Apple Hill Middle East Tour 2018

Lenny’s Travelogue
Jordan, February 4-11, 2018

Today is Sunday, February 11, the final day of our week-long residency at King’s Academy, outside of Amman, in Jordan. This is the first part of our tour to the Middle East with clarinetist, composer, Apple Hill alumnus, and Apple Hill faculty member Kinan Azmeh. Since we like to perform a work by a composer from the area we are visiting–e.g. two years ago we performed Turkish composer Ahmed Saygun’s String Quartet No. 1 in Istanbul, and for last year’s trip to Peru we performed Peruvian composer Garrido-Lecca’s String Quartet No. 2–for this trip Apple Hill commissioned Kinan to write a quintet, In the Element, which we are performing with him in every country, along with many other works, throughout our tour.

This morning, the Quartet and Kinan have been asked to perform for a group of Syrian refugee children by Terre des Hommes Italy, part of the Terre des Hommes International Federation, an organization that is actively responding to the Middle Eastern crisis by providing humanitarian relief, educational programs, and community development projects for thousands of children and their families without racial, religious, political, cultural, or gender-based discrimination.

They have just returned from what sounds like an amazing experience. Elise wrote the following:

Had a wonderful morning performing excerpts from Brahms and Azmeh Clarinet Quintets for Syrian refugee children at an elementary school in Zarqa. One of my favorite moments was all of the kids shouting ‘VIOLA!’ at the top of their lungs. The school also collaborates with a women’s farm collective outside Amman. We played and drank fresh sage tea from the farm. A good morning.

In fact, most of what has happened this past week has been amazing…and even miraculous.

Our first activity at the start of our residency was to listen to the King’s Academy school orchestra, conducted by Nadine Cunningham, who spent a summer at Apple Hill a few years back. On the stage was her sister, violist Carolyn Cunningham, who has spent many summers at Apple Hill and now teaches strings at King’s Academy, as well as King’s students who had been to Apple Hill at various different summers as a result of our scholarship partnership with King’s. They performed a beautiful Brahms motet for us. The next day we played for the entire King’s lower and upper school student body and faculty, and that evening performed our public concert of Haydn, Azmeh, and Brahms for a full house–many of them Apple Hill alumni and friends from past tours to Jordan–in the gallery at King’s under a stunning chandelier that we have loved since coming to King’s in 2009. It was a beautiful and compelling concert–much appreciated by everyone present, especially Kinan’s incredible quintet!

Our chamber music workshop started the next day, attended by 20 students, ages 11-25, from a variety of countries: Jordan, Germany, USA, Australia, Spain, Palestine, China, and Korea. These “on the road” workshops on our tours are like mini-Apple Hill summer sessions, shorter, 3 or 4 days in length, but like the summer, they are intensive, challenging, productive, and everyone is encouraged to do their best. The Quartet, Kinan, and I each had one group to coach and mentor for the workshop. Their final concert was thrilling. We witnessed 20 musicians attentive to the music and each other while using the five skills of chamber music throughout their performance–watching, listening, being sensitive, being flexible, and then adapting. Definitely miraculous to witness when one considers that some were new to chamber music and others had never met until the workshop.

Throughout our stay I have been struck by the enthusiastic and welcoming atmosphere of King’s, a private school founded by the King of Jordan ten years ago based on his experience as a high school student at Deerfield Academy. Our host, Reem Abu Rahmeh, an Apple Hill alumna of many years, is dean of the middle school. She is a most capable, responsible, thoughtful, intelligent, and gracious host, much admired and appreciated by everyone. I loved seeing Reem in HER element! I remember our first visit to King’s in 2009. Reem was the music teacher back then, and one of her goals was to have all students learn to play an instrument. Now as the dean of the middle school, her dream has been realized – every middle school students plays an instrument. Many thanks to her for all she did for us, including taking us to some amazing (that word again) restaurants to sample the delicious cuisine of the region–definitely another of the many highlights of our stay in Jordan.

Our next stop is Beirut, Lebanon, a weeklong residency at the Lebanese-American University hosted by Apple Hill alumni Seba and Amr Ali, both on the faculty of the University.

-Apple Hill Director Lenny Matczynski

Concert Info


Apple Hill Middle East Tour 2018