Award-winning Cairo Celebration Choir takes Arabic songs to China

Ati Metwaly , Saturday 16 Sep 2023

The Cairo Celebration Choir (CCC) travelled to Beijing where it will represent Egypt in the ongoing Belt and Road Festival with their Aghani Bel Arabi repertoire.

Cairo Celebration Choir


The CCC is the only group from Egypt to participate in the festival, which showcases ensembles from countries including China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Malaysia, among others, between 15 and 20 September.

"We will perform on 19 September presenting Aghani Bel Arabi, our special selection of songs, mostly those composed by Sayed Darwish and arranged by me for the choir," Nayer Nagui, the choir's founder, conductor and music director revealed to Ahram Online.

Founded in 2000, the choir consists of more than 100 members, 30 of whom flew to Beijing. They are joined by Arabic music singer Rehab Metawi, and sopranos Dina Iskander and Bella Pesic.

"The travel is a result of cooperation between two parties. 20 members are supported by the Foreign Culture Affairs sector of Egypt's Ministry of Culture, and 10 are supported by the festival," Nagui said.

Nagui adds that the choice of the songs for the Belt and Road Festival is linked to the the centenary of the great composer Sayed Darwish’s passing.

The Aghani Bel Arabi project brought the CCC the Silver Award for Stylish Interpretation of Arabic Music in the Prague Voices Choir Competition in the Czech Republic (2012). It also won a Silver Diploma in the Folklore with Accompaniment category at the ninth World Choir Games in Sochi, Russia (2016) where they competed against dozens of other choirs from 73 countries. 

"The promotional material of the festival uses The Day song performed by the Cairo Celebration Choir," Nagui pointed out, showing how the festival is highlighting the Egyptian choir.

The Day is based on Nagui’s composition, commissioned by the Pan African Cultural Festival (Panaf) held in 2009 in Algiers. The original lyrics talked about Africa, but were changed in 2020 when the song was used in CCC's music video responding to the COVID-19 lockdown.

The original composition has been successful at numerous venues. Following its Algiers premiere, the song was performed in Morocco and Spain. Their success grew in 2020, when the music video was produced using a technique popularized during the lockdown where a composite video was assembled from the 90 singers performing individually in their own homes.

The well-known choir has carved an important place for itself in Egypt's musical scene. 

Today, the CCC's repertoire includes a variety of Western classical music compositions, representing different schools.

The most important works include Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, Rossini's La Petite Messe Solennelle, Schubert's Stabat Mater, Handel's Ode for St Cecilia's Day, Mozart's Mass in C minor, Beethoven's Mass in C major, Martín Palmeri's Misa Tango, Dvorak's Stabat Mater, Elgar's The Light of Life, compositions by Guastavino, among others. They all showcase the choir's boundless musical versatility and skills they have developed throughout two decades.

The choir has numerous international appearances under their belt, such as those in Rabat, Marrakesh (Morocco), Kuwait City (Kuwait), Sochi (Russia), Paris (France), and Prague (Czech Republic).

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