Yuval Ron Ensemble to visit Ogden

On Feb. 11, Weber State University Cultural Affairs is bringing an experience of Middle Eastern music called the Yuval Ron Ensemble to Peery’s Egyptian Theater.

The Yuval Ron Ensemble is a performance group hailing from the Middle East. Artists of Arabic, Jewish and Christian persuasion are all combined together to perform traditional music and dance of Judaism, Sufism and the Christian Armenian Church as a symbol of harmony.

“In the Middle East, there’s a shared culture, and it goes through all the tradition. That’s what I demonstrate, the commonality, the oneness in those human traditions,” said Yuval Ron, originator and director of the ensemble, who was born and raised in Israel.

Ron came to study music in America in 1985 and has made a career of composing music for Hollywood television and film, but he has always researched middle eastern music because of his roots and went on to form the Yuval Ron Ensemble in 2000.

“I bring together music from the opposing people in the Middle East,” Ron said. “I bring the music of all these people to the stage, and I make a connection between the traditions, and I demonstrate how the fundamentals, basic prayers and the building blocks are the same, regardless of faith.”

Cultural Affairs plans a line-up of diverse acts every semester, and when Diane Stern, director of cultural affairs, came across this group, she brought them to the advisory board, who became excited of the prospect of working with the group.

“The idea of bringing together a group that represented Israel and Arab nations and different religions, Sufism and Armenian Christianity and Judaism, to play music together was very attractive,” Stern said.

The shows include unique foreign musical sounds, such as Armenian woodwinds, traditional devotional vocal styles from Pakistan and Yemen, and even a sacred Sufi tradition of moving meditation and prayer called the Whirling Dervish Dance. The meditation is sacred to Dervish monks from Turkey, and the ensemble features an authentic Dervish to perform the tradition, which Ron said is “spectacular and hypnotic” to watch.

“The world is a big place, and this is an opportunity to hear people performing music,” Stern said. “First of all it will be beautiful, but it is also an exposure to a culture and to a different kind of world than what we live in, right here in Ogden. I think that it breathes a better understanding of other cultures. It may help to breathe tolerance.”

On Friday, Fed. 10, the day before the show, there is going to be a free community workshop taught by Yuval Ron entitled The Mysticism of Sound. The workshop will focus on the history and technique of sacred Sufi (Islamic) chants and ancient Hebrew prayers and how the two can be used to create a devotional trance. It will also teach a form of sound meditation, in which, according to Ron, “the brain is surpassed and the heart is combined with music for a higher meditative experience.”

Ron has only been to Utah twice before as a guest at the Sundance Film Festival. He is excited to visit WSU.

“I’m very much looking forward to coming to the campus because I tour a lot in universities, and I love working with communities and students and faculty,” Ron said. “I love sharing my experience and the music.”

The workshop is pre-registry because of limited space, and Stern says that the class was almost full about a week and a half before the performance.

“That indicates to me that there is an interest and a hunger for that kind of performance and this kind of program,” Stern said. “This is an opportunity, and the community has responded really well, and I think that this doesn’t duplicate a lot of other things that are available in our community, but I do believe people are interested and would like to know and try the music.”

The Yuval Ron Ensemble performance at the Peery’s Egyptian Theater will begin at 7:30 p.m., and the ticket prices are set at $15/$12. The workshop on Friday will begin at 1 p.m., and any chance at registration can be given by contacting Diane Stern at 801-626-6570.

“I will resort to what people have told me and written about what we do because it’s hard for me to describe it,” Ron said. “People say it’s beyond a concert. People say that the word concert is too small to describe what they went to, and the word experience they feel this is a better word.”