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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Ensemble Heats Up Middle East

The 60-member musical troupe tours Egypt at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture

While the storm clouds gathered over the Muslim Center of New York, the UCSB Middle Eastern Ensemble was winning Arab hearts and minds in Cairo with a series of sold-out performances.

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The UCSB Middle Eastern Ensemble dazzled the crowd at the Cairo Opera House.

The 60-member musical troupe, under founder and director Scott Marcus, toured Egypt in mid-July at the invitation of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, and the tour seems to have been a triumph.

The ensemble’s debut performance, at the Open Air Theatre of the Cairo Opera House, received a nearly ecstatic review by Ghada Abdel-Kader in the 135-year-old newspaper Al-Ahram.

The reviewer, noting that the show “was the first for the ensemble in Egypt,” added, “but we hope it won’t be the last time this magical troupe pays us a visit.”

The ensemble is well-known locally for its colorful and spectacular events that combine meticulous ethnomusicology with good old-fashioned show business pizzazz. Founded in 1989 by ethnomusicology professor Scott Marcus, the ensemble has performed all across California, with concerts in San Diego, Los Angeles, Pomona, San Bernadino, Pasadena, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Berkeley and Sacramento.

Using traditional instruments and singing styles, it performs music and dances from Arab, Turkish, Persian, Armenian, Greek, Jewish and Assyrian cultures, offering everything from classical pieces to religious songs, folk and popular songs, folk dances and cabaret-style dances. As the Cairo reviewer noted, with a hint of wonder, all the performers are Americans.

Click here to read the entire review.

Click here for more information about the UCSB Middle Eastern Ensemble or other Music Department programs.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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