x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Harpists for Peace concert at Dubai's The Fridge

A harp quartet and a qunan player are joining forces for a performance for the annual Harpists for Peace concert.

Lidia Stankulova. Sarah Dea / The National
Lidia Stankulova. Sarah Dea / The National

Celestial music is coming to Dubai next Sunday. The annual Harpists for Peace concert, held at The Fridge, will combine the talents of four harpists and a qanun player to perform classical western and Arabian pieces for a noble cause.

The event

Founded in 2007 by American harpist and human rights activist Alexis Aria, Harpists for Peace is an international collective of harpists performing annual one-hour concerts dedicated to world peace. Dubbed as Peace Hour, the concerts are held in venues ranging from historical sites, beaches, parks and concert halls.

Notable Peace Hour concert sites include New York's Ground Zero and London's Parliament Square. Courtesy of the local musical collective The Fridge, Dubai joined the event in 2009 with its own concerts. Sunday's performance at the group's headquarters in Al Quoz 4 will mark the city's fourth Peace Hour concert.

The players

Next week's performance will be the biggest yet, with the addition of a fourth harpist. Led by regular Dubai performer Lidia Stankulova, the group also includes other Dubai-based musicians: Harjoot Singh, Diana Pandova and Teaguen Scott. "We first heard about it in on Facebook," Stankulova explains. "Our first concert was in Festival City here in Dubai and people really had a good time. The concerts were also a way to introduce the harp to the public, so they heard something new."

The instrument

Consisting of up to 47 strings and seven pedals, the harp is one of the most difficult instruments to play in terms of technique and sheer size. Stankulova, who studied the instrument in her native Bulgaria before arriving in Dubai seven years ago, explains that it requires a fair amount of brawn to produce those delicate sounds.

"It requires a lot of power," she says. "It is very technical because you are using all the strings, the pedals and the playing has to be strong as well as balanced."

The harp has been the instrument of choice to soundtrack high teas in some of Dubai's leading hotels. Stankulova can be normally found playing in Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and the Burj Al Arab. "It creates a sound I'd describe as warm," she says. "Some people even describe it as an angelic voice."

The Arabian harp

The quartet will be joined by Dubai's Khalil Ghadri on qanun, an instrument described as the Arabian harp. Ghadri is an in-demand session musician for the likes of the Iraqi star Kadim Al Sahir and the UAE legend Hussain Al Jassmi.

The viewers of the satellite channel MBC will be exposed to Ghadri even more during the next weeks, with its forthcoming Ramadan adverts soundtracked by the Syrian.

Speaking to The National before a solo concert in June at The Fridge, Ghadri hailed the qanun's musical flexibility: "The qanun can play the bass, middle and high octaves. It gives you more space to play around the notes," he said. "It can play the harmony as well as the melody, basically anything you feel and that is very important when composing music."

Stankulova says the addition of the qanun will enhance the performance's already ethereal vibe. "It sounds more magical," she says. "The qanun is different to the harp in that it sounds much more light. When you put them together, I think both instruments complete each other."

The programme

For the performance, the four harpists will play classical works showcasing the instrument. The programme will include works by the French composer Claude Debussy and Spain's Enrique Granados. When Ghadri hits the stage, the musicians will perform an Arab music repertoire.

Sunday, The Fridge, Al Quoz 4, Street 26, Dubai. Doors open at 7.30pm, and the performance begins at 8pm. Free entry. Details at www.thefridgedubai.com