Toronto has a wonderful summer music festival going on and I take in the concerts almost every evening for three weeks. Today was the first of three kids concerts, where I volunteer, and this morning something quite wonderful happened.
The performers were a change from the often classical fare. The group was the Kinan Azmeh CityBand visiting from New York and the lead on clarinet, Kinan Azmeh is originally from Syria. A good marketer reached out to ensure that some young recent arrivals from Syria were in the audience. Imagine their pleasure when Kinan introduced the group and invited questions in both languages – and all the kids responded. They clapped and cheered for music that combined familiar music blended with that of their new world. It’s a good day to be a Canadian.
Kiran was back in the evening for an additional concert as part of Toronto Summer Music Fesival program. The volume was set lower and one could hear that the arrangements were beautifully nuanced to incorporate the two worlds of New York and Syria. We visited his childhood village – now reduced to rubble. He commented on the travails of going through customs with a Syrian passport – nearly every time in returning to New York he was asked to step aside and join a line called “Other”, and then placed in a room with other nationalities of various ethnic backgrounds and colours and compelled to be silent for hours. In response to the inevitable, he learned to use the time to compose – and he said he wanted to dedicate the next composition to all the “Others” throughout the world caught in those same waiting rooms and never knowing the final outcome. Poignant moments.