Jay Phillips Center commissions interfaith concert to be performed in Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Rochester April 20, May 1 and May 13

'Embracing the Beloved' will feature music from Indian, Persian and Sephardic musical traditions

April 5, 2013

A concert that features new and traditional music from the Indian, Persian and Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) traditions will be performed beginning April 20 in Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Rochester.

Commissioned by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, "Embracing the Beloved" was created by Minnesota musicians David Jordan Harris, Nirmala Rajasekar and Maryam Yusefzadeh to explore the shared human values and spiritual aspirations of their three musical traditions.

"Embracing the Beloved" is structured around the sun's passage from dawn to nightfall. Starting from the anticipation of dawn and new beginnings, it moves into the heat of the day with afternoon study and storytelling, then to music of the night and the heart, and finally to gratitude. Audiences will hear nearly a dozen languages, including Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Frasi, Kurdish, Azari, Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish.

Each of the musicians will perform with an ensemble specializing in the music of her or his tradition. Harris and Voices of Sepharad will perform the Judeo-Spanish works.  Yusefzadeh and Roboyat will perform the Persian works. Rajasekar and a group that includes some of Minnesota's most-accomplished performers of music of the Middle East and India will perform the Carnatic (south Indian) works.

In addition to Harris, Rajasekar and Yusefzadeh, the concert will feature percussionists Mick LaBriola, Sriram Natarajan, Balaji Chandran and Tim O'Keefe; violinist David Stenshoel; oud player David Burk; and a choir of Indian vocalists.

A highlight will be the participation of all the musicians together in new arrangements and compositions that were created for the concert.

"Embracing the Beloved" will be performed at:

  • 6 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Minnesota Hindu Temple, 10530 Troy Lane N., Maple Grove. Admission is $25 and includes a post-show vegetarian dinner. Tickets are available by calling the temple at 763-425-9449.
  • 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Road S., Minneapolis. Admission is $15 and tickets are available by calling the center at 952-381-3499.
  • 12:10 p.m. Monday, May 13, as part of the Harmony for Mayo concert series in the Barbara Woodward Lips Atrium of the Charlton building at the Mayo Clinic, 200 1st St. SW, Rochester. This concert is free and open to the public.

Harris is co-founder and artistic director of Voices of Sepharad and is executive director of Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council. A composer and playwright, he has studied and performed Sephardic music throughout the world.

Rajasekar teaches the art of Carnatic music and is artistic director at the Naadha Rasa Center of Music in Plymouth. She has performed around the world and with musicians from western classical, Chinese, Indonesian gamelan, and jazz traditions.

Yusefzadeh is a co-founder and performer with the world music quartet Robayat. She is involved with Persian, classical, jazz and world music as a vocalist, arranger, composer, percussionist and educator.

While each of their musical traditions has emerged from different historical circumstances and speaks in its own musical vocabulary, the artists aim to open a door for audiences into their cultures through the language of music.

Harris brings a tapestry of Sephardic music that stretches over the many lands where Jews resettled after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 - Morocco, Bosnia, Turkey and even into India. Rajasekar brings into the collaboration her research into the ancient roots of Indian music - melodies as old as 2,000 years - which create a historical backdrop for the growth of Indian music into the 21st century. Yusefzadeh's repertoire mirrors the complex history of Persia, embracing pre-Islamic Zoroastrian chant, folk and ethnic tribal music, and the classical music of Iran.

The concert is co-sponsored by the Hindu Temple of Minnesota, Sabes Jewish Community Center and the Harmony for Mayo Program. The Jay Phillips Center is a joint enterprise of Saint John's University and the University of St. Thomas also serving the College of Saint Benedict.

Information about the concert is available on the Jay Phillips Center's website and from Harris at 651-227-2583.