Lebanon, a country that has always been an amazing musical façade for the eastern and western lands, transcending reality by all means. After a long and dreadful lockdown that has been added to a series of multiple crisis that weighed heavily on the Lebanese people, a light of hope cleared its way right from Saint Joseph Church (Saint Joseph University in Beirut). It all happened on Friday, March 26, 2021, thanks to the determination of Pascale Ojeil, initiator and organizer of the event, when the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, the choirs of both Antonine University and Notre Dame University – Louaize, succeeded, throughout a concert given in the capital of Lebanon, to confirm what Nietzsche had once declared in a letter addressed to his friend and composer Peter Gast: “Life without music is quite simply an error, an ordeal, an exile”…

This high-caliber artistic performance, greatly supported by the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music and especially by its Director, Dr. Walid Moussallem, in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute, inaugurated the musical season of the conservatory with Luigi Cherubini’s “Requiem”. Led by the great Maestro Toufic Maatouk, the orchestra and choristers have thus reinterpreted this tribute in C minor, dedicated in 1817 to King Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre, who died in the guillotine in 1793 in Paris. When asked why the organizers opted for the “Requiem” by this great Italian composer who belonged to the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, the Conductor, Toufic Maatouk, answers: “Cherubini is a composer who is not very well known, but whose impact has been extremely strong in the history of French and Italian music. His “Requiem” is unusual in several ways. It is intended to be “embodied” by a choir and orchestra only; soloists don’t have their place here”. For its part, Pascale Ojeil insists that, when the idea of launching such a concert occurred to her, performing Cherubini’s “Requiem” struck her as a revelation. “I am in awe of this composer who was also Director of the National Conservatory in Paris for almost 20 years, an institution he protected with great fervour against all political tribulations. Thus, this initiative was, regarding my own experience, an exteriorization of this cultural resistance that has been raging in me for some time”, notes Pascale Ojeil, also an opera singer and passionate about classical music.

According to Toufic Maatouk, one could describe this requiem as being more of a liturgical artwork than a simple concert piece. In fact, this “incomparable masterpiece” (to quote the German composer Johannes Brahms), is a “sincere call to mercy, a call to life for all mankind whose nature is transitory”, as states the Lebanese Maestro, concerning the Dies Iræ, which is the most distinctive part of the “Requiem”. In these difficult times in Lebanon, what could be better than this exhortation evoked in the Agnus Dei (which is the most unusual movement of this musical performance): “give them rest”. A time of indefinite peace that the country so badly needs and which could, eventually, allow culture to regain the stability lost in the aftermath of the economic crisis and the devastating explosion of August 4, 2020. As a matter of fact, we cannot but specify that the explosion which took place last summer severely damaged the sections of the Conservatory located in Monot and in the district of Zokak el-Blat and that the Conservatory itself is the victim of serious budgetary complications. This concert is therefore a call for support, both moral and financial, to perpetuate, on the one hand, the culture of classical music in Lebanon and, on the other hand, to collect funds to ensure the restoration of the branches demolished by the explosion as well as the purchase of new instruments for the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra (which, generally, should be changed every 5 years), as Pascale Ojeil and Toufic Maatouk explain. “It is now crucial to rally the collective awareness in order to save our culture, before it is too late. It is not only our professional musicians who urgently need new instruments, but also the young students whose parents can no longer afford to buy them, given the current circumstances and the devaluation of the Lebanese pound ”, insists the initiator and organizer of the concert. 

And as Plato says, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”. Therefore, let us preserve our music, protect what remains of our cultural heritage and let us not fail to help the Lebanese music industry… 

To immerse yourself in Cherubini’s fascinating world, let his music overwhelm you, with a direct access to the concert held on Friday, March 26, 2021: 

For your donations to the Conservatory: https://www.just-help.org/c/ConservatoireLiban. These donations can be made online, from any country, regardless of the currency (including the Lebanese pound).

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