Four classical guitarists from Syria; Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh and Mohammed Mir Mahmoud, headline the Victoria Guitar Society’s opening concert of its International Artist Series, A Syrian Encounter – an Evening with Orontes Quartet, on Oct. 18 at the Alix Goolden Hall. Photo courtesy Institute for International Education/Artist Protection Fund

Inspirational evening celebrating the power of the arts

The Victoria Guitar Society hosts Syrian Encounter – An Evening with Orontes Quartet, Oct. 18

Four musicians with fascinating stories will take to the Alix Goolden Hall stage Oct. 18 for the opening concert of the Victoria Guitar Society’s International Artist Series.

Syrian Encounter – an evening with Orontes Quartet, features a celebrated collection of guitarists who have played internationally while being forced to flee violence in their native country.

The quartet, including Orwa Al Sharaa, Gaby Al Botros, Nazir Salameh and Mohammed Mir Mahmoud, formed in 2015 and performed at the Damascus Opera House as well as with the Syrian State National Orchestra. Just three years later they received a fellowship from the prestigious Institute for International Education – Artist Protection Fund.

Through their fellowship, Orontes were placed in-residence in Canada, where they have been hosted by the University of Victoria School of Music and mentored by Dr. Alexander Dunn.

They’ve played in several Canadian cities since coming here and on Oct. 18 are part of a multimedia stage show featuring Syrian poetry, prose, solo and ensemble guitar, and percussion. B.C. author Deborah Campbell, writer of the award-winning book A Disappearance in Damascus, will read various works, while popular West Coast classical guitar and rhythm master Celso Machado will also perform.

“Music, art and letters are powerful expressions of the human spirit,” Dunn says, reflecting on this combination of artistic elements and the presence of the Syrian performers in Victoria.

“In times of prosperity and even in times of upheaval and violence, music has brought joy and a sense of togetherness. Artistic expression cannot be stifled by suppression or the nightmare of war. This performance celebrates this unique message, carried from a region of intense conflict and shared in our beautiful city.”

Advance tickets for Syrian Encounter are $25, $20 for seniors and $15 for students (add $5 for at the door prices). They’re available online at victoriaguitarsociety.ca and at Ivy’s Bookshop and Good Earth Coffeehouse in Oak Bay, Long & McQuade Music and Tanner’s Books in Sidney.

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