Home Feature Bliss out to the music of the Middle East at Global Soundscapes...

Bliss out to the music of the Middle East at Global Soundscapes in Vancouver (video)

Guitar in Woods

In what promises to be a groundbreaking and exciting feast of music, the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra (VICO) has announced the dates for and focus of its annual Global Soundscapes Festival.

This year, the festival showcases the instruments and traditions of the Middle East.

VICO will host special guest soloists from Azerbaijan, Iran, and Montreal, and they’ll perform with a who’s who of musicians from Vancouver’s vibrant world music scene in a series of concerts and other events. 

It promises to be a rich smorgasbord of amazing sounds and rhythms, and unique connections across borders, continents, cultures, and centuries. 

The festival welcomes international guests Kayhan Kalhor (setar and kamanche), Kiya Tabassian (setar), Elshan Mansurov (kamanche), Elcin Naghiyev (tar), Saeed Mirzazadeh (tar), and John Zoltek (conductor). They will perform alongside Canadian musicians Jamal Kurdistani (tenor), Saina Khaledi (santur), Hamin Honari (tombak), Navid Goldrick (oud), and guest ensembles Vashaan Persian Ensemble and Borealis String Quartet in a series of concerts and public educational presentations. The repertoire includes music by Ali RazmiFarshid Samandari, Mark Armanini, Rodney Sharman, Jennifer Butler, Saeed Mirzazadeh, Amir Eslami, Farangis Nurulla-Khoja, and Henry Cowell.

These musical and special events will be held primarily at Granville Island’s Waterfront Theatre (June 19-24), as well as at the Orpheum Annex (June 16) and at the Surrey Arts Centre (June 27). The full lineup of festival concerts is below.

(Video: Tehran-born setar player Kiya Tabassian is an international guest at Global Soundscapes.  He moved to Montreal to study and co-founded both Constantinople, an ensemble that specializes in medieval and Renaissance music, and Nowrouz, which is devoted to classical Persian music.  This is him performing with Constantinople.)

“Audiences can expect a brilliantly expanded sound palette – music that is both rooted in ancient traditions and excitingly fresh to the ear,” said VICO artistic director, Mark Armanini. “You’ll hear ancient folk tunes that have been transmitted aurally from generation to generation for centuries, rollicking improvised melodies and small ensemble jam sessions … contemporary classical works … brand new world premieres of intercultural pieces by Canadian composers … and more! We feel that it’s crucial to combine old and new, classical and fusion to understand and honour the foundations even as we break new ground.”

Tickets are available for individual concerts (see below), or concert-goers can purchase a flex pass to see more than one of these glorious musical events. Full festival and ticket info is at: vi-co.org




Music of the Whole World: Persian Connections

Introducing traditional Persian instruments and musical forms and their potential for creative intercultural combinations. With Saina Khaledi (santur), Sina Ettehad (kamanche), Hamin Honari (tombak/daf), and Farshid Samandari (composer).

Thursday,  May 31 at 7 pm *FREE!*
West Vancouver Memorial Library
1950 Marine Drive, West Vancouver

Tuesday, June 12 at 7 pm *FREE!*
Vancouver Public Library
Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level
350 West Georgia St., Vancouver


June 16, 8pm

FESTIVAL PREVIEW CONCERT: Cellissimo Bellissimo!

The Annex, 823 Seymour St., 2nd Level

Featuring Amir Eslami (ney), Sina Ettehad (kamanche), Bo Peng (cello) and Cellissimo

World premieres of new pieces by Mark Armanini and Amir Eslami, as well as traditional tunes – all played on Middle Eastern instruments interwoven with the lush, passionate sounds of a cello choir.


June 19 – 24, 1412 Cartwright St, Granville Island

 June 19, 8 pm

Featuring KiyaTabassian & Kayhan Kalhor with special guests Spakwus Slolem (Eagle Song Dancers). A journey into the heart of Persian music with master musician Kayhan Kalhor on setar and kamanche, and setar virtuoso Kiya Tabassian. An unprecedented opportunity to witness this collaboration of two world-renowned soloists in an intimate, acoustic atmosphere. 

June 20, 8 pm

Virtuoso chamber music with Vancouver’s most adventurous string quartet, visiting artist Saeed Mirzazadeh (tar), and soloists Saina Khaledi (santur) and Navid Goldrick (oud). Featuring Quartet by Zoltan Kodaly and Canadian intercultural works by Rodney Sharman and Jennifer Butler.

June 21, 8 pm
MAQAM TRADITION featuring Elshan Mansurov & Elcin Naghiyev

Visiting artists Elshan Mansurov (kamanche) and Elcin Naghiyev (tar) from Azerbaijian perform a fiery program of traditional music, with Mohammad Seyyedi (tombak) and vocalist Jamal Kurdistani. 

June 22, 8 pm
FESTIVAL COMPOSITIONS & MORE with the Araxes Ensemble

The VICO’s Araxes Ensemble (Mark McGregor on flute, Marina Hasselberg on cello,Itamar Erez on guitar,Navid Goldrick on oud, Saina Khaledi on santur, and Brian Nesselroad on percussion) gives its debut performance with visiting artist Saeed Mirzazadeh (tar). Featured: the world premieres of new works from the festival’s 2018 Call for Compositions, as well as pieces by Murat Çulak (Turkey), Mehran Rouhani (Iran), and Saeed Mirzazadeh (Iran/Italy). 

June 23, 8 pm
FESTIVAL GALA CONCERT: Notes From the Araxes Basin
Featuring the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra with conductor John Zoltek and guest soloists.

The 18-piece VICO takes the stage with guest conductor John Zoltek and visiting artists Elshan Mansurov (kamanche), Elcin Naghiyev (tar), and Saeed Mirzazadeh (tar) along with featured Vancouverites Saina Khaledi (santur) and Ali Razmi (tar). The program includes world premieres of new works by Farshid Samandari and Mark Armanini, as well as music by Elisha Denburg and American intercultural pioneer Henry Cowell. 

June 24, 8 pm

Bringing together some of the finest classically-trained Persian musicians in Canada, B.C.’s own Vashaan Ensemble draws upon Iran’s rich musical past to perform joyful and memorable Persian music – instrumental and vocal, traditional and contemporary. Featuring: the Honari family, Saina  Khaledi and Ali Razmi.

June 26, 8 pm


The Blenheim Annex (5590 Blenheim St., Vancouver)

Featuring Elshan Mansurov, Elçin Naghiyev, Saeed Mirzazadeh and more.

A chance to hear the festival’s international guests perform with VICO musicians up close and personal in a beautiful home setting – and to support the ongoing work of the VICO while doing so!

Admission includes light refreshments.

June 27, 7:30 pm 

SURREY CONCERT: MAQAM TRADITION featuring Elshan Mansurov and Elcin Nagijev

Surrey Arts Centre Studio Theatre, 13750 88 Avenue
Visiting artists Elcin Mansurov (kamanche) and Elshan Nagijev (tar) from Azerbaijian perform a fiery program of traditional music, with Mohammad Seyyedi (tombak) and vocalist Jamal Kurdistani. 

(Video:  Kayhan Kalhor, one of the international guests at Global Soundscapes, is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso on the kamancheh (Persian spiked fiddle). Born in Tehran, Iran, he was invited at age 13 to work with the National Orchestra of Radio and Television of Iran.  Kayhan has toured the world as a soloist with various ensembles and orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre National de Lyon.)


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