand, and reach to previously neglected audiences on the other hand.

No doubt there is much homework to be done by all artists. However there is also room for support by those audiences who are already interested in musical activities taking place in the country. Despite many discouraging political events in times of change, this is also a time to show that music finds valid interest today. Attending musical events should no longer be understood as a search for entertainment but as a statement which audiences need to make in order to protect and strengthen the presence of the arts that we fear will be subject to repression.

This year, as usual, Christmas comes to Egypt with fir trees, garlands and plastic Santas. In some districts, such as Zamalek, there is a great presence of Christmas decorations, and vendors do their best to respond to rising festive demand. The musical field provides its own share of Christmas spirit, with many musicians and ensembles having carols, Christmas songs and seasonal music for this time of the year in their repertoire.


Wednesday 7 December at 8pm - Cairo Opera House Small Hall

Soprano Dina Iskander and harpist Mona Wassef will perform Christmas songs and lieds in addition to pieces for solo harp.

Saturday 10 December at 8pm – El Gomhoria Theatre

Om El Nour Orchestra Christmas concert

Monday 12 December at 8pm – El Gomhoria Theatre

Bells Ensemble Christmas concert

Wednesday 14 December at 8pm - Cairo Opera House Small Hall

Sphinx Orchestra conducted by Hany Hassan and St. Mark's Choir will perform Christmas Carols. Choir Master: George Latif

Saturday 17 December at 8pm – Cairo Opera House Main Hall

Cairo Opera Company members and Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nayer Nagui  and joined by the Cairo Celebration Choir, will give their annual Christmas concert

Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 December at 8pm – El Gomhoria Theatre

Jesus Heart Choir Christmas concert

Tuesday 20 December at 8pm - El Sawy Culturewheel

El Sakia String Orchestra conducted by Mohamed Saad Basha will celebrate Christmas joined by soprano Dina Iskander and tenor Ragaa El-Din Ahmed.

Thursday 22 December at 8pm - El Sawy Culturewheel

Riff Band Christmas concert.

Thursday 22 December at 8pm – Cairo Opera House Small Hall

Mezzo soprano Gala El Hadidi will sing the most famous tunes from musicals and Christmas Carols from around the globe.

22, 23 and 25-28 December at 8pm (25 and 27 December also at 11.30am) – Cairo Opera House Main Hall.

Cairo Opera Ballet Company will perform The Nutcracker ballet

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without The Nutcracker, a ballet set to the music of P.I. Tchaikovsky, telling a lovely story set on Christmas Eve, about the Nutcracker and the King of Mice. With no doubt, The Nutcracker captivates children with its simple plot and visual richness. It is also an opportunity for the young audience to attend a valuable music event.

Friday 30 December at 8pm – El Gomhoria Theatre

Saint Augistinos Choir Christmas concert


Due to continuous changes of programme, it is strongly advised to contact the Cairo Opera House and El Gomhoria Theatre prior to the events.

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