Saturday, May 31, 2014

Eric Conway, D.M.A.: Day 10 of the Morgan State University Choir Middle East Tour

Eric Conway, D.M.A.:

Today was a good day.  Quite like Oman, we have two very fine guides for the the country of the United Arab Emirates.  Given that we have two buses on this tour, one for the choir, and one for the "shadow group", each guide is assigned to each group.  After a very exhausting Carmina Burana performance on last night, the group was given some latitude for the activity for the first part of the day.

One group wanted to sleep in, and not have any formal commitments until our group dinner at 5:30 PM. This was an excellent option, as this City Seasons Hotel is the finest of hotel of the tour, with exceptional amenities with free and fast Wi-Fi!  Another option lobbied by the students was for one bus to go to the beach. This surprisingly was a popular option among the students, however I could not understand going to the beach in this heat.  I have not spoken about the temperature in these emails, but as you can guess it is extremely hot in this area of the world in late May.  Today the temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit.  The water is not warm but hot, however, the students said that they had a great time, although no shade was to be found.  The shadow group & I went to the Abu Dhabi Mosque led by our guide, considered one of the greatest in the world.  One will see many photos of the mosque in this email with extraordinary architecture and opulent appointments.  Due to the oil money in this region, the Mosques that we have visited are much more opulent than any cathedrals that we have visited over the years.  As much money as Dubai is known to have across the world, Abu Dhabi has even more.  

We then visited the Emirates Heritage Club where we were able to purchase some souvenirs, and learn a little more about the region.

After the mosque visit and Heritage Club visit, in 113 degree weather, we were poised to find some good air conditioning. We visited another mall - the Marina Mall where we had lunch on our own.   You will see several photos from this mall attached.

The architecture of the buildings of the urban centers of this region is an architect's paradise.  Imagine given the opportunity to design any building that you could imagine with your mind, and have the funding to make it a reality. That is what one sees in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  You will see many photos in this email of many futuristic buildings and hotels.  Many buildings have solar panels for energy on the top of the buildings with a slant towards the sun - which makes perfect sense given that the sun beams down virtually every day, with very little rain.  Some buildings have retractable shells to reduce the sun in the buildings and reduce air-conditioning costs.   The society in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are very much more advanced (or better funded)  than the US.  Little things like escalators in the malls that only move when a person approaches the escalator (motion sensitive) gives a sense of an advanced civilization - or metro trains that are driverless, but do not collide with any pedestrians or cars.  The list could go on, but my goal is to inform everyone that those in the Middle East are not all terrorists, but persons who are perhaps even more respectful of others than Westerners, and certainly many Americans.  It's the media that has given us this perception of those from this region because of a very few individual extremists or radical subgroups within the culture are all sinister.  They worship God as others in the world, and perhaps are more pious in many ways than we are.  

After the mall, we had a few hours to rest, eat and leave for our last concert of the tour at the Brighton College. This concert's format was similar to others where the local choirs sang a small portion prior to our presentation.  Tonight's concert featured an all female group called Voices of Harmony and a small mixed chorus named Blue Fever.  Both were good opening acts to our set.  

Originally, there was concern over the sacred nature of our music, and we did amend our program somewhat, however after a few concerts, we realized that the audiences really wanted us to sing our Gospel music!  Tonight, we added much new music that we did not sing all tour.  One of these new songs was an arrangement by one of the Morgan students Jasmine Barnes of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" with human percussion effects and all!  We added two new Gospel favorites as well "Celebrate!"  and "Lord You are Good!"  See links to video below. 

The truly amazing thing about tonight's performance was that in an Islamic country, we were singing our American Gospel songs, and we were all worshipping God (Allah) all together - what a wonderful sight!  One would never know that we were from different tribes as we were singing.  Music is the universal language.  

Tonight's concert was special on many levels.  Tonight's concert was quite emotional for the choir as this was the last concert for many persons who have been with me for years!  Although we have enjoyed this tour, and learned a great deal about Middle Eastern culture, many are ready to get back home to our families as I am.  See links below to a couple of the performances this evening.

I Know I've Been Changed YouTube Link:

Rock With You YouTube link:

Celebrate YouTube link:

Lord You Are Good YouTube link:

Eric Conway, D.M.A.
Fine and Performing Arts Department, Chair
Morgan State University

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