Benefit concert for Syrian refugees begins on May 21st

MONTPELIER — A large-scale benefit concert to raise money to aid Syrian refugees will take place in Burlington on Saturday, May 21 at the First Congregational Church at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, May 22 at Montpelier High School Auditorium at 3 p.m.

Pianist Michael Arnowitt has created a special program entirely of Syrian music and literary readings of writings by Syrian authors.

Arnowitt is organizing a diverse group of 30 performers, featuring an ensemble of mixed Western and Middle Eastern instruments, vocal soloists, a choir, actors, and spoken word artists.

“I conceived of this event to send a positive message about Syrian culture as a personal response to the tragic news of recent time,” Arnowitt said. “I also view this project as a way of making a strong community statement that we welcome Syrian refugees to Vermont and would like to ease their pain.”

Arnowitt has brought together musicians from the classical, jazz, and world music communities in Vermont and Boston to perform the lively and rhythmic Syrian songs he has selected for the program.

The benefit concert will present a broad survey of Syrian cultures, with performances of Syrian popular and traditional music both secular and sacred, representing Islamic, Jewish, and Syriac Christian faiths.

Also on the program will be some fascinating and moving poems, drama excerpts, and prose pieces by Syrian writers past and present.

Special Syrian-born guest performers now living in the United States include the short-story writer Osama Alomar from Chicago, the poet Rana Bitar Jacob from Albany, and Anwar Diab Agha, a renowned Syrian violinist, oudist, and composer who moved to Winooski five years ago.

Another feature of the event is the 3-dimensional, art-in-a-suitcase of the Syrian architect and visual artist Mohamad Hafez of New Haven, Connecticut.

Hafez’s powerful, surrealistic Middle Eastern streetscapes are architectural in appearance and intriguingly depict cities besieged by war, the fragility of human life, and a beautiful, subtle optimism.

The benefit concerts are organized by the Vermont Fund for Syrian Refugees, a non-profit volunteer community group devoted to helping Vermonters aid Syrian refugees both abroad and those who will be resettled in Vermont in the future.

Portions of the proceeds of the May benefit concerts will go to the US-based Karam Foundation delivering humanitarian aid to 60,000 Syrian refugees in Reyhanli, Turkey one mile from the Syrian border, and to the USCRI/Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program for their work in helping Syrian refugees to be resettled in Rutland in the fall.

No tickets are necessary for the benefit concert and donations of any amount will be accepted at the door.

For more information, call (802) 229-0984, e-mail, or go to

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