An American-themed repertoire. A Moroccan (the Moroccan) Symphony Orchestra, OPM. A French guest conductor.
That was the musical debut to Tangier's new year, "Discovering the New World," a program of Gershwin (An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue) and Dvorak (New World Symphony).
Anything with a theme so utterly American – and whose poster has Lady Liberty strumming her violin with a backdrop of fireworks – deserved a bit of flag-waving, so I joined a small contingent of expat Americans for the concert. We were not disappointed. Jean-Luc Tingaud, guest conductor, led his musicians with gusto, before a packed Tangier City Hall auditorium. "Auditorium" sounds high school-improvised; perhaps I should say Tangier City Hall conservatory, with its state of the art acoustics.
There's a beautiful explication of Dvorak's New World Symphony by Marin Alsop on NPR:
Symphony No. 9 is nicknamed New World because Dvorak wrote it during the time he spent in the U.S. in the 1890s. His experiences in America (including his discovery of African-American and Native-American melodies) and his longing for home color his music with mixed emotions. There's both a yearning that simmers and an air of innocence.
The music, for me, evokes images. As the symphony opens, I picture Dvorak at the stern of the ship that carries him to America, away from his country. As the land drifts out of sight, he is suddenly jarred by the thought of the unknown with a blast from the French horn…
Farid Bensaid, founding president of the OPM, and principal sponsor Amine Belkhouya of KIA Motors Morocco, evoked this "New World" resonance of the Gershwin and Dvorak selections, with their inspirations from American jazz, spirituals, and popular sources. Thanks to this Moroccan-French collaboration, New Year 2013 received an inspiring – American – start.