Sat, May 7 8:00 pm

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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 featuring Katherine Liccardo, violin, Tracey Jasas-Hardel, violin, Matt Consul, viola, Ben Noyes, cello, John Clark, bass. 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 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.

Sponsored by Elise Drake