On January 3, 2016, a group of musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra played a beautiful and successful concert to benefit Syrians displaced in their own country. Here is a poster for the concert with photographs of (a) Erin Keefe, the Orchestra’s Concertmaster, with Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra’s Music Director; and (b) Beth Rapier and Tony Ross, Cellists with the Orchestra and the originators of the idea for the concert.
The concert raised over $75,000 for the Minneapolis-headquartered American Refugee Committee (ARC) to support its efforts to help the 7.6 million Syrians who have been forced to relocate within their own country because of the war. There ARC with the aid of heroic Syrians works to:
- help improve the physical conditions of make-shift shelters where people have fled;
- build and repair water and sanitation infrastructure, helping to prevent disease;
- provide youth mentoring and support services;
- reconnect orphaned children with family members;
- counsel victims of abuse and trauma; and
- provide children the opportunity to play and have fun.
Other contributions for this cause would be appreciated; just go to ARC’s website [http://www.arcrelief.org/site/PageServer] and do so.
The concert was opened by the Minnesota Orchestra Brass Quintet. They played several numbers, including Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria” and “Tonight” from “West Side Story,” the Broadway musical. The Quintet members were Douglas Wright, trombone; Robert Doerr and Charles Lazarus, trumpet; Steven Campbell, tuba; and Michael Gast, horn.
Then Osmo Vänskä, an accomplished clarinetist in addition to being a great conductor, played the clarinet in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s beautiful Clarinet Concerto in A Major (K 622), which was composed shortly before Mozart’s death in 1791. Vänskä was backed by 18 members of the Orchestra.
Above are photographs of Vänskä playing the concerto and of the audience of over 900 in the beautiful and modern sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Edina, Minnesota.
The program ended with Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky’s difficult String Sextet in D minor (Op.70). It was titled “Souvenir de Florence” because the composer sketched one of the work’s principal themes while visiting Florence, Italy in 1890. The violinists were Erin Keefe and Cecilia Belcher; violaists, Tom Turner and Sabrina Thatcher; and cellists, Ross and Rapier. Ross thought the piece might be Tchaikovsky’s greatest.
The concert had principal support from St. John’s Episcopal Church of Minneapolis and Our Lady of Grace along with 24 other Christian, Jewish and Islamic congregations from the Twin Cities.
 Royce, Minnesota Orchestra musicians unite for concert to aid Syrian refugees, StarTribune (Dec. 23, 2015); Program, Chamber Music Concert for Refugees Inside Syria (Jan. 3, 2016).
 ARC, Syria Relief. As explained in a prior post, one of the international legal requirements for refugee status is an individual’s being outside his or her home country. Therefore, the beneficiaries of this concert, Syrians who have not left their own country, are technically not “refugees,” but rather “internally displaced people” or “IDP’s” in international relief jargon. But they are just as deserving of our compassion as those Syrians who have fled their country, perhaps more so because those who stay are trying to live in the midst of the war.
 A prior post described Vânskä’s playing the clarinet in a Havana music club after the Orchestra’s second concert in Cuba last May. Minnesota Orchestra’s Cuba trip Garners National Recognition (Dec. 17, 2015).