Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning


Media contact: David Jordan Harris

WHO: Voices of Sepharad, Robayat, Nirmala Rajasekar
WHAT: Embracing the Beloved
WHERE: The Hindu Temple of Minnesota (10530 Troy Lane N., Maple Grove); Sabes JCC (4330 S. Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis); Harmony for Mayo (Lips Atrium, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st St. SW, Rochester)
WHEN: (Hindu Temple) Saturday, April 20, 6 pm; (Sabes JCC) Wednesday, May 1, 7:30 pm; (Mayo) Monday, May 13, 12:10 pm
PRICES: (Hindu Temple) $25 general admission, including dinner; (Sabes JCC) $15 general admission; (Mayo) free admission
BOX OFFICE: (Hindu Temple) 763-425-9449; (Sabes JCC) 952-381-3499

"Embracing the Beloved"

Concert reaches across Indian, Persian, and Sephardic Jewish musical traditions

Minneapolis, MN (March 5, 2013)—In a world where unfamiliar beliefs and musical expressions are seen as strange and unapproachable, three Minnesotan musicians are using their traditional art forms to find common ground and promote understanding. Nirmala Rajasekar, David Jordan Harris, and Maryam Yusefzadeh present the premiere of a concert, Embracing the Beloved, which speaks to human values and spiritual aspirations reflected in three distinctive musical traditions: Indian, Persian, and Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish). Each artist is performing with a musical ensemble that specializes in the music of their tradition-Voices of Sepharad (Sephardic), Robayat (Persian), and nationally recognized artists working in the Carnatic (South Indian) tradition. Performances of Embracing the Beloved, which was commissioned by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, take place at the Hindu Temple of Minnesota on Saturday, April 20, 6 p.m.; at the Sabes JCC on Wednesday, May 1, 7:30 p.m.; and in the Harmony for Mayo concert series at the Mayo Clinic on Monday, May 13, 12:10 p.m. Admission is $25 at the Hindu Temple and includes a post-show vegetarian dinner; $15 at the Sabes JCC; and free of charge at Harmony for Mayo. Tickets are available through the Hindu Temple at 763-425-9449 or through the Sabes JCC at 952-381-3499.

While each of these musical traditions has emerged from its own 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. 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. Rajasekar brings into the collaboration her research into the ancient roots of Indian music—melodies as old as 2000 years—which create a historical backdrop for the dynamic growth of Indian music into the 21st century. Harris brings a rich tapestry of Sephardic music that stretches over the many lands where Jews re-settled after their expulsion from Spain in 1492—Morocco, Bosnia, Turkey, and even into India.

The concert features some of Minnesota's most accomplished performers of music of the Middle East and India—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 of Embracing the Beloved will be the collaborative participation of its musicians in shared repertoire as well as in new compositions and arrangements specifically created for this production.

Embracing the Beloved is structured around the passage of the sun from dawn to nightfall. The progression of time, which binds all cultures, presents a shared canvass for the ways in which each cultural tradition infuses spiritual meaning into the passage of the hours—from the anticipation of dawn and new beginnings through the heat of the day into late afternoon study and storytelling, and concluding with music of the heart, of the night, and finally, of gratitude. Audiences can expect to hear nearly a dozen languages, including Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Farsi, Kurdish, Azari, Hebrew, and Judeo-Spanish.

David Jordan Harris is co-founder and Artistic Director of Voices of Sepharad. He has pursued study and performance of Sephardic music throughout North America, Morocco, Greece, France, Israel, Turkey, Poland, Bosnia, and Spain. David has received many awards supporting his fieldwork and performances, including grants and fellowships in recognition of his work from the Luce, Jerome, Rockefeller, and Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundations; Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, United Arts, and the St. Paul Companies. Integrating his skills as a singer, actor, and dancer, David has appeared as guest artist with Zorongo Flamenco, Corning Dances and Company, Walker Art Center, Illusion Theater, Rose Ensemble, North Star Opera, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Guthrie Theater, Minnesota Opera, Lyra Baroque Orchestra, Ensemble Español, and In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. David has co-authored four plays and composed music for the film Romania 1941/Rwanda 1994. He is the Interfaith Arts Special Consultant for the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning and Executive Director of Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council.

Nirmala Rajasekar has been featured in many world-renowned venues, including New York's Carnegie Hall, United Nations, Symphony Space; the Music Academy in Chennai, India; the Rumi International Festival in Konya, Turkey; and Musee Rietburg in Zurich, Switzerland. Nirmala made her debut as a solo performer on the 7-stinged veena at age 13 in Bangelore, India. Radio India has pronounced her a Grade A artist for All India Radio since 1990. Nirmala has performed in numerous collaborative settings with musicians from many backgrounds, including western classical, Chinese, Indonesian gamelan, and jazz. She was selected as a Bush Foundation Artistic Fellow in 2006 and received the McKnight Foundation's Performing Artist Fellowship in 2011. Nirmala has received grants and commissions from the Minnesota State Arts Board, American Composers Forum, Jerome Foundation, Playwrights' Center, COMPAS, and Meet the Composer. Her most recent recording is Namaste, created collaboratively with cellist Michelle Kinney. She is the Artistic Director of the Naadha Rasa Center of Music based in Plymouth, where she teaches the art of Carnatic music.

Maryam Yusefzadeh is actively involved with jazz, Persian, classical, and world music as a vocalist, arranger, composer, percussionist, and educator. A co-founder and performer with the world music quartet Robayat, she has been a winner of the 1992 Minnesota Music awards and has performed with the vocal jazz quintet Solfege, the MacPhail Center Jazz Ensemble, The Love Ensemble under the direction of Roberta Davis, and the vocal jazz group Essentially Jazz. She has performed for cultural and educational events at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Weisman Museum, May Day Festival, Minnesota Public Radio, KFAI, Powderhorn Park, Augsburg Nobel Peace Prize Festival, Plymouth Congregational Church, Universalist & Unitarian Churches, Macalester College, Hamline University, Mankato State University, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Public Library & school systems. Yusefzadeh and her ensemble Robayat have offered ethnic music education through COMPAS and the Minnesota State Arts Board. She can be heard on the CD Music of the Heart.

For further information on the production or the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, contact David Jordan Harris at 651-227-2583.

Embrace the Beloved

Photo caption: Maryam Yusefzadeh, David Jordan Harris, Nirmala Rajasekar
Photo credit: Reymash Photography

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