PICTURED: Yuval Ron brings music of the Middle East to California Lutheran University next week. Photo by Jorge Vismara
Yuval Ron knows that the world is going through turbulent times. With his ensemble, Ron is attempting to build a bridge between cultures that appear worlds apart but are, in fact, torn from the same cloth.
The Yuval Ron Ensemble will bring its Concert for Unity to California Lutheran University on Tuesday, Oct. 15, featuring an eclectic, diverse cast of musicians from multiple faiths that have performed worldwide. The performance includes sacred music pulled from Judaism, Sufism and early Christianity from the Middle East and will also feature stories that are told across multiple religions, albeit in different ways, and an authentic Whirling Dervish.
Ron was introduced to the classical guitar as a boy growing up in Israel, falling in love with the sound from the moment he strummed the strings, he says. His interest grew into a passion leading him to become a composer for television, film, theater and dance, which he has produced over the past 35 years. Asked to compose new sounds for productions, Ron says that he believed that something new should be based on something old, and so he began researching traditional forms of music, particularly Jewish and Muslim devotional music from the Middle East.
“I would reverse the traditional prayers, I would break it down to pieces and restructure it,” said Ron. “I would mess it up in an interesting way and transform it into different forms of music.”
In the year 2000, Ron decided that it was time to present the music he had researched as it was, and so formed the Yuval Ron Ensemble in an effort to promote peace in the Middle East. Ron says that songs can become a bridge between cultures, pointing toward a 1960s love song from Israel that became a prayer for peace among members of the Muslim Sufi order. At his show, Ron says that he will demonstrate how the three Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Islam and Christianity — share many similarities and sounds.
“People of those communities, 99 percent of them are not aware of that history and commonality, they think that story or song is theirs, that prayer is theirs, they have no idea that some of their prayers and stories originated in their neighbor’s house of worship,” said Ron. “My work is to present it in a reverent, charming way and let people learn about the fact that we’re all connected, we’re all branches of the same tree.”
The event will also feature a Whirling Dervish, which is a seeker of the spiritual path known as Sufism and member of the Mevlevi Order which was founded in the 13th century in Konya in what today is south-western Turkey. Dervish is a Persian name for student, says Ron. The Dervish practices a movement prayer ritual called whirling, a “very powerful ritual of remembrance of the source of all life.”
“All things in the universe turn, the planets turn all the time, the atoms turn all the time, nothing is static, it’s actually moving, and its moving in circles,” said Ron, noting that the Dervish’s meditation requires intense concentration.
Ron says the fact that the ensemble is made up of musicians from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds is important for him and his message. The members’ may come from different cultures, some currently experiencing conflict, yet their ability to work together makes them role models for peace. This has garnered the ensemble invitations to perform around the world including in Morocco, Cuba and, in 2020, Russia. In 2005, the Yuval Ron Ensemble performed at the Demilitarized Zone on the border of North and South Korea as part of a Peace Concert and headlined the Dalai Lama’s “Seeds of Compassion” benefit concert in 2008.
“All of these sides to conflicts in the Middle East are coming together in a very powerful demonstration of the other way, the way of harmony, the way of compromising,” said Ron. “We are being invited by various people who are looking for ways to promote peace in the world and harmony and they choose to bring us as an example because it’s not just the music but the personnel and how we relate and how we behave.”
The Yuval Ron Ensemble will perform on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m at California Lutheran University’s Samuelson Chapel, 165 Chapel Lane, Thousand Oaks. Attendance is free. For more information, visit www.callutheran.edu or www.yuvalronmusic.com.