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 Philadelphia Museum of Art commissioned new works by French composers Tristan Murail and Philippe Hurel, inspired by the masterworks of sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Director Michał Zadara and actress Barbara Wysocka on how classical works influence contemporary theater-making.

“Extraordinary Indian classical dancer” Sarukkai performed at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, a Center-funded concert presented by Sruti, the India Music and Dance Society.

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

Established in 2004, Jazz Bridge is a hybrid nonprofit organization joining performance presentation with professional support services for regional jazz and blues artists.

Grants & Grantees

Peter Paulsen is a classical and jazz performer, both of which influence his composition style, and a 2007 Pew Fellow.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Mike Ladd is a poet, performer, and librettist.

Grants & Grantees

The Wilma Theater produced the U.S. premiere of Tadeusz Słobodzianek’a play, which, beginning in a Polish primary-school classroom in 1925, follows 10 students—five Catholics and five Jews—over 80 years.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 2008, Tiny Dynamite presents theater works by contemporary British and Philadelphia playwrights in both traditional and unconventional settings.

Originally commissioned by Mendelssohn Club, for world premiere performances in Philadelphia in April 2014, the Bang on a Can All-Stars will perform Wolfe’s new work as part of the upcoming NY Phil Biennial.

Dolce Suono Ensemble, founded by flutist Mimi Stillman in 2005, presents highly acclaimed chamber music concerts in Philadelphia and on tour.

The PHS Pop Up Garden is now welcoming visitors to experience the transformation of the Viaduct Rail Park at 10th and Hamilton Streets.