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Concordia symphony merges eastern ragas with western classical

Special guest is British Columbia based Mohamed Assani performing his composition Scheherazade on sitar and tabla

Fusion concerts have a way of enthralling lovers of classical music, especially when the blend is Indian and European classical music. 

Every season, the Concordia Symphony Orchestra introduces a specific world culture to one of their concerts. As the season ends, conductor Danielle Lisboa presents A Garland of Ragas on Sunday, April 21, at the Edmonton Convention Centre. 

The ensemble once again unites Easter and Western musical traditions. This time, it explores the five elements of Nature: earth, water, fire, air and space. 

The orchestra’s special guest is the genre-defying Mohamed Assani performing his composition Scheherazade for sitar and tabla with orchestra. Trained in Indian/Pakistani classical music, Western classical music and jazz, he is a rare musician who can draw from different genres and cultures with depth and authenticity. 

Assani is continually forging new musical paths, and his Scheherazade is a tribute to the fictional narrator of One Thousand and One Nights. Her stories are a touchstone of Arab culture. Through his composition, Assani celebrates all women in Arab culture who have made landmark contributions. 

Also included in the Indian classical showcase is traditional Indian singing and dance. 

Two St. Albert musicians playing in Concordia Symphony Orchestra are bassoonist Dave Ridgway and cellist Katarina Loutas. 

As part of the orchestra, they will play Ravel’s Alborada del graciso, Stravinksy’s Infernal Dance of King Kashchey from The Firebird Suite, Smetana’s Moldau and Márquez’s Danzon No. 2

“All the pieces feature an equal contribution, but Smetana’s Moldau is the orchestra’s favourite. It has beautiful harmonies. The first thing we play is Marquez’s dance piece. We hold down the rhythm section and it’s hard not to move when you’re playing it,” said Loutas. 

One of the most popular western classical works played is Ravel’s Alborada del graciso, a Spanish flavoured composition where pizzicato violins and harps imitate a strummed guitar. In this piece Ridgway plays a solo and leads a conversation with the shimmering strings. 

Stravinsky’s Dance of King Kashchey instead is very emotional notes Loutas. 

“His music is very expressive, chaotic, clashing and dissonant,” said Loutas. 

Ridgway takes it a step further saying Stravinsky’s piece is very rhythmic and designed to come right at the audience. 

“It’s an infernal dance. It’s his (Stavinsky’s) version of devil music. It’s supposed to sound nasty and aggressive,” he said. 

A Garland of Ragas' pre-concert activities start at 4 p.m. and the performance begins at 5 p.m. The Edmonton Convention Centre is at 9797 Jasper Ave. Tickets range from $11 to $21 at

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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