Letters from Iraq expresses the love and pain of lives lived by the people of war-torn Iraq. Actual mailed letters and their stories are transposed into eight gripping compositions by NEA National Heritage Fellow Honoree and Two-time Grammy-nominated Iraqi-American composer and oud player, Rahim AlHaj with string quintet (2 violins, viola, cello, contrabass) and percussion. He says, “Music can make us laugh, make us cry, make us march into war. I want to make music to make us realize peace.” This is music is of deep emotion and great beauty, melding mastery of Iraqi and Western classical genres alike to form something entirely new.

Virtuoso oud player and composer, Rahim AlHaj born in Baghdad, Iraq, has found in his ancient instrument, whose written history spans some 5,000 years, a unique voice that speaks passionately to contemporary listeners of every musical background. Deftly combining traditional Iraqi maqams with contemporary stylings and influences, AlHaj seeks to translate into music the suffering, joy, anxiety, and determination that he has experienced and witnessed in his lifelong struggle against injustice — as an Iraqi, a political refugee, and today as an American citizen. Communicating with a compelling immediacy that bypasses cultural obstacles, his music speaks irresistibly to the heart in a universal language of compassion.

The Portland String Quintet has had an enormous impact locally, regionally and internationally since its inception in 1969. Beginning as The Portland Symphony String Quartet, the members became not only principal players in the Portland Symphony Orchestra, they established teaching studios, school music positions and chamber music concerts serving the greater Portland area and the State of Maine. They have received rave reviews from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, the Washington Star and Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Sunday Telegram.

Sponsored by Elise Drake