WORDS ADORNED: ANDALUSIAN POETRY & MUSIC features the following participants:

from left to right…

THE CROSSING – Choir led by Conductor Donald Nally
The Crossing is a professional 24-member chamber choir conducted by Donald Nally. Dedicated to new music, The Crossing is consistently recognized in critical reviews, hailed as “ardently angelic” (Los Angeles Times) and “something of a miracle” (Philadelphia Inquirer). Formed by a group of friends in 2005, the ensemble has since grown exponentially and “has made a name for itself in recent years as a champion of new music.” (New York Times).

Highly sought-after for collaborative projects, The Crossing was the resident choir of the Spoleto Festival, Italy in 2007; appeared at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre in the American premiere of James Dillon’s Nine Rivers with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); joined Bang on a Can’s first Philadelphia Marathon; and has appeared with the American Composers Orchestra, Network for New Music, Lyric Fest, red fish blue fish, Tempesta di Mare Baroque Chamber Orchestra, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Toshimaru Nakamura, Dolce Suono and, in the summer of 2013, the Rolling Stones.

The ensemble has sung in such venues as LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They made their Lincoln Center debut in 2014 in a world premiere of John Luther Adams, a collaboration with the Mostly Mozart Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival, eighth blackbird, Jack Quartet, and TILT Brass.

Abu Amneh is a renowned Palestinian singer who performs Arab classical and folk music. Born in Nazareth, Abu Amneh came to national attention for her performances of the songs of the iconic Egyptian singer, Umm Kulthum. She later won greater fame for her ability to perform a wide variety of Arab musical styles, ranging from the classical tarab, Andalusian muwashshahat, and Sufi mystical repertoire. Her songs have been on Arab radio Top 10 lists and been selected for international music contests. She has appeared often on Arab TV and in festivals around the world. Throughout her career, Abu Amneh has focused on Palestinian culture and identity, including her most recent live show Ya Sitti, and has released two CDs, An Balady and Kareem Ya Ramadan. Besides her musical career, Abu Amneh is completing a doctorate in Neuroscience in the Faculty of Medicine at Technion University in Haifa.

Roustom is an Emmy nominated composer who has composed music for film, television, the concert hall and album projects. Steeped in the musical traditions of the Arab Near East and trained in Western music, Roustom is a musically bi-lingual composer who has collaborated with a wide variety of artists ranging from the Philadelphia Orchestra, Shakira, The Kronos Quartet, Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and Klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman. An active composer of film music, Roustom’s scores have earned him an Emmy nomination, a fellowship to the Sundance Film Composers Lab and acclaim in reviews by the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, and other awards. As a concert composer Roustom has been commissioned by groups such as the Kronos Quartet, Daniel Barenboim and the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra (Education Department), The Boston Children’s Chorus, clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and the Damascus Festival Chamber Ensemble, and others. Roustom’s works have also been performed by The Philadelphia Sinfonia, Iplapiti, The Firebird Ensemble, The Ibis Camerata, Lunatics At Large, In-Flux, the Apple Hill Chamber players, Coro Allegro, Intercultural Journeys, Alba Ensemble (France), Notes Inegales (U.K.), Orchestre du Collège et des Jeunesses Musicales de St-Maurice (Switzerland) and others.

KINAN ABOU-AFACH – Composer / Cello, Al-Bustan Takht Ensesmble
Abou-Afach, a Syrian-born cellist, is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts for his exemplary talent as a performer and composer. He began his musical studies at the age of seven and received his first degree in cello and oud performance in the music preparatory program of the Arabic Institute of Music in Damascus. Abou-Afach completed a Bachelors degree in cello performance with a minor in oud performance from the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. He has performed as a soloist with various orchestras in the Arab region and participated in master-classes with Francoise Baduell, Federico Romano, Yo-Yo Ma, and members of Alban Berg Quartet. Abou-afach moved to Chicago in 2000 to obtain his master’s degree at the DePaul University School of Music. He studied under Stephen Balderston, assistant principal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section, and was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.

HANNA KHOURY – Music Director / Violin, Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble
Khoury is Director of Al-Bustan’s Music Program. He is a recipient of the 2010 Pew Fellowship in the Arts for his exemplary talent in Arab music. A Palestinian violinist trained in the classical traditions of Arab and Western music, Khoury has recorded two music albums with the Arabesque Music Enemble: Al-Fursan Al- Talatha and The Songs of Sheikh Sayyed Darweesh: Soul of People. He collaborated and performed with major artists including Lebanese superstar Fairuz, Iraqi singer Kazem Al-Saher, Grammy winner Youssou N’Dour, Algerian singer Cheb Khaled, and Tony Award winner Mandy Patinkin. Khoury can be heard on several pop songs including Grammy nomined song Beautiful Liar (Beyoncé and Shakira) and Love and Compassion (Paula Cole and Kazem Al Saher). He recorded strings for Shakira’s Grammy performance of Hips Don’t Lie. Khoury graduated Magna Cum Laude with departmental honors from UCLA with Bachelors in Economics and Music Performance, and obtained his Masters degree in Music from Temple University. Khoury is currently a PhD candidate at University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Music.

HAFEZ KOTAIN – Percussion, Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble
Kotain is fluent in both Arab and Latin rhythms — a fluency he honed in his native countries of Syria and Venezuela. He is a recipient of the prestigious 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He began studying the doumbek in Syria at the age of seven, first performed on stage at age nine, and went on to study with master Syrian percussionist Hady Jazan, winning the national percussion competitions in Syria for five consecutive years. In Venezuela he studied percussion at the TMV Institute for Music in Valencia. Kotain has performed with Marcel Khalife and Al-Mayadine Ensemble in their US and Canada tour for Fall of the Moon: An Homage to the Poet Mahmoud Darwish. He has also toured with Syrian singer George Wassouf in Canada and the US, and has performed in Philadelphia with acclaimed artist Sting and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Throughout the year, Kotain teaches with Al-Bustan in schools and at University of Pennsylvania.

HICHAM CHAMI – Qanun, Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble
Chami is a Moroccan-born qanun performer. He graduated from the National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Rabat, Morocco, with diplomas in qanun performance/instruction and Western music theory. After earning his business school degree in Casablanca, he relocated to Chicago and completed his MBA at DePaul University’s Kellstadt School of Business. Chami founded and led the Arabesque Music Ensemble which has toured the U.S. and Canada and produced two critically-acclaimed CDs. He is currently a research fellow in the School of Music at the University of Florida. His research interests are Historical Ethnomusicology, the aesthetics of classical Arab music, and the reciprocal influence betwixt mystical Islam and Andalusian music in Morocco.

(not shown above) WASSIM ODEH – Oud, Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble
Born in Nazareth, Wassim Odeh is a Palestinian oud player and composer. He began his music studies at the The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and in oud performance at The Jerusalem Academy for Music and Dance. He completed his Masters specializing in oud in 2011 and joined the faculty at the Academy. He is currently a PhD candidate at Bar-llan University, focusing on the works of Mohammad Abdul Wahab, Since 2006, Odeh has been music director and oud player with the Watar Ensemble, which has released two albums and specializes in presenting contemporary Palestinian music.

AHMAD ALMALLAH – Literary Scholar / Poet
Almallah holds a Ph.D. in Classical Arabic Poetry from Indiana University Bloomington. He is currently a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, working on writing a book on Arabic love poetry and the ghazal. He held the position of Assistant Professor of Arabic and Arabic Literature at Middlebury College and left that position to move to Philadelphia with his wife and daughter in 2014. Since then he has found inspiration in Philadelphia to work on writing poetry and is working with Al-Bustan on the Words Adorned project.

LITAL LEVY – Literary Scholar
Levy is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University, where she teaches Hebrew and Arabic literatures, Jewish studies, and literary theory. Previously, she was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. She specializes in contact zones of Arabic and Hebrew. Her research encompasses the intellectual history of Arab Jews; literature and film from Israel/Palestine; the question of Jewish literature as world literature; and the comparative history of modern non-Western “renaissance” and “enlightenment” movements. She is the author of the award-winning Poetic Trespass: Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine (Princeton University Press, 2014), which examines questions of multilingualism, translation, and the cultural politics of language in Israel/Palestine. For the current academic year she is a fellow at University of Pennsylvania’s Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies.

HUDA FAKHREDDINE – Literary Scholar
Fakhreddine is a specialist in Arabic literature. Her work focuses on modernist movements or trends in Arabic poetry and their relationship to the Arabic literary tradition. Her book Metapoesis in the Arabic Tradition (Brill, 2015) is a study of the modernist poetry of the twentieth century Free Verse movement and the Abbasid muhdath movement, as periods of literary crisis and meta-poetic reflection. She is interested in the role of the Arabic qasida as a space for negotiating the foreign and the indigenous, the modern and the traditional, and its relationship to other poetic forms such as the Free Verse poem and the prose poem. She also has an interest in Translation Studies, the politics of translation and its role in creating the image and status of Arabic literature, and especially poetry, in other languages. She holds an MA in English literature from the American University of Beirut and a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Ruggles is Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with additional appointments to Architecture, Art History, Women’s Studies, and Medieval Studies. She directs the PhD Programs for the School of Architecture and the Department of Landscape Architecture and co-founded the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices. She is trained as an historian of Islamic art and architecture, and her first body of research examined the medieval Andalusian landscape as a complex working system in which culture and ideology were inseparable from agricultural practice and economy, water management, and systems of representation. She has also written about the identity formation made possible by the positioning of the subjective self in relation to visually perceived space, problems of representation and the natural or “real,” the historiographic location of Islamic visual culture vis-a-vis the art of the western and ancient world, and the complex interrelationship of Islamic culture with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism and the precise ways that religion and culture are often conflated in the study of these. She is the author of two award-winning books on gardens: Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain (2000), and Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (2008). Additionally she has edited or co-edited numerous works, including Women, Patronage, and Self-Representation in Islamic Societies (2000), the award winning Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision (2007), Cultural Heritage and Human Rights (2007), Intangible Heritage Embodied (2009), On Location (2012), and Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources (2011).