June 09 Middle East Tour Log

June 5th, 2009

With young audience member at recital in Bethlehem June 9, 2009. She sat mesmerized throughout the concert, reflecting her experience at Sonad recital in Bethlehem March 08 when she sat completely still inches from my hands for the entire program.

JUNE 5-6

Transfer from Apple Hill Road to JFK International in NYC, to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Israel, to Royal Court Suites Hotel in Ramallah, West Bank/Palestine.

TOUR SCHEDULE AND CONCERT PROGRAMS

Residency at all three branches of Edward Said National Music Conservatory, West Bank/Palestine – master class and recital in each locale:

June 8 Ramallah

June 9 Bethlehem

June 10 Jerusalem

Chamber Music with Al Kamandjati:

Jenin June 13

Al Kamandjati, Ramallah, June 15

Ramallah June 17 – French Cultural Center

June 16: Master class at Hasadna Conservatory in West Jerusalem

At Dome of Rock and Western Wall, Jerusalem

ON THIS SONAD TOUR: Eric Stumacher, Pianist and Director of Sonad, and Kathy Stumacher, Sonad Administrator.

Eric Stumacher Recital Program

Satie: Premiere Gymnopedie

Schubert: Piano Sonata in A, D. 664, Op. post. 120

(In Edward Said National Music Conservatory branches in Ramallah and Jerusalem: 4-hand piano with Nadia Abboushi, head of piano department at ESNMC in Ramallah: Dvorak: Slavonic Dances in E Minor and G Minor)

Mussorgksy: “Pictures at an Exhibition”

Chamber Music Programs

Jenin June 13

Schumann: Adagio and Allegro for viola and piano

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition for solo piano

Mozart: Kegelstatt Trio for clarinet, viola, and piano

Al Kamandjati, June 15

Mozart Kegelstatt Trio

Brahms Piano Quintet

Ramallah, June 17 (French Cultural Center)

Schumann: Adagio and Allegro for viola and piano

Mozart: Kegelstatt Trio

Brahms: Piano Quintet

SONAD PROJECT

“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

MISSION

The mission of the Sonad Project is to foster widespread social justice through worldwide Sonad solo, chamber music, and orchestra concerts, and through participatory, and multiplying, worldwide artistic performance workshops which inspire profound connections across human divides.

VISION

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.

SATURDAY JUNE 7 – Arrival

With our drivers Inas and Ramzi at Ben Gurion Airport

Kathy and I are met at Ben Gurion airport, half-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with hugs and kisses by Inas and her brother-in-law Ramzi. Fadi, Inas’ husband and our regular driver, is busy taking Inas’ father to a doctor’s appointment.

Inas and Ramzi, Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, are delayed over two hours entering the airport, as their car is intensively searched. Inas is very sweet, but also apologetic and frustrated with the delay.  Kathy and I reassure her that we are fine: we filled the time getting our luggage, passing through customs, and charging up our Israeli cell phone.

The trip to Ramallah goes over the Jericho mountains and twists and turns through several small villages and roads. There is no checkpoint into Ramallah—only a location where a young Israeli soldier, accompanied by a young boy, sheepishly smiles as we pass through.

It is interesting to note that the wall of separation between Israel and West Bank/Palestine is easily circumvented.

SUNDAY JUNE 7 – Hospitality and Rehearsal at Nadia and Sameh Abboushi’s

Hospitality, lunch, and rehearsal at the home of Nadia and Sameh Abboushi in Ramallah

A beautiful lunch at Nadia’s and Sameh’s in Ramallah. Amazing and great food, and lively conversation, including Rimah, the chairman of the board of the Edward Said National Music Conservatory. Rimah and Nadia actually founded the ESNMC in the early 90’s.

Nadia tells us that she has not been able to go to Jerusalem for several years, and will not be able to join me on Wednesday when I do my workshop and concert at the Jerusalem branch of the ESNMC.

However, she has been allowed to visit her 90 year –old aunt in Jerusalem on Easter only.

What does it mean that Palestinians from outside Jerusalem are deemed safe in Jerusalem on Easter only?

Our practice and rehearsal after lunch are joyful and enjoyable.

Nadia gives us an automobile tour of the new western area of Ramallah – lots of new construction, with beautiful architecture. Ramallah has become quite a culture center, with an abundance of spirit, energy, and fine restaurants.

MONDAY JUNE 8 – Master Class and Recital at Edward Said National Music Conservatory in Ramallah

Introductions at beginning of master class, Edward Said National Music Conservatory in Ramallah

Rima, the Board Chair of ESNMC, whose beautiful home is next door to the Ramallah branch of the ESNMC, has kindly invited me to practice on her beautiful new Bechstein piano.  Afterwards, she serves us a lovely lunch.

She mentions that she purchased her piano in Tel Aviv, and had it moved in by Israeli Settlers.

Yes, I’ll go first!

The master class at the Ramallah Conservatory, and recital in the evening, take place on the beautiful Steinway B Concert Grand which Daniel Barenboim provided. Actually, Barenboim had the piano moved to Birzeit University, outside of Ramallah, for a recital he gave there several years ago. After the recital, the piano never returned to Tel Aviv. Instead, it was stored at Rimah’s for three years, until the Conservatory could build a small concert hall to house it.

When the Barenboim Steinway piano moved from Rimah’s to the Conservatory Concert Hall, Rimah missed it, and purchase her beautiful Bechstein to replace it.

The master class is very sweet and enjoyable – the students and their teachers respond extremely well to our message of praise commingled with challenge, and to important information about uncoiling and focusing on expressive character.

Ater master class, participants and piano teachers onstage, ESNMC Ramallah June 8, 2009

The hall is full for the recital, which is greeted at the end by a standing ovation, led by Nadia and the students from the master class.

We are most honored that Hanan Ashrawi, Nadia’s sister and longtime Palestinian negotiator in the Peace Process, is in attendance. Hanan is extremely warm and complimentary. I tell the audience as an introduction to the Mussorgksy “Pictures at an Exhibition” of my performance of “Pictures” for 150 Keene, NH/USA Elementary Students on June 1. Those students had been beautifully and comprehensively prepared by Melanie Everard, their Kodaly Teacher.  After that concert, one of the students wrote that she had been “scarred forever by the performance, but in a good way.” Hanan tells me after the performance this evening that she shares that exact sentiment.

Kathy Stumacher of Sonad; Hanan Ashrawi, longtime Palestinian diplomat and sister of Nadia Abboushi; Eric Stumacher; and Nadia Abbouhi, head of piano dept of ESNMC in Ramallah, after Eric’s recital, assisted by Nadia, June 8, 2009

With Conservatory Concert Hall Caretaker after the concert

TUESDAY, JUNE 9 – Master class and recital at Bethlehem

The route to Bethlehem from Ramallah, prior to the wall and tightened security, was to go straight through to Jerusalem, and then straight to Ramallah – about a 25 minute drive.

On the Palestinian side of the wall, approaching the Ramallah/Jerusalem checkpoint

Today, our driver approached the imposing checkpoint outside Ramallah, and then went left, through Jericho and over the mountains, on a circuitous route which took us to Bethlehem in c. 90 minutes time. Again, no stopping at checkpoints. I call this the “Kathy effect” – because Kathy is with us, it seems, the Israeli soldiers, who each year appear younger and younger to us, wave us through.

“Tear Down the Wall!” in English, Hebrew, and Arabic

The question presents itself:

Since our direct experience shows us time and again that these barriers do not really keep the Israelis and the Palestinians from each other, is it not possible/likely that the wall of separation, and the checkpoints, not only on the Israel/Palestinain border but also within West Bank, are much more about power and oppression of one people over another than they are about security?

The Bethlehem branch of ESNMC is preparing to move to a new facility next year. However, they have a fine upgrade in their existing facility, an excellent Steinway B  Concert Grand.

Greeting students prior to master class at Bethlehem ESNMC June 9

Great to see Rinan, now a piano teacher at the Bethlehem Conservatory, and her beautiful two-year old daughter. I had the pleasure of working with Rinan when she was a Playing for Peace Scholar at Apple Hill.

The piano students in the master class are good-spirited and at a high skill level, showing the benefits of their instruction with a German piano teacher in residence for the year in Bethlehem. They have excellent rhythm, phrasing, and dynamics, and respond well to uncoiling, and to the introduction of additional nuance.

One young woman is very emotional about the opportunity to play on the beautiful Steinway in the class, one day before her twentieth birthday. She is an engineering student at Bethlehem University, but piano is her first love, and she despairs that she doesn’t have enough time to practice.

With Nadia and master class participants after the June , 2009 class in Bethlehem ESNMC

The concert that evening is very well-received. Each piece is greeted by thunderous applause led by the master class students. Rinan’s father, the head of the Bethlehem ESNMC, is warm and gracious, and  says he is anxious for us to return next year. The staff manager repeats over and over, “This is your second home.”

The beautiful little girl who watched my recital in March 08 literally inches from my hands, came with her father. She gave me a big hug, and sat mesmerized and completely entranced during the entire program.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10: Master class and recital in Jerusalem

The conservatory van braves the checkpoint into Jerusalem with very little time to spare. We make several stops in order to transport various materials, and one of the master class students, to the Jerusalem conservatory branch.

Approaching the Ramallah/Jerusalem checkpoint, June 10

Nadia is not able to join us – she is not allowed to go to Jerusalem.

My old friend Mohammed, whom I know from several visits to the Ramallah Conservatory, is now the business manager of all three ESNMC branches. He greets us enthusiastically. Over refreshments, he enthusiastically tells me of the great expansion of the conservatory into outlying rural regions, and of the establishment of two excellent student orchestras. There are plans in process for new facilities for all three branches of ESNMC, including excellent concert facilities in each  — very exciting and promising.

With Mohammed, Business Manager for all three branches of ESNMC, at his office in Jerusalem Jun 10

We are glad to note that there is nice grand piano available for the class and the concert.

The students in the class perform at a high level, and respond enthusiastically to suggestions and to each other.

Zaina, a fine pianist, also plays bassoon in the conservatory orchestra. She is the daughter of the Sulheil, the ESNMC Director. She is excited to talk about her decision this week : she has to pick from two conservatories in Germany and one in France who have admitted her as a conducting student.

The audience, including both piano teachers on the faculty, is very appreciative. Air conditioning saves the day, although there is a small girl shivering in the front row.

The nearby expressive Muslim Call to Prayer commingles with the Old Castle of  Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition” – amazing and great. Charles Ives would have loved it!

Congratulating new father Ramzi Abdurewan, head of Al Kamandjati, June 12, on the birth of his son

Sameh Abboushi, Nadia’s husband, is a retired architect now enthusiastically involved with many cultural institutions in Ramallah. In

particular, he promotes Palestinan literature for young adults. Sameh hosts us for melon and refreshments after my practice on Nadia’s piano.

During our wide ranging conversation, he tells us that during his thrice-weekly fitness walks, he hikes to an outpost in Ramallah which overlooks Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean in the distance. It reminds him that when his now grown children were small, he and Nadia took them swimming weekly in the sea. He has not been able to do that, or to go to Tel Aviv, for over seven years.

Here is a video about the checkpoints, narrated by an Israeli:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcGm-gxmxHw

Our first Al Kamandjati chamber music rehearsal that evening is a pleasure. It is great to see Peter Sulski again, and he is playing extremely well on both violin and viola. Our run- throughs of the Mozart Kegelstatt Trio, for clarinet, viola, and piano, and the Brahms Piano Quintet are very enjoyable, with lots of great energy and spirit.

The Brahms is actually music minus one, as Ramzi cannot join us – Celine and he have just had a baby boy two days ago!

FRIDAY, JUNE 12 – Day-long chamber music rehearsals with Al Kamandjati musicians, ESNMC Ramallah

Master class participants and audience members join Eric onstage for celebratory photo at conclusion of Eric’s recital at Jerusalem branch of Edward Said National Music Conservatory, June 10

The day is filled with excellent and rewarding rehearsals of Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio for clarinet, viola, and piano; Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro for viola and piano, and Brahms’ mighty Piano Quintet. Rehearsals go non-stop from 9 AM to 2:30 PM, since there is much to do and the schedule is tight. Tomorrow’s concert, in Jenin, will be without the Brahms’ Quintet, due to schedule conflicts for some of the string players; the program will present Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” for solo piano as a substitute for the Brahms.

Rehearsing Brahms Quintet onstage at ESNMC Ramalla June 12 (left to right): Peter and Clemmy, violins; Eric, piano; Ramzi, viola; Susan, cello. The yellow box contains chocolates offered by Ramzi in celebration of the birth of his son Hussein two days ago

SATURDAY, JUNE 13 – Jenin

The Jenin branch of Al Kamandjati was tragically burned this past March. Our concert today is the first in the new facility which is being renovated to replace the old, now destroyed, space.

Fire damage to piano, Al Kamandjati Jenin, March 09

Young audience members having a go at the newly repaired piano after the June 13 concert

Jenin is located deep in the heart of West Bank/Palestine, a 2 to 2 and ½ hour drive north of Ramallah, including time for Israeli army checkpoints. Jenin’s troubled history includes its Refugee Camps being centers for terrorists and therefore the sites of severe and repeated Israeli army attacks. Al Kamandjati Jenin provides alternative choices for over 100 young people of Jenin, through high-quality music instruction and as many concerts as possible throughout the year.

The audience enjoys the program of Schumann, Mussorgsky and Mozart with energy and rambunctiousness – all, including us, are most excited by the resumption of concerts in Jenin, in a facility which, when completely renovated, will have excellent acoustics and great sight-lines to compliment its atmospheric architectural features.

Unlike in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, where performances continue during the Call to Prayer, in Jenin we stop our music out of respect for the Call, as per local custom.

Gentleman in traditional dress dispensing free, cool, and delicious fruit juice to the audience prior to the concert, reaches out to shake Eric’s hand

Peter, Eric and the Head of Al Kamandjati Jenin (kneeling in front of Eric) with young audience members after the concert

Eric greeted by young audience members after the concert

On our way back to Ramallah, we stop in an amazing Arabic sweet shop in Nablus and are treated to fresh knofi – a warm dough covered with delicious melted sweet cheese. A treat not to be missed!

Beautiful, thin women with emptied knofi plates in Nablus: Kathy, Anna, and a friend

SUNDAY, JUNE 14 – Brahms Quintet rehearsal, individual practice and rest

Peter and Eric rehearse Schumann Adagio and Allegro

Over lunch, we are told of a profoundly disturbing incident: one of the musicians in the Brahms Quintet, when jogging two months ago, accidentally got separated from the designated path and was accosted and beaten by two uniformed Israeli soldiers, suffering bruised ribs, a torn quadriceps muscle, and a bayonet puncture wound.

That evening, Kathy and I join Nadia and Sameh as audience for a concert of solo piano music and piano trios at the Boys Friends School in Ramallah.  The Palestinian pianist is excellent, and we enjoy the playing of the cellist, Susan, who is in our Brahms Quintet.

MONDAY, JUNE 15 – Ramzi and Celine’s baby son Hussein visits Al Kamandjati in Ramallah;  Performance of Brahms Quintet at Al Kamandjati

Much to everyone’s delight and surprise, Celine visits us prior to our rehearsal at Al Kamandjati, with baby son Hussein in tow. A great treat for all of us.

Celine, Hussein (6 days old), and Ramzi at Al Kamandjati

The library of the beautiful Al Kamandjati facility has exellent acoustics. The piano is not a Steinway, and one of the keys doesn’t work, but the music-making is powerful and riveting, and the audience, mainly children who study at Al Kamandjati, love it. A very intense experience. I am sure Brahms would have been thrilled.

Young Al Kamandjati student getting as close to the Brahms Piano Quintet as possible

Brahms Quintet performance in Al Kamanjati library

Kathy with young Al Kamandjati student audience members after concert

Kathy, Eric, and Ramzi with audience members in courtyard of Al Kamandjati after the concert

TUESDAY, JUNE 16 – Master class at Hassadna Conservatory in West Jerusalem

Our Palestinian driver Fadi transports us from Ramallah to West Jerusalem. This time we go through the Jerusalem checkpoint, but the security precautions seem minimal as we are waved through the checkpoint.

The wall on the Palestinian side just before the Jerusalem checkpoint

It is a great pleasure to connect with Lena and her conservatory in the German Colony section of West Jerusalem. The students in the class are earnest and  serious, and they play beautifully. As always, they seem to be touched by our calls for uncoiling, physically and psychologically, and by our suggestion to remove at least some of their ego from the proceedings so that the music can shine forth with less interference.

A fine rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor

A few of our Israeli friends express incredulity that we are staying in Ramallah: “Are there hotels in Ramallah?” “Are there stores in Ramallah?” Are there good restaurants in Ramallah?” Yes, yes, and yes.

In the master class room, there is a certificate of one of Philip Solominick’s  competition victories as a young boy.

Philip, you used to be so cute!

A special surprise: Yoni Gertner, a former student, visits us after the master class. He has completed his army service, looks relieved and great, and is majoring in viola at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem.

Kathy, Eric, Yoni, and Lena at Hasadna

Lena treats Kathy and me to a beautiful dinner. We meet up with Fadi at the YMCA, and he takes us back to Ramallah. No checkpoints at all. As a special treat, we are accompanied by his and Inas’ one-year old son Michlos.

Our Palestinian driver Fadi and his son Michlos

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 17 – Full chamber music concert at French Cultural Center, Ramallah

Upon our arrival at the hall, we are warmly greeted by the Director of the French Cultural Center, who remembers our piano recital there in Feb 08. His pet poodle is with him, and we joke that his poodle is really a newspaper critic assigned to write a review of the concert.

The audience prior to the Ramallah French Cultural Center concert, including one young man who catches up with his German newspaper reading

The concert is full, and the audience contains some wonderful surprises: Zac Addision, who is studying for the summer in Jerusalem, and Javier Caballero and Sarah Jacques, who have just arrived from the US to play in some Al Kamandjati concerts. Javier and Sarah came straight to the concert after their arrival, jet lag and all. We are most honored.

Arm-in-arm after the concert (left to right): Ramzi, Anna, Susan, Clemmy, Eric, and Peter

All three pieces are strong, and the audience reacts with warmth and strong appreciation. Nadia says that she was riveted and deeply moved by every minute of the Brahms Quintet.

With Clemmy, Nadia, and Zac after the concert

At our celebratory dinner afterwards, Ramzi and I start planning next year’s program, which he wants to include a Brahms Piano Quartet and Prokofiev’s Overture Themes for clarinet, string quartet and piano. It will be an honor, pleasure, and privilege.

THURSDAY, JUNE 18 – Reflections, and Wheels Up!

Municipal park across from our hotel in Ramallah

Our two week journey has demonstrated what we already know: the Palestinians are beautiful, intelligent, loving, and cultured, just like their Israeli counterparts.

Our role in Sonad is to help each side see this equivalence in the other, and in so doing, to prepare the way for being able to consider new possibilities, including saying yes to the wishes and demands of the other.

Ramzi told me yesterday that in his view, and in the view of Palestinians, the word “peace”is misused and misunderstood. His personal experience is that “peace” has decreased rather than increased during his lifetime.

Our task is to make people’s lives better, plain and simple.

Thank you all for your love, your support, and your energy. We are moved and privileged by your interest and your partnership.

YES! Positive energy can and will rule the day.

Wheels up!

With love,

Eric and Kathy Stumacher