Yuval Ron Ensemble brings unity to Shannon Center
By: Melisa Miller
The Yuval Ron Ensemble’s description on the whittier.edu calendar says “The Yuval Ron Ensemble
includes Arabic, Israeli and Jewish musicians as well as Christian Armenian artists who unite the sacred
musical traditions of Judaism, Sufism (Islamic mystical tradition) and the Armenian Church into an
unusual mystical, spiritual and inspiring musical celebration.” Confused yet? Don’t be.
Though the description of their music sounds like a cultural chop salad, the music itself is anything but
chaotic or confusing. One would do better not to read that and just go, sit and let your ears just soak it
The Ensemble is made up of seven people, each playing different instruments, one singing, and also two
dancers who greatly aided the visual effect of the performance. Their show last Tuesday night, Feb. 19,
acted as a cleansing of the senses.
Now picture a vast dramatically endless desert. What would the music sound like that goes along with
this picture? Even though you don’t know it yet, you’re probably hearing a duduk in your head. An
Armenian woodwind made from the wood of an apricot tree, delicate and quivering, the duduk sounds
uncannily like a human voice. Yeghish Manukyan, an Armenian himself, stepped onto the stage playing
his duduk, slowly moving forward to the mesmerizing sound of his instrument. Mesmerizing would be
a good word to describe the whole show, a trance, if you will, into another world entirely.
As Manukyan finally reached his seat, another performer stepped in front of the audience to distract the
eye completely. A thin white cloth shimmers in front of a woman with her arms raised and crossed in
front of her head. Like wings, the long cloth drape along each arm is extended far out past her fingertips
connected to sticks she holds in her hands. As the woman centers the stage and starts spinning ever so
slowly, we start to notice the ornate detailing in her white top and long heavy skirt as the cloth lifts off
the ground and she starts opening her arms.
Every song of the night was like this in a way, something sacred, slowly unfurling itself one step at a
time. Yuval Ron, the leader and oud player of the group, explained near the beginning of the show that
every show he does is a concert of unity.
What he meant by this was quickly realized after he gave the crowd an education on the word “amen.”
The word, meaning “faith,” is Hebrew but used with variation in Arabic as well, the language of Islam.
And it is also, of course, frequently used by Christians.
Thus, a better description of the group would be that they “endeavor to alleviate national, racial, religious
and cultural divides by uniting the music and dance of the opposing people of the Middle East into a
unique mystical, spiritual and inspiring musical celebration,” as is stated on their website.
This goal was clear throughout the show as influences from every which way, inspired different pieces.
A few songs were from Andalucia, a portion of Spain that was rich with Jews, Muslims and Christians in the middle ages. The gypsies then created Flamenco out of the sounds of the Andalucian music of the
time. This song felt different than some of the previous trance-setting more somber pieces. It felt a lot
less middle-eastern and much livelier, looser and very clearly Spanish. The song was sung in three
languages: Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish, to represent each of the three religions.
It’s hard not to get an overwhelming feeling while watching this group, that the tension between these
religions, the countless wars that have been fought and lives lost have been foolish. To combine this
music is to suggest that there is harmony between all three, and after hearing this group it seems quite
obvious that there is. The positive vibe the Yuval Ron Ensemble gave off crawled through the audience
and touched people one by one.
By the end of the show everyone was standing, clapping and singing along to the group who had all one
by one, dropped their instruments and let the sound of united voices grow stronger and stronger
throughout the theater as they sang and clapped along.
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