Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Producer Simon Shaheen brings some of the great songs of the Arab world to the stage in “Aswat: Celebrating the Golden Age of Arab Music” at 8 p.m. Friday, March 13, at the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd. in Glen Ellyn.
“Aswat” highlights the best of Arab music in the 1920s to 1950s, which is considered by many the golden age, as many singers and composers in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria reached the peak of stardom.
While singers bring life to the songs, a projection screen flashes preserved images and film footage from the original performers, including Um Kulthoum, Mohammad Abdel Wahhab, Farid, Asmahan Al-Atrash, Fairuz and Wadi’ Al-Safi. The multi-media experience is further enhanced by a live orchestra, featuring several virtuoso instrumentalists under the direction of Shaheen.
“Aswat,” which is touring throughout North America in February and March, features top Arab singers, including Ibrahim Azzam of Palestine, Sonia M’barek of Tunisia, Khalil Abonula of Palestine and Rima Khcheich of Lebanon.
Azzam has established himself as one of the leading Arab vocalists in Europe and the Middle East and has performed with many well-known Egyptian composers. The product of a musical family, he studied with Hikmat Shaheen, a leading Palestinian composer and has performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Opera House in Cairo.
M’barek first performed in public at age 9 before making her television debut three years later. She has a degree in Arabic music from the national conservatory of music in Tunis and has sung for musical theater productions and on film soundtracks. With Tunisian lute players Ali Sriti and Anouar Brahem, she presented more than 30 concerts of classic Arabian music and participates in conferences, workshops and master classes in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Abonula grew up listening to the masters of Arab classical music and began performing at age 12 with his father, a singer. He formed his first band after graduating high school and has spent the last two decades performing at venues and festivals through the Arab world, Greece, Bulgaria and France.
Khcheich teaches classical Arabic singing at the Lebanese National Superior Conservatory of Music in Beirut. She began singing at age 7 and at age 11 became a soloist with an Arab orchestra and chorale under the direction of Salim Sahhab. Khcheich is a graduate of the Lebanese National Conservatory and the Lebanese American University and has been a faculty member of the Annual Arabic Music Retreat at Mount Holyoke College since 1999.
Tickets to “Aswat” are $50 for adults, $48 for seniors and $40 for College of DuPage students and children age 17 and younger.
For more information, call the MAC Box Office at (630) 942-4000, or visit: www.atthemac.org.
About the MAC:
Located 25 miles west of Chicago near I-88 and I-355, the McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at College of DuPage is a state-of-the-art facility, housing three performance spaces, an art gallery and classrooms for the college’s academic programming. This unique facility has presented theater, music, dance and visual art to more than 1.5 million people since its opening in 1986 and last year welcomed more than 75,000 patrons from the greater Chicago area to more than 230 performances.
The center offers free parking and group discounts and is home to five resident companies, including Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, the New Philharmonic Orchestra, DuPage Opera Theatre, the Arts Center Jazz Ensemble and the New Classic Singers. The result is a collection of touring and resident and student groups that foster enlightened education and performance opportunities to encourage artistic expression, promote a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community.
The MAC’s extensive community outreach program includes pre-performance lectures, classes with visiting artists and the SchoolStage program, which provides students with an interactive, educational arts experience. Those and other efforts to increase community access to arts earned the MAC the Illinois Arts Council’s Partners in Excellence designation, which recognizes 40 of the most significant cultural institutions in the state.