Concert + a Cluster of Lectures = Jewel at the Center of the World

The Lehigh University Choral Arts, directed by Dr. Steven Sametz, explores the unique confluence of Arabic, Christian and Jewish cultures in 9th through 15th-century Andalusia on Friday and Saturday October 26, 27 at 8 pm.

“We are looking at the Sephardic, Arabic and Christian confluence in Al-andalus in 8th-15th century Iberia and more modern works – a mix of Arabic and European cultures,” explains Sametz. “The concert includes violinist Timothy Schwarz of Lehigh’s faculty, playing my Fantasia on Lamma bada yatathanna, which I composed for him last year (and he premiered in London) as well as my Three Mystical Choruses, written for premiere by Chanticleer in Symphony Hall in Chicago.  Two pieces of Roustom’s Hot Tea, Mint and Olives and the finale of his Son of Man, an award-winning oratorio, combine with pieces sung by Syrian soprano Lubana Al Quntar, a world-class soprano who has recently left Syria and the music of the Arabic takht ensemble Al-Bustan.”

This performance includes guest artists the Arabic takht ensemble Al-Bustan directed by Hanna Khourey, Syrian soprano soloist Lubana al Quntar and composer-in-residence Emmy-nominated Kareem Roustom.


All four groups that form Lehigh University Choral Arts are included in this performance: the 56-mixed voice University Choir, the 150-voice town-gown Choral Union, the women’s ensemble Dolce, and the men’s Glee Club.

There will be four free lectures in conjunction with the performances

Wednesday, October 17 at 7pm, Dr. Lourdes Alvarez, a scholar specializing in Andalusian culture, will offer an overview of the period and the lively cultural exchange that existed in intellectual and artistic life in medieval Spain. This presentation entitled “The Ends of Tolerance: Medieval Spain and the Defenders of Pluralism” will be in Whitaker Lab at 7pm.

Wednesday, October 24 at 4pm, Emmy-nominated Arab-American composer Kareem Roustom, composer-in-residence, will speak about Arabic music traditions and crossover music in film in Baker Hall.

Kareem Roustom is an Emmy nominated composer who has composed music for film, television, the concert hall and album projects.  Steeped in the musical traditions of the Near East and trained in Western music, Roustom is a musically bi-lingual composer who has collaborated with a wide variety of artists ranging from the Philadelphia Orchestra to Shakira.

At 7pm, Lehigh University Professor Christine Kalleeny will speak on Arabic poetry and its influences with an interesting overview of an era where poets reigned supreme in aristocratic Al-Andalus in Whitaker Lab .


Wednesday, October 31 at 7pm, Lehigh University Professor Heather Coffey speaks on the influences of Arabic architecture in medieval Spain and the repercussions in later European styles in Whitaker Lab.


More about the guest artists:

Lubana Al Quntar studied at the University of Damascus, where her first teacher – Galina Khaldiave – was Russian. She then joined the Royal College of Music in London, where for a year she continued her training under Kenneth William and Graziella Sciutti as well as studying in France with Glood Miloni. Currently she is working at the Conservatory of Maastricht, under the direction of Mya Besselink. Lubana Al Quntar has performed with the Symphony Orchestra of Damascus. Since winning fourth prize at the International Song Competition of Belgrade, she has been invited to give concerts in Belgrade, Greece, London, France and the United States. She is a recent emigrée to the United States, since she was forced to leave her home die to the current unrest in Syria.

“Al-Bustan,” Arabic for “The Garden,” offers structured exposure to the language, art, architecture, music, dance, literature, and natural environment of the Arab world. Al-Bustan strives to promote understanding and respect among youth and adults of all ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds as well as within the diverse community of Arab-Americans. Within a welcoming educational environment, Al-Bustan supports the Arab-American community’s pursuit and affirmation of its cultural identity, while playing a constructive civic role within broader American society.

The Lehigh University Choral Union is dedicated to the preservation and practice of the art of choral singing. It has a repertoire spanning over six centuries and includes music from around the globe. The Choral Union provides an opportunity to explore the best in choral literature while fostering and improving vocal technique and artistry.

Tickets for The Jewel at the Center of the World are $18-5. Click here for

Tickets for Friday night’s performance

Tickets for Saturday night’s performance

… or call 610-758-2787 (7LU-ARTS), visit Zoellner Ticket Services, Wednesday through Friday from 12-5 p.m., Tuesday 12-6 p.m., Saturday 1l a.m.-1 p.m., and 90 minutes before curtain. Student discounts are available.

The concert and lectures are supported by the Lehigh University Department of Music, the Lehigh University Center for Global Islamic Studies and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.