Canceled due to civil unrest last year, the Beirut Chants Festival will return in December for their 13th edition.
Similar to other cultural events around the world, organizers are adapting to the challenges of 2020 to bring some much-needed festivity to a despairing public.
With shows running daily starting from December 1st till December 23rd, this year’s edition is presented as a tribute to the victims of the August 4th explosion, with orchestral, choral, and jazz music staged in churches and public spaces around Beirut.
“We would not have imagined, we who always wanted Beirut Chants to be a festival of hope and joy, that the launch of its 13th edition would take place with so many health and economic difficulties, and perhaps most importantly, psychological ones,” the Festival’s founder Micheline Abi Samra said in a statement.
“Beirut Chants is a modest contribution from us to preserve the people’s right to listen to music for free, and their right to gradually restore the spirit of their city,” Abi Samra added.
Staying true to their mantra “culture is not a luxury,” all performances are free of charge, however, with coronavirus cases still high, the festival has adapted to ensure viewers’ safety with the must of reservation.
Only ticket holders will be able to enter this time, requiring reservations via Virgin Ticketing, as seats will be numbered with strict measures that provide proper social distancing.
Wearing a mask is a must at all times throughout the evening, and Boecker will be sanitizing the churches, and hand gel devices will be placed at entrances.
The concerts will also be broadcasted on the festival’s social media channels, allowing those who can’t attend to see the performances from their own homes.
According to the festival’s program which can be found on their website, pianist Abdul Rahman El-Bacha will open the festival with a performance as a tribute to Beirut.
There will be 15 concerts featuring international musicians, such as the Swiss harp player Xavier de Maistres, in cooperation with the Swiss Embassy. Courtesy of the French Institute, evenings with cellist Henri de Marquette and the pianist Lise de la Salle are also planned.
Beirut Souks will host four open-air concerts, including performances from trumpet player Ibrahim Maalouf, the Tarek Yamani jazz trio, pianist Guy Manoukian, and a night of Christmas carols featuring the Antonine University and NDU choirs.
Beirut Chants will also host violinist Daniela Cammarano and pianist Faust de Benedetto, in cooperation with the Italian Cultural Center.
Opera tenor Paolo Paollilo, accompanied by pianist Nicolas Chevereau, will appear courtesy of the Brazilian Embassy.
Local artists will also share the spotlight. Artists such as vocalists Abeer Neeme, Ghana Shbeir and Jahida Wehbe will be part of the festival.
The Antonine University Choir will accompany Italian soprano Caterina di Tonno in Mozart’s “Requiem,” as a tribute to the blast victims.
“We have nothing but hope. This is what Beirut taught us. Perhaps many of us are exasperated by this hope cliché, and are tired of the hardship of rising after repetitive brokenness,” Abi Samra said.
“But this is not a slogan. It is the destiny of those who love Beirut, its people and its streets, its sweetness and its bitterness, its past, present, and future, its music and rhythm, and its burning spirit always and forever,” Abi Samra noted.