The Arlington Chorale performed “We Stand Together,” highlighting the refugee experience. The concert took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington on Sunday, June 11.
The program featured music by living composers to raise awareness for refugees, focusing on the importance of community.
The concert included the world premiere of a new work by composer Saunder Choi titled “Song of Exile,” commissioned by the Chorale. This piece is set to a poem by Iranian-born poet Sholeh Wolpé to describe the challenges refugees face in leaving their homes and putting down roots in a
new community. Hamid Habib Zada, a local resident and Afghan immigrant, was featured in the piece playing the tabla.
“I first met Hamid and his family in January 2022, and their story made me want to design a concert program that raises awareness of the challenges refugees face,” said Dr. Ingrid Lestrud, Artistic Director of the Arlington Chorale. “Hamid and his wife, Negin, are both musicians, so when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021, they feared for their lives and fled with their one-year-old daughter Maram.
“I approached Saunder Choi, a Filipino immigrant, about writing a piece for The Arlington Chorale that describes some of the hardships that Hamid and Negin went through, and I asked him to include a tabla solo part for Hamid,” Lestrud said.
Hamid Habib Zada was born in 1997 in Herat, Afghanistan. He plays the tabla, a percussion instrument originating from India similar to bongos.
Hamid began playing tabla when he was nine years old, learning from his brother who is a professional musician in Herat. Hamid studied at the Agha Khan Music School in Herat and received additional training in the tabla at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul in 2018-2019.
Hamid arrived in the United States in August, 2021 and became very active in the Afghan music community. He performed at Lincoln Center in New York City as part of the Summer for the City festival in 2022.
The Chorale’s youth outreach group, Performers With Purpose, has been
partnering with Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area to help provide aid to refugees in the Arlington area. The students also performed in the newly commissioned work by Choi.
“Poetry and music have the capacity to carry our histories, longings, and dreams. Together they can create a bridge between people and cultures where we can meet and truly see one another,” said composer Saunder Choi. “Through this collaborative creation, we are able to create a space where we encounter the pain of loss (represented by the adult choir) dissolving into hope (represented by the youth choir) and culminating in pride in the cultural heritage immigrants contribute to their adopted communities.”
Lestrud has served on the staff of several ensembles in the DMV area, including the National Children’s Chorus, Capital City Symphony, and Encore Creativity for Older Adults. She has led the Arlington Chorale since 2019.
Established in 1966, The Arlington Chorale is a multi-generational chorus composed of singers from a diverse range of professions and musical backgrounds. The Chorale continues to present ambitious programming while providing a space for members to work toward a common artistic goal
as they create, connect, and sing together.
See the program with more information on pieces performed and artists involved. https://www.arlingtonchorale.org/uploads/1/3/6/1/136154876/june_program_final.pdf