1001 Concerts: A New Lens for Music

ImageThere was a different feel in the air at last night’s dress rehearsal for the Salt Lake Symphony.  The rhythm was more relaxed yet still in sync.   The phrases turned with unexpected inflection.  The musicians engaged in playing standard rep, Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, with new eyes, yet never neglecting their commitment to precision, expression and virtuosity.

Maybe it had to do something with the four musicians who were “embedded” at the front of the orchestraMonika Jalili and her ensemble have resumes that impress and validate their impressive careers.  Monka’s vocal stylings, Megan Gould’s improvised violin, and Mike Fjerstad’s rhythmic guitar accompaniments were glued together by Silk Road Ensemble percussionist Shane Shanahan.  A different vibe was apparent, and the groove was contagious!

But hold on a minute, this is an “ORCHESTRA” concert right?  And not even a “POPS” concert.  What is going on? We are taking a risk, for certain, yet in reality we are doing what we always do–presenting music that speaks across the arbitrary boundaries of nation, religion or culture.

Monika Jalili is a singer who keeps a particular tradition alive, just like symphony orchestras do.  Monika and her ensemble specialize in Iranian/Persian music, much of it banned in Iran since the 1979 revolution.  They represent a voice of music from a particular region.   The orchestral selections for the program are much the same.  Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian composer who experienced many different cultures as a young officer in the Russian navy.  That plus the juxtaposition of Russia to several Islamic cultures made for a ripe soup from which Rimsky-Korsakov, and many other Russian composers, dipped into for inspiration.  In their hands, scales spice European roots; orchestration transform Germanic norms;  new sounds abound.  New possibility exists.

The same happened to the music of Persia/Iran.  Western influences changed the nature of folk music while retaining some of the regional characteristics. Monika’s repertoire as a singer owes as much allegiance to French café music as to the cultural ancestry from which it sprang.  The result is an attractive blend. So, this concert includes both, and my idea of “embedding” the ensemble into another piece itself is unusual.  Monika’s ensemble will play in between movements of Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterpiece as a commentary on a commentary, so to speak. But rather than sacrilege, it becomes a new lens with which to view both traditions.

Will it work?  Who knows?  Those close enough to Salt Lake City are welcome to come find out!  For certain, it will be a new way to view an old standard, and a new set of music for music of our audience as well.  Take the plunge for adventure!  Here’s the details:

Salt Lake Symphony East Meets West: Promoting Peace Through Music

Monika Jalili and her Ensemble (Mike Fjerstad, guitar; Megan Gould, violin; Shane Shanahan, percussion) Saturday November 9, 2013 7:30 pm Libby Gardner Hall—University of Utah Campus

The program, East Greets West: Promoting Peace Through Music, will feature Ms. Jalili performing traditional and currently suppressed popular music from Iran, interspersed with orchestral compositions inspired by the Middle East. Orchestral favorites will include Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Procession of the Sardar. Dervish, by composer Justin Merritt, was recently discovered by Dr. Baldwin at a composition competition held at the University of Utah. The work is an orchestral depiction of a Whirling Dervish dance, such as those performed by Sufi musicians and dancers. You can also hear new arrangements for orchestra and traditional ensemble featuring Ms. Jalili. Join us for this unique orchestral event which is sure to be among the most memorable of the season!


Tickets $10 adults, $5 students and seniors. Available by calling 801-531-7501 or at the door with cash, check or credit card.

Become acquainted with the culture behind the music by attending the free, pre-concert discussion with Music Director Robert Baldwin from 6:15 to 7:00 p.m. in Room 270, right behind the concert hall. These lectures are sponsored, in part, by the Utah Humanities Council.

Monika Jalili’s Website: http://www.monikajalili.biz/live/

Image: http://www.deviantart.com/art/Scheherazade-259979929

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2 thoughts on “1001 Concerts: A New Lens for Music

  1. I’ve long felt there’s a great opportunity for something between the traditional (overture, concerto, symphony) orchestral program and the pops repertoire we have today.
    This is certainly one example.

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