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A Line or Two: Embracing the Beloved

There's going to be a concert next week that you might want to point to the next time coast-dwelling friends express doubt about the cultural richness of flyover land.

Three local master musicians—one representing Iranian traditional music, one a veteran exponent of Sephardic Jewish song, and one whose musical background is in the rich soil of South India—are going to lead ensembles performing traditional and brand-new sacred music in the glorious Hindu Temple of Minnesota in Maple Grove.
"Embracing the Beloved" on April 20 will bring together Maryam Yusufzadeh and her group Robayat; Voices of Sepharad and their leader David Jordan Harris, and an Indian music ensemble led by Nirmala Rajasekar in a program organized—poetically—around the progress of the sun through the sky. "Starting from the anticipation of dawn and new beginnings," says the show's publicity, "it moves into the heat of the day with afternoon study and storytelling, then to music of the night and the heart, and finally to gratitude."
These three great traditions—mystical Islamic, Spanish Jewish, and Hindu—are all known for their white-hot religious passion and their passion for expressing it musically. In fact, as the concert's title suggests, in all three, erotic love and love of God are so hard to tell apart that they illuminate one another. In the setting of our state's grandest Hindu temple, begun in 2003, vandalized in 2006 before it was completed, and now both restored and finished, the music should take on enough power to levitate the audience.

World Music Heavyweights

The musicians have impeccable pedigrees. Harris is co-founder and artistic director of Voices of Sepharad and executive director of Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council. A composer and playwright, he has studied and performed Sephardic music throughout the world. Vocalist and veena master Rajasekar, artistic director at the Naadha Rasa Center of Music in Plymouth, teaches Carnatic (South Indian) music and has performed globally too, with musicians from western classical, Chinese, Indonesian gamelan, and jazz traditions. Singer and percussionist Yusefzadeh is a co-founder and performer with the world music quartet Robayat. She is involved with Iranian, classical, jazz, and world music as a vocalist, arranger, composer, player and educator.

They'll be joined by an impressive roster of other musicians, including percussionists Mick LaBriola, Sriram Natarajan, Balaji Chandran and Tim O’Keefe; violinist David Stenshoel; oud player David Burk; and a choir of Indian vocalists.

Oh—and though the Christian tradition won't be represented onstage, it's in on the act;  the concert, and two to follow in Minneapolis and Rochester, are cosponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, a project of the University of Saint Thomas and Saint John's University in Collegeville. The other sponsors are the Hindu Temple of Minnesota, Sabes Jewish Community Center, and the Harmony for Mayo Program.

Below are details on all three concerts; I intend to go to at least two of them.

"Embracing the Beloved"
 6 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Minnesota Hindu Temple, 10530 Troy Lane North, Maple Grove. Admission is $25 and includes a post-show vegetarian dinner. Tickets are available by calling the temple, (763) 425-9449.
 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Sabes Jewish Community Center, 4330 Cedar Lake Road S., Minneapolis. Admission is $15 and tickets are available by calling the center, (952) 381-3499.
12:10 p.m. Monday, May 13, as part of the Harmony for Mayo concert series in the Barbara Woodward Lips Atrium of the Charlton building at the Mayo Clinic, 200 First St. Southwest, Rochester. This concert is free and open to the public.

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