15 April 2017

Terra Sancta Organ Festival in Lebanon and Syria: music beyond the crisis

"We have heard too many sounds of wars. Music uplifts our souls." The music festival (the only one in Syria, in time of conflict) organized by the Custody of the Holy Land.

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The Terra Sancta Organ Festival is the international festival of organ music organized by the Custody of the Holy Land in all the countries where the Custody is present. In the Middle East, the organ is often perceived as a purely Christian instrument because it is almost exclusively found in churches. The festival becomes a meeting point to invite music lovers, regardless of their religious affiliation.

The winter festival took place in Lebanon and Syria from January 29 to February 15 2017. In recent years, Lebanon has been witnessing a renewed interest in the greatest of all musical instruments: in fact, many pipe organs have been restored and new ones are being built. Here, the festival is called the Lebanese Pipe Organ Week and is an incentive to this renaissance, thanks to all the performances by organists of international level, in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame.

In Syria, the Terra Sancta Organ Festival is organized with the collaboration of the Higher Institute of Music and is called "Damascus Pipe Organ Week": this is the only international exhibition that remains active in the country during war, as a sign of solidarity that goes beyond the crisis.

Apostolic Nuncio to Syria
“We have heard too many sounds of wars, bombs and mortars falling on Damascus, however this music frees us from this anguish and uplifts our spirits as it unites everyone in a language that needs no translation. We definitely need more evenings like this one.”

We got a very enthusiastic reception by the Syrian spectators who crowded the four concerts that were held in the beautiful Damascus Opera House and in the Franciscan churches of St. Anthony and St. Paul.

The local institutions contributed with the performance of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra directed by Missak Baghdboudarian and with the Damascus Baroque Soloists ensemble as well as the orchestra and the choir of the Higher Institute of Music, conducted by the Director of the Conservatory, André Malouli.

The Italian Eugenio Maria Fagiani, organist of the Orchestra Sinfonica Giuseppe Verdi in Milan, was the international guest of the Organ Week of Damascus. Fagiani performed on February 9 in the Damascus Opera House with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra and in St. Anthony's Church on the following day.

Director of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra
"War has taught us that life must go on and that, in times of war, music is important for society and for all humanity. The orchestra is continuing the work: it was not our choice, but our mission is to continue to make and perpetuate the music tin Syria in order to keep Syrian society alive.”