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Three Poetic Traditions Inspire A Mideast Symphony

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Three Poetic Traditions Inspire A Mideast Symphony

Three Poetic Traditions Inspire A Mideast Symphony

Three Poetic Traditions Inspire A Mideast Symphony

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/146942603/147102057" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Mohammed Fairouz recently premiered his Symphony No. 3: Poems and Prayers, a choral symphony set to Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic texts. Samantha West/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Samantha West/Courtesy of the artist

Mohammed Fairouz recently premiered his Symphony No. 3: Poems and Prayers, a choral symphony set to Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic texts.

Samantha West/Courtesy of the artist

Hear The Music

Young New Yorkers' Chorus, Soloists and Ensemble 212 conducted by Yoon Jae Lee.

1st Movement: Kaddish

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2nd Movement: Lullaby

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For his third symphony, the 26-year-old American composer Mohammed Fairouz decided to incorporate text in three languages. Poems and Prayers, which had its debut Thursday in New York, features passages in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic.

The symphony was commissioned by Northeastern University, where Fairouz teaches. The idea was to write something exploring the conflicts in the Middle East, so for inspiration, Fairouz delved into the region's poetry — both ancient and modern.

"In reading the poetry, I started to develop an idea of synthesizing these poems, as well as some of the ancient liturgies of the Middle East, to form what the title of the symphony implies: poems and prayers," Fairouz says. "And the symphony is scored for chorus, orchestra, solo vocalists, solo instrumentalists — so there's a variety of ways in which these texts can be articulated."

NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Fairouz about assembling the symphony and the stories behind some of the movements.

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