Jay Phillips Center Commissions Interfaith Concert 'Embracing the Beloved'

“Embracing the Beloved”

A concert that features new and traditional music from the Indian, Persian and Sephardic-Jewish traditions will be performed this spring in Maple Grove, Minneapolis and Rochester.

Commissioned by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, “Embracing the Beloved” was created by Minnesota musicians Nirmala Rajasekar, Maryam Yusefzadeh and David Jordan Harris to explore the shared human values and spiritual aspirations of their three musical traditions.

Each of the musicians will perform with an ensemble specializing in the music of her or his tradition. Voices of Sepharad will perform the Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) works. Robayat will perform the Persian works. A group that includes some of Minnesota’s most-accomplished performers of music of the Middle East and India will perform the Carnatic (south Indian) works.

In addition to Rajasekar, Yusefzadeh and Harris, the concert will feature percussionists Mick LaBriola, Sriram Natarajan, Balaji Chandran and Tim O’Keefe; violinist David Stenshoel; oud player David Burk; and a choir of Indian vocalists.

A highlight will be the participation of all the musicians in new arrangements and compositions that were created for the concert.

“Embracing the Beloved” will be performed at:

  • 6 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Minnesota Hindu Temple, 10530 Troy Lane North, Maple Grove. Admission is $25 and includes a post-show vegetarian dinner. Tickets are available by calling the temple, (763) 425-9449.
  • 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Road S., Minneapolis. Admission is $15 and tickets are available by calling the center, (952) 381-3499.
  • 12:10 p.m. Monday, May 13, as part of the Harmony for Mayo concert series in the Barbara Woodward Lips Atrium of the Charlton building at the Mayo Clinic, 200 First St. Southwest, Rochester. This concert is free and open to the public.

“Embracing the Beloved” is structured around the sun’s passage from dawn to nightfall. Starting from the anticipation of dawn and new beginnings, it moves into the heat of the day with afternoon study and storytelling, then to music of the night and the heart, and finally to gratitude. Audiences will hear nearly a dozen languages, including Tamil, Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada, Frasi, Kurdish, Azari, Hebrew and Judeo-Spanish.

Harris is co-founder and artistic director of Voices of Sepharad and is executive director of Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council. A composer and playwright, he has studied and performed Sephardic music throughout the world.

Rajasekar teaches the art of Carnatic music and is artistic director at the Naadha Rasa Center of Music in Plymouth. She has performed around the world and with musicians from western classical, Chinese, Indonesian gamelan and jazz traditions.

Yusefzadeh is a co-founder and performer with the world music quartet Robayat. She is involved with Persian, classical, jazz and world music as a vocalist, arranger, composer, percussionist and educator.

While each of their musical traditions has emerged from different historical circumstances and speaks in its own musical vocabulary, the artists aim to open a door for audiences into their cultures through the language of music.

Yusefzadeh’s repertoire mirrors the complex history of Persia, embracing pre-Islamic Zoroastrian chant, folk and ethnic tribal music, and the classical music of Iran. Rajasekar brings into the collaboration her research into the ancient roots of Indian music – melodies as old as 2,000 years – which create a historical backdrop for the growth of Indian music into the 21st century. Harris brings a tapestry of Sephardic music that stretches over the many lands where Jews resettled after their expulsion from Spain in 1492 – Morocco, Bosnia, Turkey and even into India.

The concert is co-sponsored by the Hindu Temple of Minnesota, Sabes Jewish Community Center and the Harmony for Mayo Program. The Jay Phillips Center is a joint enterprise of the University of St. Thomas and St. John’s University, Collegeville.

Information about the concert is available on the Jay Phillips website and from David Jordan Harris, (651) 227-2583.