On Sunday we were invited over to the home of Fadi and Ghina for lunch. We had a great meal and a good visit. Ghina speaks French and Arabic, and the kids (Fawad and Hayim) spoke a little bit of English and French as well as Arabic. So, the conversations were an interesting combination of French, English, and Arabic. We continually are surprised at how much French we are able to comprehend. We haven’t gotten very far with Arabic though.
We had a delicious lunch of tabbouleh, salad, balls of wheat and lamb, pita and chicken. All very yummy! At one point, we mentioned to the kids that one of the places we were going to visit was China. As a result, Hayim (their 10 year old daughter) brought out some chopsticks. Scott gave her a lesson on picking up peanuts.
We had asked if any of the churches in Aleppo were putting on a Christmas concert. Ghina found that church of Saint Michael had a concert that started at 9 pm that night. Unfortunately, the afternoon of visiting tired Becky out, so she had to skip the concert.
Scott walked briskly up to the church arriving 15 minutes early, and was glad he arrived when he did. All the seats were full, and people were milling about at the back. The back corner wasn’t packed full yet, so he found a spot against a prayer stall and next to a font. It turned out to be a good choice – a spot for the music recorder on top of the prayer stall, jacket back in the corner, and a place to stand.
There were a large number of young people (teenagers and twenty-somethings) present, many more than would be at a similar concert in Canada. There were many older people as well, but the median age was decades younger than a similar concert in Canada.
We didn’t have any idea what kind of music to expect, perhaps traditional Syrian Christian music? The performance turned out to be by the Chorale of Saint Francis of Assisi a ~25 voice choir, and mostly English and French music and carols. The conductor was Georges Baly, who seemed to have a strong French background. He was intrigued by some of their pronunciation choices, especially the “deh” for “the”, and was reminded that being precise in foreign language pronunciation while singing is important. A native speaker will notice, and it can be quite jarring at times. A good point to remember when performing again. They sang “The First Noel”, but “born is the king of Israel” was changed to “born is the king of Bethlehem” – perhaps some self-censorship by the choir, since Syria strongly rejects recognition of Israel as a country? One very interesting Christmas piece we aren’t familiar with was Ire A Santiago. Does anyone know this piece?
In any case, he really enjoyed the concert, and it was great fun to sing along with the Alleluia chorus from Handel’s Messiah (even though no-one else was). When we get back, Scott will definitely join the sing-along Messiah at Christmas in Ottawa.