By Paul Schmitt
The Yuval Ron Ensemble presented a short lecture along with a few musical selections at the Winona County Historical Society on Monday, Jan. 25, as a prelude to their main performance at the Page Theatre at Saint Mary’s University on Jan. 31.
The Yuval Ron Ensemble is a Middle-Eastern music and dance group with a message of religious tolerance and cooperation. Their performance at SMU was mainly music-centered, and also featured one thing that Monday’s lecture lacked: Aziz, The Whirling Dervish.
Clad in white garb, Aziz danced to two selections in a traditional Sufi style, which involves rapid spinning in a small area. While this type of motion is typically dizzying to the average person, Aziz appeared to be unfazed by his movements and maintained his balance after the dances were finished.
The lecture at the Historical Society concentrated more on the history of the Middle Eastern instrument called the oud, which is a cousin to the lute. The oud moved from Baghdad to Cordoba, Spain, where it was involved in the “creation of the best arts and music [made] by Christians, Muslims and Jews in the ninth to 15th centuries,” according to Yuval Ron. Ron stressed the importance of such cooperation between religions and pointed out the relevance of the matter even in modern society.
Also prominent in Yuval Ron’s message is the idea of human expression and spirit. Ron said, “There is no way to suppress human expression.” Reflecting that concept, audience participation in the form of dancing, clapping and singing was greatly encouraged by the ensemble during many of the songs throughout the night.