Eastern Lights Christmas Concert

1 december 2023
Lokhorstkerk, Pieterskerkstraat 1, Leiden
Eastern Lights Christmas Concert

Featuring Abeer Albatal and Levon Abadjian Visuals by Kevork Mourad

Levon will be singing by Zoom from Syria.

Get your Tickets: https://www.viewcy.com/e/eastern_lights__chris

Tickets: €10,00 Students: €5,00

Join us for an extraordinary Christmas concert, a celebration of Eastern traditions, where the enchanting melodies of classical Arabic, Byzantine, Syriac, Maronite, Chaldean, Assyrian, and Armenian music come together in a magical performance.

Featured Artists:

Abeer Albatal: Embark on a musical journey with Abeer Albatal, a maestro in classical Arabic music. After graduating from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus in 2016, Albatal has showcased a rich repertoire of classical and traditional music from Syria and the broader Arab and Eastern world. Her mesmerizing performances have graced esteemed stages such as the Morgenland Festival in Germany and the Arab Film Festival in the Netherlands. Collaborating with choirs and orchestras in Syria and Lebanon, she has also taken on lead roles in various television series. Immerse yourself in the enchanting melodies of Abeer Albatal on her YouTube channel.

Levon Abajian: Experience the artistry of Levon Abadjian, the official cantor of St. Joseph Church, Singer, and director of the Patriarchal School for Byzantine music in the Diocese of Damascus and its Melkite Catholic dependencies. Abadjian, a graduate of the Higher Institute of Music, specializes in oriental singing and has shared his talents in solo performances in Jordan and Russia. He has also participated in group performances with choirs such as the Narigatsi Choir (Aleppo), the Arab Philharmonic Choir (Dubai), and the National Music Ensemble Choir (Damascus). Abadjian’s individual evenings have resonated across several Syrian governorates.

Jack Sabbagh, is a talented Qanun musician and a graduate of the Higher Institute of Music in Syria (2016). Jack’s musical journey extends beyond borders, having graduated with a Master’s in Archaeology and Museum from Pázmány Péter Catholic University.
Jack has graced audiences in Syria, Lebanon, Hungary, and the Netherlands with his Qanun performances. As a permanent member of the St. Ephrem Syriac Choir, he has added his musical touch to many concerts at the Damascus Opera House.
Additionally, Jack has shared his expertise as a Qanun teacher in various private and public institutes in Syria.

Visual Artist: Kevork Mourad: Born in Qamishli, Syria, Kevork Mourad now lives and works in New York City. His unique technique of live drawing and animation, in collaboration with musicians like Yo-Yo Ma and Kim Kashkashian, creates a harmonious blend of art and music. Mourad’s work has been featured in prestigious institutions worldwide, including Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the ElbPhilharmonie in Germany. Explore the synergy of art and music with Kevork Mourad’s live visuals at the Eastern Lights Christmas Concert.

Program Highlights:

  1. “Your birth, O Christ our God” (Arabic and Greek – Byzantine rite)
  2. “Today the virgin gives birth to the Supreme Substance” (Greek – Byzantine ritual)
  3. “We have missed our Savior” (Byzantine-Arabic by Joseph Yazbek)
  4. “Glory to God in the highest” (Byzantine – metrical tunes)
  5. “Christ was born, so glorify him, my greatness, oh my soul” (Byzantine – Myrrh metric)
  6. “The day is born of the virgin” (traditional Byzantine melody)
  7. “Glory to you, O Christ” (composed by Ziad Rahbani)
  8. “The Messiahs of Ithilid, Hilal, and Aymar” (from the Syriac rite)
  9. Gregorian selections from the Maronite ritual
  10. “Malika Bnei Malka, Moshe Raba” (from the Chaldean and Assyrian rites)
  11. “Today is Christmas” (from Armenian tradition)
  12. “How can I be healed from your love” (words by Father Youssef Moones, composed by Elie Nehme)
  13. “Khorurt medz” (from the Armenian rite)
  14. “Havoon, Havoon” (Armenian Traditional hymn)
  15. “Ov zarmanali” (from the Armenian rite)
  16. “Shlama Eloch” (from Assyrian Tradition)

The region of Syria is distinguished by its richness and cultural diversity, extending for hundreds and thousands of years, particularly in Christian heritage. Syria has been a meeting point for various civilizations, especially those who traversed it on their pilgrimage to the holy lands.

The Christian heritage, especially Christian music, in Syria, is among the oldest and most diverse rituals in the world. Antioch was the first Christian center in the region, where the disciples were first called Christians, and the first church was established. Patriarchates were formed throughout history, establishing monasteries and monks who became important figures in hymns, writers, and composers of hundreds, if not thousands, of hymns that may disappear if not preserved and revived. Thus, we aim to disseminate and revive this heritage within the country of origin, Syria, and then to the corners of the world.

The hymn writers in the region wrote their supplications in the common languages of the time, including Syriac (the spoken language with its various Eastern and Western dialects). From it emerged Syriac rituals, such as the chants of the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic churches. We present from their chants “Mshiho Ethilo” or “Christ is Born.” Maronite rituals, originating from Aleppo through St. Maron and his disciple St. John Maron in Lebanon, also contributed to this rich heritage. They founded monasteries and monks who continue to organize hymns according to ancient templates. One of the most important Maronite hymns is the chant “Arsal Allah” in the Rast maqam. In Mesopotamia, the East Syriac language spread with its Chaldean, Assyrian, and Babylonian dialects in the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Church, and Ancient East Syriac Church. Notable hymns include “Maliki Bani Maliki.”

Therefore, Syriac was the language of the people at that time, but due to the influence of Byzantine rule, Greek became the language of the educated class, similar to English today. The Royal Church, especially in the countryside of Aleppo and Palestine, wrote hymns in both Greek and Syriac. St. John Damascene, who organized the eight tones in the Byzantine rite, emerged from this context. With the spread of Arab culture, many adapted Greek hymns and prayers into Arabic. Today, the Royal Church is known as the Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Melkite Catholic Church.

Armenian civilization was not far from our region. Armenians used to pilgrimage to Jerusalem through Syria, establishing points like the “Hokyodon” in Aleppo. They built the Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs in the sixth century, and the Kingdom of Cilicia appeared in northern Syria. However, the Ottoman occupation executed a plan of genocide and displacement. Many survivors sought refuge in Syria, establishing churches, schools, and institutions. The village of Kasab in northern Syria remains from the Kingdom of Cilicia, and most of its inhabitants today are Armenians preserving their heritage for hundreds of years.

One of the most beautiful Armenian church hymns is the chant “Al Sir Al Kabir” (The Great Secret).

In conclusion, our aim is to revive and disseminate this ancient heritage with all its rituals, languages, and dialects, harmonizing between the human voice and Eastern, Western, or electronic musical instruments without compromising the essence and spirit of the Eastern maqam or the melody and tradition followed in each ritual.