27-31 July 2017: Ramallah Orchestra Tour in Palestine accompanied by the Amwaj Choir, dir. Diego MassoN

27 July: Concert at Isaad El Toufoula Center (Hebron)

28 July: Open-Air Concert in the Al-Rashaida Desert

30 July: Concert at the Bethlehem Convention Palace, Palestine Philharmonie

31 July: Concert at the Ramallah Municipal Theatre

Upon invitation by the Al-Kamandjati association, the Amwaj Choir had the opportunity to perform for the first time with a symphonic orchestra, the Ramallah Orchestra, conducted by Diego Masson. The orchestra gathers students and teachers from Al Kamandjati as well as international professional musicians. After the orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s 8th Symphony and of Ravel’s Bolero, the Children’s Choir joined the orchestra on stage to sing works by Mozart, Berlioz, Rosaz and a medley of Arabic songs. All concerts were very well attended by a local and international audience who could testimony to the professionality of the choir.













29 June-5 July 2017: Lyon-Amwaj Project, in Palestine

Young Generation Days at the Palestine Philharmonie

“Children’s Choir traditions through the ages” – A cultural exchange between Palestine and France

29 June: Concert of “Les Petits Chanteurs de Lyon” at Saint-Anne’s Church (Jerusalem) in cooperation with the French Institute of Jerusalem

2 July: Workshops and concert of “Les Petits Chanteurs de Lyon”, the Amwaj Choir and Sounds of Palestine at the Bethlehem Convention Palace

4 July: Concert of the Amwaj Choir at the Korea Palestine Center (Hebron)

5 July: Concert of “Les Petits Chanteurs de Lyon” and the Amwaj Choir at the Annunciation Church (Beit Jala)

31 children aged 10-14 years old, « Les Petits chanteurs de Lyon », https://www.petitschanteursdelyon.fr/ travelled to Palestine with their musical director Thibaut Louppe, his assistant Mariana Delgadillo Espinoza and three supervisors, François Poyet, Virginie de Gayardon de Fenoyl and Père Jean-Baptiste Aubert.

30 June-3 July: Camp at the Murad Resort (Beit Sahour) that gathered the 31 children from France and the 60 children of the Amwaj Choir. Many activities, in groups mixing both choirs, were conducted by the French and Palestinian teams, joined by Emmanuel Meliz: Warm-up, vocal technique, sound painting, Arabic songs, French songs, solfeggio. The children from both choirs learnt a lot from each other.

Mathilde Vittu:

« We both had the same idea: not just doing quality music together, but mainly promoting the exchange and the idea of “métissage “. Mixing different cultures through sound, not merging them but rather allowing a dialogue between them whilst maintaining their own identity. The whole artistic and musical project started from that idea. ».

« We really felt as if we were a single choir of 90 people. What was peculiar was that, at the beginning of the project, putting them together felt strange, original, surprising… and by the end of the project, what seemed strange was to separate them. And I think that’s really proof that we created this subtle blend. »

Thibaut Louppe: 

« The best moment was when, at the end of each concert, we all turned towards the children, the whole pedagogical team. Mathilde and I faced the children and saw their amazing smiles. All the work they did, and here was the result… the concert. It was very touching. »

June 2017: Lyon-Amwaj Project, Step 2

French Children sent letters to Palestinian Children who prepared a video to introduce themselves. 

Mathilde Vittu went to Lyon to meet the French Children’s Choir «Les petits chanteurs de Lyon», the children and their families, the staff. She gave a workshop on arabic words and music. The residency is now ready and both choirs will sing together during the Young Generation Days organized by the Palestine Philharmonie (29 June-5 July 2017).

 

April 2017: Lyon-Amwaj Project, Step 1

In July 2017, the French Children’s Choir «Les petits chanteurs de Lyon»  will travel to Palestine for camps and concerts with the Amwaj Choir. Their musical director Thibaut Louppe came to Bethlehem and Hebron in April 2017 to meet the Amwaj children, to give workshops and to conduct the choir. The Amwaj team discussed with him the details of the upcoming joint residency. More soon…

29 April 2017: « Freedom, Dream and Anti-racism… » (20 ans de l’AECHF)

Concert at Issad El Toufoula (Hebron) with Musicians from Belfort (France)

In the context of the twentieth anniversary of the Association d’Échanges Culturels Hébron-France, which hosts the Amwaj Choir program since its beginning, the Amwaj Choir performed a concert accompanied by four French musicians from Belfort, on piano, oboe, clarinet and double bass (Heidi Caillet, Marie Casteran, Faustine Mauvais, Ophélie Petitcolin). The musical program was designed to reflect values of the association, with songs in French, Arabic, English and Zulu on the topics of Freedom, Dream and Anti-racism.

The children were joined on stage by the Amwaj Adult Choir for three of the songs. 

This concert, attended by a large audience that included the French General Consul to Jerusalem, marked the end of Amwaj’s second academic year and presented the highest musical level achieved so far, with the children now demonstrating high professionalism in terms of both attitude and quality of sound.  

April 2017: « Spiritual music from all traditions » (Al-Kamandjâti Festival)

 13 April: Concert at Issad El Toufoula (Hebron)

14 April: Concert at Dhaharya Old City (Dhaharya)

21 April: Concert at Ein Sultan Spring (Jericho)

The Amwaj Choir was invited to perform three concerts during the 2017 Al-Kamandjâti Festival. The repertoire of the first part of the concert linked music from the Gregorian period to old Arabic songs; the second part mixed songs by Berlioz, Schumann and French contemporary composer Jean-Christophe Rosaz; the third part linked Gospel and South African songs, and the last part was dedicated to Palestinian spiritual music. Accompanied by Fares Ishaq (Nay, Clarinet), Khader Jaraiseh (percussions) and Khoulud Sabbara (piano), the children worked on finding a nice sound in out-door spaces without microphones. 

In addition to their own highly successful performances, the Amwaj children, teachers and supervisors enjoyed many of the festival’s other activities: film screenings, exhibitions, music instruments workshops, meetings with singers and musicians from Sweden, India, Belgium, Azerbaijan and Palestine. 

Many thanks to the team of the Al-Kamandjâti Festival for this great opportunity! 

An interview with Mathilde Vittu about the Festival is available here.

8 April: Palestinian Child’s Day, 2017 
Concert at the Russian Center (Bethlehem)

Organized by the Ghirass Cultural Centre, this event presented all the activities for Children offered in the center: art, drawing, library, music, Dabke. Amongst the performers were three amazing Dabke groups, some also including children of the choir. The Amwaj Children’s Choir, as a partner hosted at Ghirass, joined by the Amwaj Adult Choir, performed songs in French, English and Arabic. In addition to solo parts, some children had the chance to conduct the Choir themselves. A great experience, a great afternoon dedicated to Children. Thanks and Mabrouk to all the Ghirass team! 

March 2017: Concours de la chanson française
 French Songs Competition (Alliance Française de BethléemInstitut Français de Jérusalem)

The children of the Amwaj Choir above 14 years old participated to the second edition of the yearly French songs competition organized by the Alliance Française de Bethléem and the Institut Français de Jérusalem. Five children from Hebron and Bethlehem (Ameer, Jinin, Lina, Sara and Shahd) were selected to participate in the Final Concert. They were coached several times by French Professor Gérard Authelain and performed French songs at the Jacir Palace, as soloists, with a microphone and in front of a large audience. Mabruk to all of them for their great work and performance!

 


10 February 2017: « Waves of Freedom » with Clémence Monnier  Concert at the Peace Center (Bethlehem)

Conducted by Lara Jamal and Mathilde Vittu, the choir was accompanied by the famous French pianist Clémence Monnier on a wonderful Bösendorfer piano. Following the winter camp under the theme of « Freedom », the 60 children sang in French, English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, German and Zulu, songs by Haendel, Mozart, Marcel Khalife but also Gospel, South African music. Each song was introduced so that the audience could enjoy the meaning of the lyrics. Alternating different soloists, small groups and the whole group gave a lot of colours to the performance.
Despite the limited audience of under 40 people, the children gave all their energy and professionalism. Congratulations to all of them!
Many thanks to all the staff of the Winter Camp 2017!

January 2017: WINTER CAMP

In January 2017, many activities were added to Amwaj’s regular singing and choir classes. From 19 to 22 January, as highlight of the month, a choir camp residency took place near Jericho. For four intensive days, the Amwaj children and staff all returned to the beautiful Al-Auja eco-center, where they had resided for three days in January 2016. 

In addition to the Amwaj permanent staff, many volunteers from Palestine and abroad gave their time and energy, providing the children with an invaluable experience. Elodie Vittu, a French teacher based in Germany, gave French, German and Solfeggio classes and animated many entertaining activities and games, involving anything from manual skills to clowns. French singer and choir conductor Catherine Roussot returned to Palestine to continue working with the children on vocal technique, with impressive results. With his creative way of teaching, Mohammad Abu Laban trained the children to compose and perform rap music. The amazing musician Fares Ishaq gave improvisation workshops on many instruments. Shafee Hafez, with his friendly way of taking care of the kids, gave Theater workshops and led the children to create and enact their own stories. As a great surprise, Robin Burlton came back with his Guitar to teach Western songs. Thanks to an extended team of wonderful supervising staff (Boshra Qaraqe, Heba Zghayyer, Youssef Shakarneh, Muhsen Alhumouz, Mohanad Al Ashhab), the children benefited from varied educational games and activities that strengthened relations and friendships. The 4-day camp ended with a fabulous show where the children presented the results of all their activities. On the final morning, to reward their hard work, the children were offered a Circus workshop by the Palestinian Circus School.

Following the camp, German musician Manfred Baumgartner joined the Amwaj team to teach German songs.

After these activities and camp, the 60 children from Hebron and Bethlehem are more than ever part of the same family.

Thanks to all the staff.
12 January 2017: « Amandine Beyer and the Bethlehem Strings »

Workshop and Concert at the Bethlehem Convention Palace.
In the context of the Palestine Philharmonie Pre-launching, the Amwaj Choir had the precious opportunity to work with renowned French violinist Amandine Beyer. Following several rehearsals and workshops, a concert was presented in the superb auditorium of the Bethlehem Convention Palace, attended by the Palestinian Minister of Culture and by the Mayors of Bethlehem and Beit Jala. The children, accompanied by a professional ensemble of 30 musicians from Palestine and abroad, sang both as soloists and all together to an audience comprising several hundred people from the regions of Bethlehem, Hebron and beyond. For the last two songs of the concert, Amwaj and the musicians were joined by children of other local choirs (St Joseph School, École des frères and Sounds of Palestine), providing a grand finale with more than 120 singers on stage. The event provided a valuable and inspiring example of intercultural exchange between Palestinian children and musicians from all over the world.

A teaser of the rehearsal is available here.

A paper in French by Selvam Thorez is available here.

A paper in English by Tom Suarez is available here.
 

January-May 2017: More and more concerts
The second term of 2016-2017 made the Amwaj Choir experience a lively professional activity. Seven concerts were given throughout the West Bank, accompanied by renowned French musicians such as Amandine Beyer, Clémence Monnier, « Les musiciennes de Belfort » and by amazing Palestinian musicians such as Fares Ishaq, Khader Jaraiseh, Khoulud Sabbara and the « Bethlehem Strings ». The musical program went from « Freedom songs » to « Spirituality music ». The Amwaj Adult Choir joined for two of those concerts.

The Amwaj Choir is now renowned enough in Palestine to be invited in different events such as the Palestine Philharmonie, the Al-Kamandjâti festival and the events led by Ghirass and AECHF.

Members of the Amwaj Choir participated to the « French Songs Competition » organized by the Alliance Française de Bethléem and the Institut Français de Jérusalem

What counts most, is the quality music education that the children receive day after day, and that the Amwaj Choir continues collaborating with amazing musicians, such as violinist Michael Dabroski and renowned choir conductors such as Pr. Andre De Quadros or Thibaut Louppe.




2-4 December 2016: Amwaj and the Oslo Philharmonic Choir
  Concert at the Nativity Church (Bethlehem) conducted by Tore Erik Mohn
The visit of the Oslo Philharmonic Choir follows the visit earlier this year by Roy Albin Bylund and Oystein Fevang, its principal conductor. « Due to medical reasons Oystein Fevang was unable to travel to Palestine at this time. Tore Erik Mohn, former Conductor of the Choir (1995-2005), has kindly agreed to step in at a short notice. »
In the context of the « Bethlehem Destination Christmas » initiative, coordinated by Michele Cantoni, and with the support of the Institut Français de Jérusalem, the Oslo Philharmonic Choir performed an A Capella concert at Sainte Anne’s Church in Jerusalem on Thursday the 1st of December, with the Schmidtschule Choir. The following day, the 60 singers from  Oslo met the 60 children of the Amwaj Choir for a 4-hour rehearsal at the International Center Dar Annadwe (Bethlehem). The children experienced their first professionnal rehearsal with a high level adult choir. Each singer took care of one child which made it not only a joint rehearsal but a high level musical and human exchange. The one hour A Capella concert that took place on the 4th of December at Bethlehem’s Nativity Church (Saint Catherine’s) focused on Christmas songs in several languages. The children of Amwaj joined the Oslo Philharmonic Choir in five songs singing in German, English, Norwegian and Arabic. Members of the Olive Branches choir (Bethlehem) also joined for four of those songs. The Oslo Philharmonic Choir members expressed deep emotion about this powerful exchange and the Amwaj Choir can now count them amongst their most enthusiastic supporters and partners.
The video of the rehearsal is available here.
The video of the concert is available here.



5 November 2016: « Waves… Rolling on »
Concert at the Korea Palestine Center (Hebron)
Conducted by Jasmine Bourne, Lara Jamal and Mathilde Vittu, the concert was mainly attended by families and friends of the 60 students. The program was varied and representative of the activities led since September 2016: Baroque, Classical, Romantic in many languages, Jazz and Arabic traditional repertoire. The Arabic music trainer Lara Jamal and many students could experience performing as soloists and the improvement of their voice technique was noticeable. This one-hour concert, accompanied on the piano, was also a great opportunity to prepare the visit of the Oslo Philharmonic Choir in December.

September-December 2016: Various activities
 At the begining of the second academic year, the Amwaj Choir has hired its new General Coordinator, Amira Musallam and its new Choir Conductor, Jasmine Bourne. In addition to the regular singing activities, the students receive regular piano, theory, drama and percussions lessons. The new program of « Culture of Listening » is led by May Murad. The students can also benefit from the increasing visits of many teachers from Palestine and from Europe who give various workshops. Both students and teachers improved thanks to the help of Catharina Kroeger, a vocal technique specialist. Many historical topics such as Orchestra, Children Choir tradition, Mozart, were discussed during workshops with two French musicologists, Nicolas Dufetel and Florence Badol-Bertrand. Will Roberts and Alice Barron shared their experience on Samba percussions, Adrien Alix and Alice Fragard on viola da gamba and Baroque music. The palestinian Al Raseef Band did a great workshop on Brass instruments. In addition to this varied educational program, the Amwaj Choir gave two concerts: the first one in November at the Korea Palestine Center (Hebron). The second one, highlight of the year, was the concert at the Nativity Church (Bethlehem) on the 4th of December with the Oslo Philharmonic Choir. 

October 2016: Opening of the Adult Choirs
Hebron: The Adult Choir rehearses every Thursday (5pm-6pm)
Bethlehem: The Adult Choir rehearses every Sunday (1pm-2pm)

September 2016: Beginning of the second academic year in both branches
Hebron: The classes take place every Thursday (2pm-5pm) and Saturday (10am-3pm) Bethlehem: The classes take place every Friday (11am-4pm) and Sunday (2pm-5pm)

1-20 August 2016: HEBRON AND BETHLEHEM SUMMER CAMP 2016
Daily, from the 1st to the 20th of August, the Amwaj Choir had rehearsals, music and art workshops of various kinds. In addition to the permanent teaching staff, the program hosted 10 guest teachers, Palestinian and internationals, who gave classes and workshops. Besides regular classes in the two branches of Bethlehem and Hebron, many activities took place in different locations across Palestine, including in the context of the Palestine Choral Festival. A 3-day residential camp in Birzeit (6-8 August) and a full day at the Bethlehem Convention Palace (17 August) were the greatest moments of discovery as well as of musical and artistic exchange for children and teachers alike. A dedicated team of supervisors from the Ghirass Cultural Center and the Association d’Échanges Culturels Hébron-France followed all the activities.
The activities in the branches are documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

20 August 2016: « Sweet and Energetic Waves »
Concert at Ghirass (Bethlehem)
To end the 2016 Summer Camp, Amwaj Choir performed at Ghirass for families and friends. Songs in many languages were conducted by Mathilde Vittu, Robin Burlton, Maali Tamimi, Lara Jamal and Catherine Roussot, who also performed a French song by Edith Piaf. The event was the occasion to present the results of the first year of activities alongside those of the three intensive weeks of Summer Camps. The goals for the upcoming academic year were also presented to the students and their families. The concert was followed by a reception to thank the Amwaj staff for their ongoing work and all the international and Palestinian volunteers who participated in the Summer activities.
This event is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

19 August 2016: FINAL CONCERT OF THE PALESTINE
CHORAL FESTIVAL in Dar Annadwe (Bethlehem)

After a workshop on stage attitude with Alice Raulo, the Amwaj Choir joined a workshop and rehearsal alongside other Palestinian Children’s Choirs and the professional singers of the Choir of London. The final concert of the festival took place on the stage of the beautiful Dar Annadwe. Accompanied by Robin Burlton and conducted by Mathilde Vittu, Catherine Roussot and Lara Jamal, the children of Amwaj had the precious opportunity to sing three songs from their own repertoire. The children attended the rest of the concert and went back on stage to perform a final song with many other choirs and musicians conducted by Jessie Maryon-Davis.
An event of the Palestine Choral Festival
This event is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

17 August 2016: DAY AT THE BETHLEHEM CONVENTION PALACE
Special Guest: Dima Bawab, Palestinian Soprano. The 55 students of the Amwaj Choir gathered for an intensive day of rehearsals in different spaces of the Bethlehem Convention Palace. They improved their vocal technique with Catherine Roussot in the majestic Lobby and their drama skills with Heyam Talbishi in the elegant meeting room. They had a private concert by Dima Bawab on the Stage of the Auditorium, followed by a workshop and discussion on singing technique with the Palestinian soprano. They visited the Murad Castle museum with Abu Iyad, whose impressive collection of Palestinian traditional heritage is on permanent exhibit, and rehearsed in the neighboring open air Amphitheater. Lunch was a barbecue organized by Nadeen, Lourdina and Natasha Baboun in the garden of Solomon’s Pools.
This day is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

13 August 2016: CHILDREN SINGING DAY, NI’LIN (Palestine Choral Festival)
The Amwaj Choir participated to the Children Singing Day at Ni’lin. After a long journey from Bethlehem and Hebron, the Children joined outdoor workshops and rehearsals with Jessie Maryon-Davis and the Open House Ensemble in the historical Al-Khawaja Palace. Catherine Roussot gave a workshop on vocal technique, assisted by Olivia Romanet and Sabine Chanon, before a great concert where the Amwaj Choir sang both alone and with many other choirs and musicians.
An event of the Palestine Choral Festival
This event is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.
The BBC made a report on the festival including an interview of Hebron Amwaj student Laila Sharif.

11 August 2016: CONCERT IN HEBRON WITH CHOIR OF LONDON
(Palestine Choral Festival) « When the Amwaj Choir has the chance to share the stage with the professional Choir of London ». After a warm-up workshop and rehearsal with Jessie Maryon-Davis, the Amwaj Choir performed some of its own songs in many languages, conducted by Mathilde Vittu, Catherine Roussot, Emmanuel Meliz and Lara Jamal. The Choir of London performed two madrigals before the two choirs joined forces for several songs, including a special arrangement of Hala Lala Layya conducted by Robin Burlton. A huge success with the audience. An event of the Palestine Choral Festival, kindly hosted by the Royal Company
This event is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

6-8 August 2016: BIRZEIT SUMMER CAMP 2016
55 students from both branches gathered in Birzeit for a 3-day camp. The activities included warm-ups, choir rehearsals, singing classes, piano, percussions, drama, Sound Painting, improvisation acting, listening awareness, body percussions, Capoeira, vocal technique, Arabic singing. Depending on the activities, the children were either all together (warm-up, choir rehearsals) or divided into groups of four (piano, vocal technique) or 20 students (workshops). Many international and Palestinian teachers joined the Amwaj permanent staff. Emmanuel Meliz and Catherine Roussot, both professional singers and choir conductors residing in Lyon (France) focused on vocal technique and the relation between gesture and sound. The last day, they were assisted by Olivia Romanet and Sabine Chanon both students in Piano and Singing at the Geneva HEM. Mohammed Karzon, percussionist from Ramallah, gave a workshop on percussions and music theory. May Mourad, singer and songwriter from Bethlehem, gave a workshop on the culture of listening. Maria-Paula Viano, drama teacher residing in Sardinia (Italy) led an acting workshop. Samira Kharoubi, singer from Jerusalem, conducted Arabic singing classes. Alice Raulo, coordinator of the DEMOS project in Marseille (France), gave an Introduction to Capoeira and coordinated the camp’s team of supervisors (Thaer Hemone and Alaa S. Abu Maialeh - Association d’Échanges Culturels Hébron-France; Samar and Heba Zghayyer - Ghirass Cultural Center). The students also enjoyed a walk in Birzeit’s old town and a barbecue.
This camp is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

1-5 June 2016: FIRST SUMMER CAMP 2016
The first Summer Camp 2016 took place from the 1st to the 5th of June, with activities at the AECHF’s premises in the old city of Hebron and at the Ghirass Center in Bethlehem. In addition to the regular singing activities, the children from Bethlehem did theater workshops with Heyam Talbishi and those from Hebron had a workshop with Tareq Wahba and an introduction to music notation and piano.
On the last day, all the children from both branches who participated in the camp gathered at the farm Hosh al Jasmin (Beit Jala), for a day of workshops and singing, with the permanent Amwaj staff and with Tareq Abu Salameh (oud). They also had chance to hike, play ping-pong, chill out and share a wonderful end-of-year barbecue. A huge thanks to Mazen and all the staff of Hosh al Jasmin, to all the volunteers from Ghirass and AECHF, for making it a magical day for the Amwaj Choir.
It’s now time for a break during Ramadan, the program will start again from the 1st of August. Ramadan Karim !!
This day is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

29 May 2016: « Hebron waves reaching Jerusalem »
Concert in Jerusalem
In the presence of the French Consul General, organized by the French Consulate and the French Institute in Jerusalem, the Amwaj (Waves) choir from Hebron accompanied by a professional string quartet (Guzman Bajo Sosa, Rebecca Minio-Paluello, Morgane Marticoréna, Vicente Marin Diez) and percussionist Mohammed Karzon, gave a one-hour concert at Saint Anne’s Church.
The programme was eclectic with traditional Arabic music, Western music, and World music. In the first part of the concert the Waves carried music from France (Renaissance, Saint-Saëns and Brassens). Then, the Waves reached the Levant (Rahbani Brothers, Marcel Khalife, Traditionals). The third part of the concert had the Waves reaching Spain (Turina, Garcia Lorca), to finish with Iranian and South African music. The last song written by Dalida mixed lyrics in Arabic, French and Spanish. At the end of the performance, the audience called for an encore, which the choir happily performed.
In each Amwaj concert, the musical challenges are greater, and very stimulating for the young singers. This time we decided to add one more big challenge: taking them to Jerusalem...
All the team of Amwaj choir was there except for one of the children and Abood Qawasmi from Hebron, who were denied the right to be with us because their permit was refused by the authorities.
Photos by Fares S. Mansour available here.



23 April 2016: « Palestine, Hebron-France and more »
Concert in Hebron
The first concert of the Amwaj Choir in Hebron took place on April 23rd 2016 at the Royal Industrial Trading Co. This event was part of the Mamre Open Day:
“On the occasion of the archaeological excavations being carried out in cooperation with the University of Poitiers and the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the AECHF organizes an open day on April 23rd in Mamre. This Open Day will be honoured by the presence of Hervé Magro, Consul General of France in Jerusalem.
During the day, our specialists will offer some tours of the site in French, English and Arabic. For the children, the AECHF will organize games, workshops about patrimony and environment, and adapted visits of the site for children.
This open day will end at 5pm with a concert performed by the Amwaj children choir and 5 talented musicians in the Royal Company premises. (Queizoun neighbourhood)”
Accompanied by a professional String Quartet (Michele Cantoni, Aleen Masoud, Tom Suarez, Fabienne Van Eck) and the talented percussionist Mohammed Karzon, the children from Hebron and Bethlehem performed a challenging repertoire, with both monody and polyphony, in many languages, with many children soloists as singers or percussionists. The French songs included some compositions by Georges Brassens, highly appreciated by the French delegation headed by Mr Hervé Magro, Consul General of France in Jerusalem.
About 150 people attended the event, amongst them political and institutional personalities, international tourists and the children’s families and friends. A huge success! 
Non-professional video footage and pictures of the rehearsals and concert are available here
.



27 February 2016: « Palestine at the Heart of the World »
Concert in Bethlehem
On 27 February, at the Ghirass Cultural Centre in Bethlehem, the 2nd concert gathering the children choirs of Hebron and Bethlehem took place. The music programme presented traditional Palestinian and Arabic songs surrounded by those from numerous other countries - France, Italy, England, Armenia, Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, Ghana - sung in the original languages. Seventeen songs in total, three sung by the Hebron choir, one by the Bethlehem choir and thirteen by both choirs together. Several songs included polyphonic passages as well as solos which were given to several of the children. Four of the girls from Bethlehem staged an Armenian song out of their own initiative. The children were accompanied by the permanent Amwaj staff and by two fine Palestinian musicians: Aleen Masoud (violin) and Mohamed Najem (Clarinet and Nay). The audience included mainly families of the children, a few international guests and the director of the Bethlehem Convention Palace. The concert ended with a song in which the audience joined the children. The event’s success was the object of an article on Maan News.
A short video sample is available to view.
Non-professional video footage and pictures of the rehearsals and concert are available here.

January 2016: WINTER CAMP
In January 2016, a 3-day intensive choir camp residence took place in Jericho, at the Al-Auja eco-center, with 50 children from the Hebron and Bethlehem Amwaj programs. The camp represented an experience that some of the children have qualified as “unforgettable.”
After sports activities and improvisation games for vocal and physical warm-up, the daily choral work was done by half groups, mixing children who hardly knew each other, alternating with ‘tutti’ sessions. The repertoire was aimed at preparing for the February concert in Bethlehem titled “Palestine at the Heart of the World”, comprising polyphonic songs and traditional ones from many countries.
Beyond the choir activities, the children were introduced to environmental issues, participated in games relating to music theory or general culture, and were introduced to the Palestinian traditional dance “Dabke.”
Spontaneously, the children gathered to sing around a guitar during the preparation of the “barbecue evening.” For most of the children it was the first overnight experience outside of their homes: the camp has proven the project’s strong human dimension accompanying the intensive musical training.
Joining the Amwaj permanent staff, as volunteers throughout the camp, were Canadian musician Damon Hankoff and two members of the Ghirass staff, Ayed Hoshiah and Sama Alzghayyer.
Non-professional video footage and pictures are available here.

12 December 2015: Bethlehem Christmas concert
The first joint concert of the Amwaj choirs from Hebron and Bethlehem took place on the 12th of December 2015 in the Chapel of Bethlehem University, within the context of the Christmas Nights festival organized by the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music. Accompanied by the baroque ensemble Bethlehem Strings, comprising professionals and music students, the children of Amwaj presented a series of Christmas carols in several languages alongside classical songs and others from the Palestinian tradition.
The experience of sharing the stage with professional musicians allowed the children to understand the setting of a public performance. The quality of their performance, their investment and exemplary attitude have not only impressed their families and friends attending the concert, but equally a number of exponents of Palestine’s cultural scene. Many families travelled from Hebron to Bethlehem for the occasion. Their enthusiasm ensures they will belong to the audiences of tomorrow.
A short video sample is available to view here.

31 October 2015: Day in Jericho
The Amwaj Choir from Hebron was invited to participate to the El Atlal Festival. The festival was cancelled because of the tense situation in the West Bank that month. The Amwaj Choir decided to keep one day of rehearsal in Jericho, together with children from the local Terra Santa School.
Warm-up, vocal games, songs and visit of a Swedish choir.
At the end of the day, the children gave their first public concert : Amwaj Choir alone, then joined by the children from Jericho.
This day is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.

October 2015: Opening of the Bethlehem Branch
After the success of the Hebron choir launch, Amwaj opened a new branch in Bethlehem at the Ghirass cultural center. GHIRASS has a history of successes since 1994 with projects for children aged 6 to 16 in a vast cultural sphere (fine arts, dance, music, library activities, etc.) as well as adult literacy, teacher training and remedial teaching programs.
The classes take place every Friday (11am-4pm). In September 2016, another afternoon of rehearsals each week will be added.
The children who follow the Amwaj Choir also participate to other activities of the Center.

September 2015: Beginning of the regular courses in Hebron
The classes take place every Saturday (10am-3pm) and Sunday (2pm-5pm)

August 2015: SUMMER CAMP
The first choir summer camp has taken place in Hebron from the 1st to the 6th of August, 2015, at the Association d'Échanges culturels Hébron-France. AECHF has run intercultural programs for children and adults for nearly 20 years.
Daily activities were from 9.30 am to 3 pm, with two public presentations/concerts on days 3 and 6: Vocal and body warm-up activities, choir singing in Arabic and other languages (French, English, German, Italian, Armenian, Welsh, etc…), workshops in small groups (body percussion, vocal technique, jazz singing, theatre, foreign languages, vocal games, introduction to music notation).
Team of volunteers linked to the project: Mathilde Vittu, Robin Burlton, Michele Cantoni, Abood Qawasmi, Maali Tamimi. External volunteers: Razan Al-Azzeh and Alexandra Duchêne (theatre workshops), Artemisz Polonyi (vocal jazz workshops).
The children, aged 8 to 12, were 20 at the beginning of the camp, with a majority of girls, and became 35 after the first concert presentation, with an equal distribution of boys and girls. 25 of them have enrolled for the regular courses which started in September.

This camp is documented with non-professional photos and video footage here.