City Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at the Youth Proms

On Monday 23rd November, City’s Middle Eastern Music Ensemble performed at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Music for Youth Proms, joining the Cornwall Youth Orchestra, 47 junior violinists from Cornwall and Northamptonshire and four narrators. They performed ‘Prince Zal and the Simorgh’, a piece for orchestra and Iranian instruments composed by David Bruce in 2012 and commissioned by City University London and the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part a larger outreach project introducing young people to Iranian music and culture. The project grew out of Laudan Nooshin‘s ethnomusicological research into Iranian music, which has facilitated access to and understanding of the country’s art and culture in Britain and around the world.

Laudan explained that the piece is based on a story from the Iranian epic poem The Shahnameh (‘Book of Kings’) written about 1,000 years ago by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (940-1020). The story tells of Prince Zal: born albino and abandoned as a baby, Zal is found and raised by the magical and wise Simorgh bird; many years later he is reconciled with his family and returns triumphantly as the new king. She said: “With its many topical themes of tolerance and forgiveness, this story proved a wonderfully rich source for use with British youth. In particular, the piece offers a more positive image and understanding of Iran – its people, culture and history – to the young people performing and hearing it than they might normally experience through the media and other kinds of representation.”

A chance discussion led to Prince Zal being chosen by Cornwall Youth Orchestra for a performance at the National Festival of Music for Youth in Birmingham in July 2015, following which the piece was selected for the Youth Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. The orchestra was joined by members of City University’s Middle Eastern Music Ensemble who played various Iranian percussion instruments and with first year BMus student Antonios Rousounelos as soloist. The concert was a great experience for the City students.

Music for Youth is a national music education charity providing free access to performance and audience opportunities for young musicians across the UK. The charity’s proms saw 3,000 of the country’s brightest young musicians take to the stage over three nights at the Royal Albert Hall, between 23rd and 25th November, 2015.