Questions of Practice: Conductor Donald Nally and Violinist Hanna Khoury on Blending Musical Traditions

The Crossing conductor Donald Nally and violinist, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture music director, and Pew Fellow Hanna Khoury discuss their experiences of blending musical languages and traditions in a performance that brought together a classical Arab chamber ensemble and a Western choir. Unlike Western music, Arabic music “relies very much on the oral tradition,” Khoury explains. “If you have musical sheets [in Arabic music], they are mostly confined to the idea of a skeletal structure that needs all of these embellishments.”

Conductor Donald Nally and violinist Hanna Khoury on blending musical traditions. Filmed at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage on December 7, 2015.

With Center support, Al-Bustan premiered two new compositions by Arab-American composers Kareem Roustom and Pew Fellow Kinan Abou-afach, inspired by Andalusian poetry, during a concert in December 2015 with soloist Dalal Abu Amneh and The Crossing, as part of Words Adorned: Andalusian Poetry and Music.

Hanna Khoury is a violinist trained in the classical traditions of Arab and Western music. A 2013 Pew Fellow, Khoury is music director of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, and directs the Arab Music ensemble at the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Pennsylvania exploring popular culture and nationalism. As a performer, Khoury continues to collaborate with a number of prominent artists including Mandy Patinkin, in addition to solo engagements and residencies throughout the country.

Donald Nally is conductor of The Crossing, a professional chamber choir focused on new music. He is director of choral organizations at Northwestern University and chorus master of The Chicago Bach Project. Nally has held tenures as chorus master for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Welsh National Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Spoleto USA, and for many seasons at the Spoleto Festival in Italy.


Grants & Grantees

The Penn Museum experimented with a new visitor-centered method of exhibition planning in order to forge relationships with the region’s African and African-American communities.

For the first time in 40 years, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will reinstall and reinterpret its eight galleries of South Asian art, which include nearly 3,000 works spanning over 2,500 years.

During the 2005–06 season, Philadelphia’s Dancefusion reconstructed Mary Anthony’s Women of Troy (1954). Dr. Linda Caruso Haviland prepared this essay for the accompanying symposium on dance preservation.

Collaborators & Colleagues

R. Larry Todd is Arts and Sciences Professor of Music and former chair of the music department at Duke University.

Collaborators & Colleagues

In a vocal career of over 25 years, Erie Mills has received critical and popular acclaim throughout the world, and has performed in the world’s major opera houses.

Grants & Grantees

Rachel Blau DuPlessis is a poet, critic, and a 2002 Pew Fellow.

Grants & Grantees

Dito van Reigersberg is a theater artist, a co-founder and co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company, and a 2002 Pew Fellow.

Opera Philadelphia conducted in-depth, strategic audience research that informs the development of a set of programs that, together with enhanced marketing efforts, respond to new audience behaviors and preferences.

Grants & Grantees

Named for Doylestown’s most famous son, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer James A. Michener, this museum was founded in 1988 with a regional focus, housing a collection of Pennsylvania impressionist paintings.

Dancing Diplomats follows choreographer Taras Lewyckyj’s work with Ukrainian artist Anatoly Kryvochyzha, whose choreography was blacklisted by the USSR in 1977.

WXPN is a public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania, best known for its World Cafe music program, distributed by National Public Radio.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Avital Ronell is the author of numerous substantial works and one of the major forces in contemporary literary criticism and philosophy.