MARCH 6 – 8
Transfer from Apple Hill Road to JFK International in NYC, to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Israel, to YMCA International in West Jerusalem, our location until March 13.
At Dome of the Rock and Western Wall, Jerusalem
March 7 – 13: Jerusalem
March 11: visit to Ramallah
March 13: Nazareth
March 14 – 22: Amman
On this Sonad Tour: Eric Stumacher, Pianist and Director of Sonad, and Kathy Stumacher, Sonad Administrator.
Inscribed at YMCA International. Jerusalem, Israel
“Here is a place whose atmosphere is peace, where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten, and international unity fostered and developed.”
From dedication address by Field Marshal Edmund Lord Allenby
Tour will include master classes and recitals in Jerusalem (Hasadna Conservatory), Nazareth (Mutran School, Israel; Kings Academy and National Conservatory, Amman, Jordan, and a concert of the Amman Symphony on March 18, plus a visit to Ramallah, West Bank/Palestine
Eric Stumacher Recital Program:
Satie: Premiere Gymnopedie
Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D. 664, Op. post. 120
Musorgksy: “Pictures at an Exhibition”
Amman Symphony Orchestra
March 18, 2009
Eric Stumacher, Guest Conductor and Pianist
Steinmetz: “Together” (2009) for orchestra and beginning string students
World premier – Palestinian students from a Refugee Camp in Amman, plus students from National Conservatory in Amman, and beginning string students from Kings Academy in Madaban – performance will include a section of traditional Arabic music – John Steinmetz will be in attendance
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3, Eric Stumacher piano soloist
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5
“Never doubt the power of a small group of dedicated, committed citizens to change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
The mission of the Sonad Project is to foster social justice, freedom, and equality for all peoples, through worldwide Sonad solo, chamber music, and orchestra concerts, and through participatory artistic performance workshops which inspire profound connections across human divides.
The vision of the Sonad Project is to present concerts and to create artistic, creative, and participatory performance and learning environments, open to all and arrayed across human divides, which inspire transformational personal connections that transcend political, economic, racial, cultural, ethnic, religious, gender, skill level, education, and generation boundaries.
Kathy and I are met at Ben Gurion airport, half-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with hugs and kisses by our friends Fadi, our driver from East Jerusalem who worked with us on our Sonad Feb/March 08 tour, his wife Inas, and their beautiful new baby boy Michlos, born June 27. Our trip to Jerusalem circled all but one checkpoint. Checkpoints by the Israeli army are the ever –present characteristic of movement for Palestinians in Israel.
Contacts successfully made on Sunday, Mach 8 via cell phone and e-mail to all areas of tour, and to US. Happy Birthday, Adam Stu! For better or worse, and likely both, the world is in fact unified by this cell phone and e-mail technology.
MONDAY MARCH 9 – Master Class at Hasadna
With Hasadna Director Lena and piano participant Daniel after Hasadna Master Class
Before the class at Hasadna, in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem, a wonderful lunch with Lena, the Director of Hasadna and a former piano student. She was in excellent spirits, although consumed by the financial challenges to her conservatory the worldwide economic collapse has wroght. Many of her supporters were victims of the Madoff Scandal. She is touched in advance by our contribution of the master class.
Details of the piano workshop participants and the pieces they played.
1) 16:00: Osnat Shvager – age 18
Ravel: 3 Valse Sentimental
Beethoven – Sonata op. 90, second movement
2) 17:00: Masha Yulin – age 20
Talia Erdal, cello
Frank – Sonata for cello and piano, I, II movements
Unfortunately, Talia was stricken with the flu, and Masha and Talia were not able to play.
3) 18:00: Daniel Borovitzky – age 17
Bach: Toccata from Partita No. 6
4)18:45: Matan Seri – age 17.5
Rachmaninoff—Prelude in G Minor
Mozart – Fantasia in C minor
Working with Osnat
A great sweetness to all the work. The students were very accomplished, and greatly responsive our style of intertwining intense encouragement and challenge. Lena told me afterwards that “It was amazing! The class means so much to the students – they look forward to it all year.”
On the way out, one of the Hasadna piano teachers came up and said how disappointed she was to have missed the class, because she had to teach a make-up lesson to a student who had been ill. “But I look forward to the next time.”
TUESDAY, MARCH 10
Our friends Ariel and David Ben Moshe invite us to join them at Hildesheimer Synagogue for the reading of the Megilla, the Purim Holiday text which is Book of Esther. This is Kathy’s first experience in an orthodox temple, and she is very good spirited about joining Ariel in the women’s section in the back, separated from the men, in Orthodox Jewish tradition, in this case by a veiled cloth wall. A SRO crowd. As is the custom in Purim, children dress in costume, and when the evil character “Haman” is mentioned, everyone makes a huge amounts of noise – twirling groggers, whistling, booing, firing toy guns.
Esther’s acts of defying the subservient custom of the day for women by addressing King Ahasherus without being summoned, and by insisting on the reversal of Haman’s decree that all Jews be put to death, was an amazing act of courage. She revealed her own Jewishness to her husband the King at huge risk, but her courage resulted in the Jews being saved, and the punishment by death of Haman and his family.
We have a lovely dinner with David and Ariel. It turns out that it is their fourth anniversary, and we are delighted to be able to share in their celebration.
Celebrating Purim with David and Ariel Ben Moshe
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11
In the AM, we visit the Western Wall. As is our custom, we go the Wall at least once during each visit to Israel. There is an air of festivity as families gather to pray and picnic, arrayed in their Purim garb.
For lunch, we visit out dear friends Nadia and Sameh Abboushi in Ramallah, West Bank/Palestine. We are joined by Emile Hashrawi, also a dear friend, Nadia’s brother-in-law who is married to Hanan Hasrawi, one of the main Palestinian negotiators in the peace process.
Our journey from the YMCA in West Jerusalem, with our driver Fadi, takes almost one hour. Back in the early to mid-90’s, in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords, the trip would have taken 20 minutes. The one checkpoint we pass through into Ramallah is uneventful – my theory is that they look at Kathy and wave us through.
Emile Hashrawi, Kathy, and Nadia Abboushi at Nadia’s home in Ramallah
Lots of intense and enjoyable conversation, before, during, and after lunch. I tell Emile how powerful and influential I have found his comments last year when we visited with him at Nadia’s in Ramallah:
That in order to fix the situation in the Middle East two processes must happen: 1) All religion must be removed from governments. 2) There must be no sense that any group of people is in any way superior to any other group of people.
Emile says he would add one more: Political power which enables one group to oppress another group, which sustains the Occupation, must be curbed.
Emile says, “ The Israelis need a leader who will save them from themselves. History teaches us that those in power eventually fall, and that the more power they have, the harder the fall.”
He also presents his vision: that there be one state in Israel, and that everyone can live wherever she/he chooses. Palestinians could stay in Ramallah and Bethelehem, or Tel Aviv, or the Settlements; Jews could live anywhere, including West Bank. An intriguing notion.
Nadia mentions that as a young woman she used to use the gym at the YMCA where Kathy and I are staying in West Jerusalem, but those days are long gone for her. She us unable to travel over the checkpoints.
Emile mentions when seeing the photo of myself at the Western Wall, that where I was standing in the photo is the exact location of the house where he was born and raised.
He also mentions that his daughter, a Palestinian Jerusalemite who lives and works in the US, had her US passport and Palestininian ID removed in the US, in the name of security. Emile is having heart problems – this means that if he were to die suddenly, his daughter would not be able to attend his funeral. There are over 500,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites in the same situation, with no passport or ID.
The meal is spectacular. Nadia may be the best (certainly one of the best) cooks in the Middle East.
After a bit of practice on Nadia’s Yamaha Grand Piano, she takes us to Al Kamandjati, the beautiful music school in Ramallah run by our friend and former student Ramz. Al Kamandjati’s mission is to provide world class music to all the villages and Refugee camps in West Bank and Lebanon. Ramzi meets us there, after we have the opportunity to make some amazing connections with students, faculty and staff.
With 8 year-old Vivian at Al Kamandjati in Ramallah
One anecdote about Nadia’s piano: when she purchased it seven years ago, she purchased it from Tel Aviv, and hired some Israeli Settlers to deliver it to her home.
Photo by Vivian: Kathy having tea with a Mysterious Stranger
With students, faculty, and staff at Al Kamandjati, Ramallah
Vivian and Emile make acquaintance in the courtyard of Al Kamandjati
The result of the day: I will be spending 3 days performing and teaching at the National Music Conservatory in Ramallah and Bethlehem in June, followed by chamber music rehearsals and concerts with Al Kamandjati. We will give concerts in Nablus, Jerusalem, Jenin, and Ramallah. The chamber music program will include Prokofiev’s “Overture” (the rest of the title will go unnamed here), Schubert Piano Sonata in A, and Brahms Piano Quintet.
We will also work on an orchestra event, including John Steinmetz’s “Together”, for March 2010. Ramzi would love to have the Steinway concert grand promised by Sonad for Al Kamandjati in place by then, so that we can move it around to several Refugee Camps for the concerts. I promise him I would do what I can to make this happen.
A lovely dinner with Ramzi and one of Al Kamandjati’s teachers, Julia, at a coffee shop in Ramallah, is followed by an uneventful trip back to Jerusalem.
On our trip back to the YMCA with Fadi, we circle around the main Ramallah/Jerusalem checkpoint and go over the Jericho Hills.
After dinner in Ramallah with Ramzi, Head of Al Kamandjati, and Julia, one of the faculty
In the words so vividly sung by Odetta:
“Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho,
And the Walls Come Tumbling Down!”
THURSDAY, MARCH 12
Playground at YMCA in Jerusalem under our hotel window
Our room at the YMCA overlooks the courtyard containing the playground of the YMCA kindergarten for Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian children. It is delightful to hear the laughing sounds of youngsters throughout the day.
The YMCA kindergarten is divided into classes each containing two teachers, one Israeli who speaks Hebrew, and one Palestinian who speaks Arabic. As one would expect, young children embrace this multicultural environment with enthusiasm and joy.
My solo recital that evening at the Hasadna was extremely well-received. Lena was delighted that the Steinway B Concert Grand in the hall sounded so warm and full. She has been receiving complaints about the piano from her faculty ever since its arrival last year.
Solo recital at Hasadna Conservatory, Jerusalem
One of the audience members comes up to me afterwards and identifies himself as an Israeli Jew from Yemen. During her introduction, Lena had mentioned that we had visited Ramallah yesterday, and the young man asked, somewhat incredulously, why we had done that. I explain that we have many wonderful friends in Ramallah, just as we have in Jerusalem. He then says, “Israelis are more cultured than Arabs.” I ask him what he meant by that, and he backs off a bit, and says, “Israelis love classical music more than Arabs.” When I explain to him that we have had the opportunity to meet Arab and Palestinian musicians and audiences who love music as much as any in the world, he then proclaims: “They want us to leave, and we’re not going anywhere!” “Good!” I respond.
During the restaurant celebration dinner afterward, the conversation wanders to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, as conversations inevitably do in Israel. One person mentions that she, though a left-wing Israeli, found herself “glad” that the Gaza War had happened. I explain that our goal is to create new possibilities besides the historical “just” wars that have characterized Israel’s history. A loss of life, in human terms, is a tragedy which should never be celebrated.
In the Bibilical Story of Passover,, God admonishes the Israelis not to celebrate the Egyptian loss of life at the Red Sea as they perish following the Israelites who had crossed miraculously and safely. “ Are the Egptians not also my childen?”
FRIDAY, MARCH 13
The 3 hour transfer in the AM from Jerusalem to the Mutran School Nazareth goes smoothly. Though the one checkpoint required us to unload our luggage for searching, the soldiers are congenial and good-natured about it. Besides, we need a bathroom break. They wave us on and wish us luck.
We bid our farewells to our driver Fadi, and ask him to give his wife and new baby and hug and a kiss for us. We will see him again in June.
Saying goodbye to Fadi, our Palestinian driver from East Jerusalem
The Mutran School is an Israeli Arab School, run by Father Emile Shufani of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is an excellent school, running the gamut of kindergarten through high school, and has been voted Israel’s top school several years running.
With Father Emile Shufani, Head of the Mutran School
Emile is a very fine man, compassionate, charismatic, focused, and a great listener to conversation and music. He is known for admonishing his students and their families, as well as others in the Israeli Palestinian community, to not be annoyed that Israel is focused on the Holocaust. He famously proclaims: “We must work to understand the Holocaust.” And he raised a large amount of money to organize a trip to Auschwitz for Israeli Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and Europeans, which was very moving and successful.
“ We must feel what it is like to walk in the other’s shoes.”
When I asked Father Emile if he thought there was any hope for the peace process, he said, “No.” He explained that the Palestinian, Israeli, and Arab mindsets were such that none was able to say “Yes” to the wishes and demands other. And until and unless the groups can say “Yes” to the other, there will be no peace.
He invited me to e-mail him so that we can discuss this further.
One way to describe the mission of Sonad is to provide environments where people have the opportunity to say “Yes” to the other.
The recital that evening included a choir selection from The Sound Of Music and a string ensemble arrangement of Dona Nobis Pacem, in addition to me playing the Schubert Sonata and Mussorgsky “Pictures.” The audience was multi-generational and enthusiastic, and they seemed very moved by the music.
Father Emile sat in the front row, literally one foot from the piano, and listened with an air of relaxed reverence during the entire concert.
During the Mussorgsky, a two-year old boy stood silently entranced in the aisle and “conducted” the music with his arms. His mother brought him up after the concert for a photo which he really wanted.
With a 2-year old fan and his family after the concert
Our dear friend Cecile Khill, whose family lives in Nazareth, came to the concert. It was great to see her, and to go out for a celebratory dinner afterwards. Cecile was the first Israeli Palestinian Playing for Peace Scholar in 1988. She is a fine pianist and teacher, and alternates her time between Nazareth and Washington, DC. She was in Nazareth assisting her father and sister, who were in the last stages of recovery from serious health problems.
SATURDAY, MARCH 14
The transfer from Nazareth to Amman is pleasant and uneventful. It actually doesn’t take much longer, if at all, to go from Nazareth to Amman than it does to go from Nazareth to Jerusalem, though the Amman trip includes a border crossing.
View of Israel from mountain pass north of Amman, Jordan
Street scene in Amman, Jordan
The taxi ride from the Northern Border Crossing features amazing mountainous passes and views.
Amman has become very modern and Western, teeming with traffic, stores, restaurants, and energy. On the way in, I have perhaps one of the best cappuccinos I have ever had, from a coffee shop next to the cash machine we used to obtain our Jordanian dinars. A dinar is 1.5 US dollars, almost identical to a British pound.
Rehearsing Beethoven Piano Concerto No 3 with Amman Symphony
In the evening, I conduct my first rehearsal with the Amman Symphony, for our upcoming concert on Wednesday. Warm-up scales are surprisingly well-received, and effective, and we do some fine work on Beethoven Symphony No. 5. We also go through the Steinmetz in detail. Tomorrow we will do the Steinmetz with the young string students who will be joining us for the performance, and also we will start the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3.
Several of the orchestra musicians came up to me afterwards and thank me for my work with them, which was great. The honor is mine.
The personnel of the orchestra consists of Jordanians, Europeans, Americans, Egyptians, and Syrians. Kathy Stu is kind enough to join the viola section. She and our friend Nouran Meho are a veritable powerhouse.
We hope that someday it will be possible for concerts in Amman to gracefully include musicians from all over the world, and all over the Middle East.
SUNDAY/MONDAY, MARCH 16/17
Rehearsal goes very well with Amman Symphony. The young students are doing beautifully in John Steinmetz’s piece, and the Beethoven Symphony and Piano Concerto are coming along. The orchestra is working hard, and the concert on Wednesday should be great! Most Westerners are unaware that there are such high-level musicians in the Arab world.
After Monday’s rehearsal, we receive a heart- breaking and infuriating message from Ramzi Abdurewan Head of Al Kamandjati, that the Al Kamandjati facility in Jenin has been burned. Visiting Jenin, with its history of terrorism and difficulty, connecting with the people, and performing were amazing highlights of the Feb 08 Sonad Tour. We will do all we can to help re-build and to assure that the beautiful work in Jenin continues
With young audience members prior to JeninAl Kamandjati concert, Feb 08
Concert at Jenin Al Kamandjati concert, Feb 08
Piano after fire at Jenin Al Kamandjat,March 09
More fire damage, Jenin Al Kamandjati, March 09
TUESDAY, MARCH 17
John Steinmetz’ new work, “Together”, engages the spirit and positive energy of all of us – Amman Symphony, young musicians from a special strings program in a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Amman taught by Nouran, string students from the National Music Conservatory, and beginning strings from the Kings Academy taught by Reem. After the dress rehearsal in the evening at the Al Hussein Cultural Center, we decide to change the program order so that we end with the Steinmetz, rather than begin with it
Dress rehearsal for “Together” at Al Hussein Cultural Center
John wrote these program notes for “Together”:
“Usually musical beginners don’t perform alongside experienced orchestra players, but Together combines beginners with experts in order to celebrate what people can do together even when their backgrounds are different. Near the end of the piece, when musicians encourage the audience to sing along, everybody at the concert helps with the music-making. “Together” also provides a way to include musicians from different traditions. In these ways “Together” invites people with varied backgrounds and experience to join forces.
John Steinmetz introducing his new work “Together” prior to world premier performance at March 18, 2009 Amman Symphony concert
The music itself also crosses lines of difference. It embraces multiple styles: you might hear influences from jazz, folk music, classical music, modern music, or pop music. The main melody, playable by beginners, takes on new moods and meanings as tempos and backgrounds change. These are all musical ways to join forces across lines of difference and to use difference in positive ways.
Combining different musical styles and different kinds of people creates a unique musical energy, and also creates an example or metaphor for the collaboration and cooperation that are now crucial to our human future. Our species faces some very tough questions. Can we learn to get along with each other? Can we live in harmony with the natural systems that sustain and nourish us? The only way to address these difficult questions is to work together across lines of difference. Solving our big problems requires drawing on different perspectives, different experiences, and different backgrounds. Both our differences and our similarities are essential; both are worthy of nurture and celebration. Music alone can’t solve all the problems, but music can inspire us to keep trying and remind us of how much we have in common.
Together was commissioned by the Sonad Project, the Keene Chamber Orchestra and conductor Eric Stumacher for concerts with the Amman Symphony Orchestra (March 18, 2009) and the Keene Chamber Orchestra (May 10, 2009.) Sonad plans to perform the music worldwide. I am grateful to Eric and to Diane Kraichnan, who directs the Keene(NH/USA) Elementary Strings Program, for their help and encouragement, and I thank the many people who helped in many ways to bring this music to life.”
Rehearsing Beethoven Symphony No. 5 with Amman Symphony
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18
The order of the concert is now Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3, Intermission, Beethoven Symphony No. 5, and Steinmetz “Together” (2009) world premier.
Performance of Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3. Old friends in the orchestra: Fadi Hattar, second chair cellist; Nouran Meho, second chair violist; and of course Kathy Stumacher in the viola section
The acoustics of the Al Hussein Cultural require adjustment from the reverberant rehearsal space next door at the National Music Conservatory, but all adjust well, and the concert is sensational. The auditorium is completely full, for the first time all season, we are told, and the audience enthusiastically applauds after each movement, and gives a standing ovation at the end of each piece.
Thanking the audience for standing ovation after Beethoven Symphony No. 5
All the students in particular are happy and proud; they take turns thanking us over and over.
John Steinmetz coaching the audience for their singing role in the upcoming performance of Together
A great quote from a student from Kings Academy: “And I really liked that piano bit you did.”
The celebratory dinner afterward is amazing. Kifah Fahkhoury, the director of the National Music Conservatory, and therefore de facto head of the Amman Symphony, says he wants me to come back next season to conduct another concert, which will be great.
The traditional Arabic Haroun takes a featured turn during “Together” premier
Young violinists in “Together”: Group No. 2
Young musicians in “Together”: Group No. 1
Flowers at the end of the concert
Inviting the Young Musicians to bow at the end of “Together”
Everyone standing at the end of “Together”
Celebration with Kings Academy students onstage
With our waiters at the restaurant later
Celebrating world premier of “Together”(left to right) : Nouran, Leo, John, Kathy, Reem
Reem asks me to do a master class for three advanced pianists, which is a pleasure. The music program at Kings Academy has taken off nicely since our last visit in March 08, with enrollment of some advanced pianists, and the beginning of a string program with 34 participants. The spirit and energy of music at Kings is excellent.
The music I hear during the class runs the gamut from Chopin and Rachmaninoff to Yahni. I enjoy it all, and find myself with lots of suggestions for the Yahni
Working with Munir Kings Academy
After the master class, Kathy and I have a meeting with Kings Academy Headmaster Eric Widmer. He and his wife were at the ASO concert last night and were very moved by the proceedings. He affirms the inherent and deep compatibility between the missions of Kings and Sonad, and agrees that when the time is ripe, economically and otherwise, Kings can be the site of Sonad workshops.
“Dr. Eric and Mr. Eric” after our meeting in Dr. Eric’s headmaster office at Kings Academy
The next event in our busy post-concert day schedule is a meeting with Kifah Fahkhoury, head of the ASO and the National Music Conservatory, along with Hashim, the Orchestra Director. They are very interested in hearing in detail from both John and me our recommendations as to how they can build the ASO into a world class symphony. We have a great exchange. John and I pass along a lot of ideas, and promise to help them recruit American musicians for the orchestra.
Hashim, who also plays second clarinet in the ASO, speaks excellent English. He enjoys making jokes based on John Steinmetz’ “Together”, e.g. “ We will do this TOGETHER”, followed by gales of laughter.
Standing “TOGETHER” with Kifah and Hashim
In the evening we had an amazing traditional Bedouin mensaf feast at Nouran’s family’s house. Mensaf is meat with a special rice and yogurt sauce dish, eaten by hand. Amazing and great!
Nouran’s father demonstrates the art of making the special hand-made mensaf balls, with his family, including beautiful new grandson, behind
FRIDAY/SATURDAY, MARCH 20 -21
Aquaba and Petra.
Reem arranges for us to visit two of the three points of the Jordanian “Golden Triangle”: Aquaba, Wadi Rum, and Petra. Our plan is to do all three, but serious desert winds make it impossible to go to Wadi Rum and sleep in a Bedouin tent, as Reem had planned for us. The visibility there is non-existent.
Tanja, Reem, Munir, and Kathy on the Red Sea shore in Aquaba, in the later afternoon wind
Aquaba is four-hours away from Amman – we remember the oft repeated line from Lawrence of Arabia: “AH – KAH- BAH!” Aquaba is on the Red Sea, with close proximity to Red Sea cities of Israel (Eilat), and Egypt (Sharm El Sheik.) Tanya Twal lives in Aquaba with her fiancé Munir, whom she is marrying in May. Munir generously treats us to lunch and ice cream, shows us the shoreline, and invites us to the wedding as we depart in the evening. We drive one-hour to Petra to a nearby hotel which enables us to get an early start on Saturday.
At Saturday’s breakfast, Leo Steinmetz, John’s thirteen-year-old son, tells us that, based on his time in proximity with Sonad and other related processes, he has always thought that Israel and Jordan were essentially the same country. His experience has been that the Jordanians and Israelis whom he sees and knows get along fine, and he is shocked to learn the details of the intractable political situation in this part of the world between Israelis, Palestininans, and Arabs.
I love his vision. May It Be So.
Rounding the bend to the Treasury, Petra
Petra is more beautiful than ever, still awesome in spite of the amazing tourism. I feel lucky to have first visited Petra in 1992, prior to hotels, gates, admission, and all the trappings. Nonetheless, for all the alleged modernity, we are all profoundly moved.
Kathy making friends with one of the guardians of the Treasury, Petra
Sisters in the Desert
SUNDAY, MARCH 22
Our hearts are filled with all we have seen and done. We are grateful for the love and support of the many who make all this possible. We profoundly hope that we have been successful in beginning to pave the way for people to begin to say “YES” across the divides.
We know that the people, and the land, are beautiful, and we invite all to think about, and to feel this, deeply.
Departure at midnight, and home in the AM of March 23, tomorrow.