“Without you we are half, but with you we are a whole.”-Yuval Ron
The lights dimmed and the audience got quiet. Four people dressed in all white walked on stage, and the crowd applauded loudly welcoming the performers. They each sat in a chair in the middle of the stage and started tuning their instrument by ear. The woodwind player then started playing a hypnotic melody on the duduk. The sound of sparkling bells subtly joined the melody, but didn’t overpower the combination of sounds. The oud then joined and took over the melody with an added array of intricate notes that only mesmerized the audience more. The bells stopped and percussion was added to the mix making the music go faster. Then, a high female voice sang a simple melody that the audience could sing along to, which they did as the oudist conducted the audience. A duduk solo brought the song to a close, and the audience applauded for a wonderful performance by the Yuval Ron Ensemble. The oudist Yuval Ron then addressed the audience saying, “This is an unusual concert event. This gathering is a community circle, theatre, prayer, contemplation and celebration. We sit in a semi-circle. Without you we are a half, but with you we are a whole.”
The ensemble is made up of four people. Nourik Manoukian plays the woodwind instruments like the duduk, zuna and clarinet to name a few. Jami Papish is the percussionist. He played the bells as well as several different drums like the dumbek and udu drum. The singer is Najwa Gibran, and the oud player is Yuval Ron. According to their website, “The Yuval Ron Ensemble endeavors to alleviate national, racial, religious and cultural divides by uniting the music and dance of the people of the Middle East into a unique mystical, spiritual and inspiring musical celebration.” They have won several awards for their music and promotion of peace across the world. Some awards include the Los Angeles Treasures Award and the Lincoln/Standing Bear Gold Medal. “It (the concert) certainly projected a mood, feeling, an appreciation for the different races and kinds of mankind, and the need of coming together to enjoy what God has given us, which is life,” said Joseph Board, an audience member.
The Yuval Ron Ensemble played a total of eleven songs from various backgrounds. Some of the music included Jewish prayers, Andalusian music, and chants in Yemeni, Israeli and Armenian. They also shared many stories that promoted peace and coexistence between Christians, Muslims and Jews. “Some of the stories are in my book,” Yuval Ron said, “Some of the stories happened to me. Several stories actually I experienced. There are several stories like Father Bruno that I get from different sources. Sometimes I read a newspaper article. I like to incorporate them in my concert.” Towards the end of the concert, the Yuval Ron Ensemble invited the University of North Florida’s Women’s and Men’s Chorale to join them in their performance. Together, they sang a prayer of peace called “Zamman en Salam” (“This is the Time for Peace”). This piece was previously performed by a Palestinian choir at the Noble Piece Prize ceremony. The ensemble and choir also sang their version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to bring the concert to a close. Audience members stood up and sang-along with the performers.
“It (the concert) certainly projected a mood, feeling, an appreciation for the different races and kinds of mankind, and the need of coming together to enjoy what God has given us, which is life.”-Joseph Board
The Yuval Ron Ensemble were hosted by OneJax as part of their “Oneness of Humanity” celebration. According to OneJax executive director Nancy Broner, “OneJax is an organization that is devoted to creating a city of inclusion and respect. Our motto is ‘Different Together.’ We hope people can find strength and beauty in our diversity in our cities through educational programs and events like this. We bring people together. We can understand better each other’s differences and celebrate the different cultures, religions, races, national origins. I mean all of the things that we find different about each other we also find very enriching. This is a perfect example of an opportunity to share cultural richness particularly of three faiths and cultural origins. What a beautiful way to celebrate together.”