Songs For Days To Come is a collaboration of music and poetry, navigating personal landscapes of home, faith, and friendship in times seemingly bent on shattering these human birthrights. In this multi-year project, composer Kinan Azmeh sets contemporary Syrian poems in chamber music soundscapes that meld Arabic and Western traditions with improvisation and spoken voices.
Commissioned by St Urban, Songs for Days to Come adds another dimension to the chamber music canon and draws listeners through an intimate journey.
The pairing of Azmeh’s music with contemporary poetry of his far-flung compatriots is a reassuring expression of the freedom found in collaboration, art, music and poetry.
“Azmeh’s ear seems acutely attuned to that hidden
but always present stream.”
In 2015, St Urban salons commissioned Kinan Azmeh to compose a song cycle set to texts of his choosing. After much reading and exploring, Azmeh selected 5 poems with whose authors he shared history, friendship and the experience of life as an emigre. These first five poems formed the heart of Songs for Days to Come. Azmeh’s settings for soprano, clarinet, cello and piano explore the emotional and musical vocabulary of the poetry – of home disrupted, of fear, belief, hope. The poets themselves are present in the music, as their recorded voices are heard in each of the 5 settings.
Songs for Days to Come, Vol. 1 features Kinan Azmeh with soprano Dima Orsho, cellist Kinan Abou-Afach, pianist Lenore Davis, and poets Lukman Derky, Mohammad Abou-Laban, Liwaa Yazji, Hazem al-Azmeh, and Adnan Odeh. It was premiered at SubCulture, NYC May, 2016. The recording was released in November, 2017 along with a special performance at Symphony Space.
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REFUGEE YOUTH SUMMER ACADEMY
Each year the IRC in New Jersey works with refugee, asylee and other immigrant children and youth aged 4 – 21 from over 15 countries. Having relocated to the United States in search of safety from violence and oppression in their home countries, these youth are hopeful and motivated to succeed. Yet the obstacles this population faces – linguistic, academic, social, emotional, and economic – are complex. Up to 40% of the IRC’s newly-arrived participants each year have had their schooling interrupted for months, or even years as a result of their family’s displacement, making their transition into school that much more challenging. Despite these challenges, the IRC believes that refugee and asylee youth have tremendous potential, and with the proper support, they can achieve success in education and become engaged leaders in their new communities. A positive transition to school, social, and family life and ongoing support are essential for newly-arrived children and youth in the wake of crisis to continue on the path to high school graduation, post-secondary education, and engaged citizenship.
Described as “Intensely Soulful” by the New York Times and “Spellbinding” by the New Yorker, Kinan Azmeh’s utterly distinctive sound across different musical genres has been gaining international recognition. Born in Damascus, he has performed as soloist, chamber musician, improviser, and jazz artist around the world, from Paris’ Opera Bastille to the UN’s General Assembly. He has performed as soloist with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Knights Orchestra, the Osnabruck Symphony, and the Morgenland Festival Orchestra, to name a few.
In addition to his heavy touring schedule, Azmeh makes time to visit and play music with Syrian children in Jordanian refugee camps. He also performs with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and was featured prominently in the documentary Music of Strangers.
Azmeh’s compositions include several works for solo, orchestra, and chamber groups; film, live illustration, and electronics. His discography includes three albums with his ensemble HEWAR, several soundtracks for film and dance, a duo album with pianist Dinuk Wijeratne, and a recent album with his New York Arabic/Jazz quartet.
Now in its fourth season, the New York chamber music series St Urban has reinvigorated the music salon through daring musical and literary programming, original commissioned works, and outstanding performances in intimate settings, including private homes and the Tenri Cultural Institute. At each salon, St Urban audiences meet and engage in discussions with performers, composers and writers to gain a deeper insight into their works and influences.
St Urban was founded by Lenore Davis who commissioned Azmeh because, “His music is personal, and yet speaks to the entire world. The poetry he has selected and his settings transcend politics. There is a warmth and elevated humaneness pouring out of his performances and his compositions.”