Great to have a nice big preview from that tireless champion of the Birmingham Arts scene, Terry Grimley at the Birmingham Post.

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Alleluia chorus to Arabic chants

May 29 2009 By Terry Grimley

Terry Grimley meets the promoter behind a concert mixing Christian and Islam music.

The baroque splendour of Birmingham Cathedral will play host to the sounds of ancient Islamic music in an innovative concert tomorrow night.

Called “Musituality”, it is a collaboration between St Mary’s Schola, a capella group drawn from the choir of St Mary’s, Moseley, and Birmingham-based Islamic ensemble Aa’shiq al-Rasul.

Between them, their repertoire ranges from Thomas Tallis to John Rutter and from ancient Sufi chant to contemporary Arabic material.

The concert follows on from a successful collaboration between the two groups at the Moseley Festival.

Musician and promoter Richard Batsford, who will also be performing some of his reflective solo piano compositions in the concert, explains how the project came about.

“There are three of us involved, who are myself, Amran Ellahi and Mick Perrier, who is organist and choirmaster at St Mary’s Church in Moseley,” he says.

“Mick and myself first became known to each other when he recruited me for St Mary’s choir when I was nine. That was when he first started at St Mary’s, and he recently celebrated his 30th anniversary there.

“I met Amran, who is the driving force behind Aa’shiq al-Rasul, via a colleague on the music scene, Andrew Dubber, when I was looking for a Qawwali group for a Project X event I was helping to organise.

“For the last three years I’ve been producing an event called Music by Candlelight at St Mary’s which is part of the Moseley Festival. It’s a wide range of music that’s appropriate to a church. Aa’shiq al-Rasul were the major act at the last event, and St Mary’s Schola also took part.

“Aa’shiq al-Rasul were very well received and there was a really nice atmosphere at the concert. We were particularly inspired by the coming together of Islamic and Christian elements in a Christian building, and the three of us wanted to take it further.”

However, he emphasises that tomorrow night’s event is a concert, not an act of inter-faith worship.

“The title Musituality, as you might have worked out, is a compound of music and spirituality.

“Each group will perform their own music separately. At one stage we were looking at trying to create a whole new piece of music, but there is going to be one piece at the end where we combine the Alleluia chorus with Arabic chanting, so there will be a coming-together at the end.

“We very much want to take the collaboration further, and we’re looking to do it again next year at a still bigger venue, perhaps the Town Hall. On a smaller scale we would like to try to take the programme, possibly with workshop things attached, to schools, churches and mosques in Birmingham and beyond.

“There is a general movement among churches to open up to music and other artistic events. They are beautiful buildings and prime community spaces.”

* Musituality takes place at St Philip’s Cathedral on Saturday at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £8 (£7 concessions and groups of four and above).

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