Yesterday was the first time our family attended a Memorial Art Gallery Family Day. Because of another commitment, we arrived halfway through Memorial Art Gallery’s celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year program. The auditorium was packed, but we were fortunate to find seats just before intermission began.
The second half opened with a short illustrated presentation by Shahin Monshipour discussing the Bowl with Mounted Horsemen, on loan to the museum from the Buffalo Museum of Science. In Persian culture, the Horseman is the harbinger of spring and a symbol of Persian New Year. While doing research, Dr. Monshipour discovered that during certain periods, the figures portrayed on horseback were actually women due to their horseback riding prowess. It turns out that halos around the heads of the musicians and the central figure signify that the central figure on the bowl is actually a prince.
You know how exciting it is to see a live performance by someone whose work you’ve long admired? I had that thrill when Omar Farouk Tekbilek and his son Murat took the stage. I’d long ago become a fan with the release of Beyond the Sky by Brian Keane and Tekbilek senior. The performance did not disappoint. This first number showed Omar’s virtuosity on the ney, a Middle Easter woodwind instrument, as he coaxed alternately lilting then keening notes from his instrument as son Murat set up masterfully syncopated patterns on his darbuka. Anyone who loves the sound of the Middle Eastern oud would have delighted in the second piece as father and son dazzled the audience with a resplendent number calling up images of the silk road. Their final piece, which provided an interlude in which the dancers changed costumes, was a percussion duet with father on dumbeg and a drum I’m not familiar with and son on dumbeg and darbuka. The complex musical conversation that took place on stage was an event to behold.
We were also treated to an assortment of traditional and folkloric Iranian and Persian dances by the Montreal-based Khorsheed Khanoom Dance, Company, founded by Ms. Aram Bayat. Ms. Bayat, a choreagrapher and teacher, formed her troupe in 1988. After the 1979 revolution that created the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, she went into exile to avoid imprisonment or execution after dance was prohibited in the radically-fundamentalist country. Thanks to her remarkable courage and commitment to conserve and teach, we were able to witness the beautiful, exciting and richly-textured dances that once formed the foundation of Iranian and Persian culture.
After the performance, we adjourned to the central courtyard that was decorated beautifully with Persian carpets, flowers, candles, fruit and other Middle Eastern décor and symbols of the Persian New Year. Although another short performance by a musician and the dancers was scheduled to take place, we had to leave, but not before we stopped to purchase a taste of the yummy assorted Persian cookies.
The Memorial Art Gallery’s Family Days are free events, open to the public and present wonderful and fun opportunities to introduce the entire family to the heritage of other cultures. Upcoming Family Days include:
Asian Pacific American Heritage Family Day on Sunday, May 6, 2012 from 12 Noon to 5 PM
- Hispanic/Latino Heritage Family Day on Sunday, October 7, 2012 from 12 Noon to 5 PM
- Native American Culture Family Day on Sunday, December 2, 2012 from 12 Noon to 5 PM
- Kwanzaa Celebration on Thursday, December 27, 2012 from 4 PM to 9 pm
The Memorial Art Gallery is located at 500 University Avenue in Rochester and is open Wednesday-Sunday 11 AM–5 PM and Thursday 11 AM–9 PM, Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and major holidays. Normally, admission is $12; senior citizens $8; college students with ID and children 6–18 $5. Half-price general admission Thursdays 5 to 9 pm. Free to members, University of Rochester students, and children 5 and under.