Performing for the Unknown Ear

From 27 February to 4 March 2018, pianist and singer Dorien Verheijden, violinist Astrid Abas and fundraiser Erik Prins from the Netherlands stayed in Egypt to give workshops in the SEKEM School and at the Heliopolis University in preparation for a music festival with Egyptian and Dutch musicians to be held later this year in the Space of Culture. For SEKEM News, Astrid Abas and Dorien Verheijden, members of the Dutch SEKEM Friends Association, wrote about their experiences.

Very gratefully we can look back on six colorful and intensive days. To our audience, it meant listening to the other, the unknown. For us, it meant performing for the unknown ear that is not used to our sounds. Our audience transformed our music into different forms and colors from another continent.

Expressing feeling through music

Every morning half past six we started in the Mahad, the Institute for adult education on the SEKEM Farm, with an interactive musical introduction to the core team of SEKEM. We played, gave listening assignments, let the listeners express what they heard and let them sing some themes. During the day, we did more or less the same at the SEKEM School and at Heliopolis University.

The SEKEM schoolchildren have been listening neatly to Mozart’s Sonata in F major. With gestures, we showed how the theme opens and closes again. Besides, we taught them songs on melodies by Bela Bartók with texts from Astrid and a SEKEM teacher, which we then performed on stage at the weekly closure celebration of SEKEM School.

At Heliopolis University we studied various pieces with music teachers and students as well. The impressions were expressed by our listeners with great openness, even concerning the Thème et Variations by Olivier Messiaen. There were precious but also vulnerable moments. People said that they came to rest, that they felt tension disappear, yes, they had a happy day. We were touched by the openness and spontaneity of so many people. A group of professors at one point were even swinging and clapping motives so enthusiastically, that we adapted our music which resulted in a completely different piece.

In memory of Ibrahim Abouleish

The artistic highlight was a concert for an international audience in the Mahad. We played the above-mentioned sonata in F major by Mozart, the Thème et Variations by Messiaen and the great sonata for violin and piano by César Franck. People had a particularly intense listening position, which gave us wings.

We dedicated our concert to SEKEM Founder Ibrahim Abouleish – it felt that he was very close.

Staying on the farm is always a great pleasure. Everything you see is beautiful: flowers, plants and trees, birds, people and buildings. It was always wonderful to come ‘home’ to the farm after a day at Heliopolis University and a ride on the highway with lots of mess and misery to the left and right.

SEKEM Friends Association in the Netherlands
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