Hjaz

Hjaz is an inspired blend of Middle Eastern Song and Western Jazz.

Merit Ariane Stephanos, jazz pianist/composer Alcyona Mick and multi-instrumentalist Stuart Hall are breaking new ground, exploring Arab and jazz traditions through improvisation and experimentation. They draw on material from Lebanese legend Fayrouz, Arabic and Andalusian Mwashshahat, Sephardic songs and perform their own compositions.

Jaljala

Arabic rhythms, Eastern European harmonies, haunting melodies, beautiful voices.

Jaljala is an innovative collaboration between musicians of different nationalities and faiths, from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Lebanese song expert and Oud player Abdul-Salam Kheir, half Coptic/Egyptian and half German singer Merit Ariane Stephanos, Eastern European and Balkan music specialist and violinist Meg Hamilton and Syrian percussion virtuoso Haitham al Souba’i. These musicians share their knowledge of and passion for Arab and Eastern European music, exploring and fusing rhythms, modes and melodies. Drawing on both classical and popular repertoire, the group have a unique sound, faithful to the stylistic intricacies and spirit of the traditions, while offering fresh musical insights and perspectives.

Arab Classics

Young and talented, singer Merit Ariane Stephanos has teamed up with veterans of the London Arabic scene to present a delightful programme of Arabic classical, popular and folk songs, mainly from Egypt and Lebanon repertoire. Classics by such luminaries as Fairuz, Abdel Halim Hafez and Oum Kalthoum are brought to new life with flair and feeling.

Musicians: Abdul Salam Kheir (Voice, Oud), Gamal ʻel Kurdiʼ Awad (Accordion), Emile Bassili (Violin), Haitham el Soubai (Percussion), Mustafa el Arab (Percussion), Mohammed Khanji (Percussion)

ZANUBIA

Early Arab Christian Chants

A rare opportunity to hear chants from the Aramaic/Syriac and Byzantine traditions, harking back to the time of Queen Zanubia’s reign of Palmyra.

It was in the second century, during the reign of Queen Zanubia, that Christianity reached the ancient Syrian caravan city of Palmyra. Her rule witnessed the emergence of the first church melodies out of the secular Aramaic music of Syria and Iraq.

Coptic Egyptian/German singer Merit Ariane Stephanos and Father Shafiq Abouzayd introduce the audience to this music, in particular to the chanting traditions of the Levantine and Byzantine churches.

The sound world of these chants is rich with quartertones and virtuosic ornamentation. Accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Jon Banks on qanun and santur, this concert illuminates the earliest roots of Christianity and celebrates the diverse musical traditions of the ancient Middle Eastern world.

Merit Ariane Stephanos is a half Coptic Egyptian, half German singer and composer. Merit draws on Arabic classical and Western contemporary influences in her music and is passionate about exploring a dialogue between both cultures. In 2012, Merit, supported by a Finzi Trust Scholarship, Merit went on a three month trip to Lebanon to research Arab Christian chants.

Shafiq Abouzayd, the senior Melkite Greek Catholic priest in Britain, has been a priest at the Maronite Church since 1987. Of joint Lebanese and British nationality, Rev Dr Abouzayd studied Aramaic-Syriac and Arabic at the monastery of the Lebanese Maronite Missionaries in Jounieh and is currently the director for the Aram Centre for Syro Mespotoamian Studies at Oxford University.

Jon Banks is a performer with an international profile, specialising in early and Oriental string instruments. He has toured, broadcast and recorded with groups including The Dufay Collective, The Burning Bush, Joglaresa, the Jocelyn Pook Ensemble and Iranian ensembles with Fariborz Kiani and Davod Azad. He is a regular performer and musical director at the Globe and lectures on Middle Eastern music at Anglia Ruskin University.

Between orient and occident

A journey between Orient and Occident/Eine Reise zwischen Orient und Okzident

Merit Ariane (Deutschland/Ägypten): Gesang
Alcyona Mick (Großbritannien): Klavier
Nehad El Sayed (Ägypten): Oud

English:
Singer Merit Ariane Stephanos, jazz pianist Alcyona Mick and oud player and composer Nehad el Sayyed take the audience on a magical journey of songs and improvisations. The oud on the one, the piano on the other side, create a soundworld on the brink between East and West.

German:
Die Sängerin Merit Ariane, die Jazzpianistin Alcyona Mick und der begabte Oudspieler und Nehad el Sayed entführen Sie in die exotische Klangwelt der arabischen Musik, auf eine verzaubernde Reise wunderschöner Lieder und passionierter Improvisationen. Sie präsentieren Ihnen ein Programm arabisch/andalusischer Mwashshahat, Lieder von Legenden wie Fairouz, Abdel Halim Hafez und Farid el Atrache, sowie Volkslieder aus Ägypten, Libanon und Irak. Das Klavier auf der einen, die Oud (eine arabische Laute) auf der anderen Seite, umrahmen den Gesang und bilden gleichzeitig einen Dialog, der Brücken schlägt zwischen zwei Welten, die sich treffen und gegenseitig bereichern.

Tongue Stuff

Soprano Quartet Tongue Stuff are Morag Galloway, Jen Ord, Merit Ariane Stephanos and Sarah Underwood. Dedicated to promoting new repertoire, they commission/compose/perform new vocal music influenced by folk music, jazz and the avant-garde, with electronic or theatrical elements.

Woven Gold

Woven Gold, the Helen Bamber Foundation music group, includes people from Algeria, Burma, Chechnya, Iran, Kurdistan, Pakistan, many African countries as well as professional UK musicians. What inspires us, musicians and refugees from around the world to come together? One Kurdish client who has been with Woven Gold from the first day quotes the song No Borders which we composed together:

"Let’s talk about no borders
Let’s sing about no borders
We are all human
And this is our world."

He says, ‘I believe that music is the best way to live without borders, in peace, as a world family. Woven Gold has shown us that though they may have different colours and notes, the sounds are universal.’

Woven Gold’s public performances are increasingly in demand. They make clients feel they are repaying something of what Helen Bamber and the Foundation have given to them, while at the same time telling the world about our different cultures and music, and expressing ourselves freely without fear of repression. We have performed at the Eden Project in Cornwall, in London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, at festivals including Celebrating Sanctuary on the South Bank and the City of London Festival.

Find us on facebook

Education Work

“Meritʼs session at Iqra Islamic primary school had outstanding qualities” (Margaret Griffiths, Sing Upʼs National Evaluator)

Merit is passionate about music education and the role music can play in the wider community. After a year spent in Bosnia working with war traumatised children, she has gone on to develop her work in schools. hospitals and refugee centres. Merit works at the Royal College of music, mentoring outreach projects and teaching collaborative composition and workshop skills to undergraduate students. As creative artist and leader she has collaborated with organisations such as the South Bank, the Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Guildhall Connect, Trinity Guildhall Childrenʼs Music Workshop, City of London Festival, Norwich and Norfolk Festival, Opera North, Lontano and Opera Circus. She leads singing workshops introducing specialist and non-specialist singers to Arabic and Middle Eastern singing, a.o. with ensembles like Joglaresa and The Clerks.

“The way she sings inspires us to join in ... The lesson was really fun” (Year 3 pupil, Iqra Primary School, Slough)