Music became more than a universal language as The Concordia Orchestra performed in the cities of Bethlehem, I’billin, Ramallah and Jerusalem.
Foster Beyers, conductor of The Concordia Orchestra, has always stressed to his musicians that there is someone in the audience who needs to hear their music.
This was never more true than when the orchestra performed in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, while on its recent international tour to the Holy Land.
A few days before the concert, two teen boys had been fatally shot during protests near the city. Many students from the local conservatory that performed with The Concordia Orchestra knew those who had been killed.
As the community mourned, the orchestra dedicated its concert to the teens and began with a moment of silence in remembrance.
“It certainly gave us a sense of the importance and healing power of music,” Beyers says. “I have to admit that I have never experienced more focus and energy from the musicians than on this night.”
When Beyers planned the orchestra’s recent tour to the Holy Land, he wanted students to make cross-cultural connections through music. Building upon previous connections made by Concordia faculty and administrators, the orchestra hoped to deepen the college’s relationships in this part of the world.
The group visited many popular Holy Land sites including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and the Qumran National Park.
But it was the people and music that left the deepest impression.
In addition to collaborating with musicians from the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, the group performed for students in four schools. Small ensemble groups also played at the Augusta Victoria Hospital.
Through these experiences, music initiated and maintained relationships while allowing students to explore culture. It was a platform for coping with sickness and mourning loss, says violin player Emily Donovan ’14, Stillwater, Minn.
“It allowed us to communicate in a language that we all were able to use,” she says.
It will take time for the students to process everything they experienced and heard, they say. But one thing is for certain.
“In a place where the situation can be so complicated to understand, music has been especially comforting,” says bass player Erica Bjelland ’16, Decorah, Iowa.