CR054-Cover-1024 The Girl From Aleppo

Cecilia McDowall: The Girl from Aleppo (CR054)

Review by Philip Greenfield, American Record Guide

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Convivium 54 – 19 minutes

The girl from Aleppo is Nujeen Mustafa, a physically handicapped Kurdish refugee of the Syria Civil War who was pushed in her wheelchair out of Syria into Turkey and across Eastern Europe to Germany. Now 21 and attending school there, she tells us that she escaped ISIS and cluster bombs only to be interrogated, fenced in, and reviled as yet another “threatening number” in the “ongoing nightmare” of Mid Eastern emigration to Western Europe. Well it goes without saying that Nujeen is not a threat, not a number, and decidedly not a nightmare. She is, instead, an enlightened soul who has shown eloquence and grace while teaching the world what it’s like to be young, stateless, powerless, and in the grip of cerebral palsy.

The brief 5 movement cantata by Cecilia McDowall tells the story using a text written by Christina Lamb, who chronicled the 3500 mile trek Nujeen made with her older sister, Nasrine who pushed the wheelchair much of the way. The music makes its point with intense ostinatos from the piano and pangs of guilt and grief from the violin. But it also sends a message of hope sung tenderly, child to child, by this wonderful choir.

That isn’t a typo up there in the heading: The Girl from Aleppo is only 19 minutes along. I suppose it would be easy to look away from such a short programme, even though I’ve seen it on sale for only $7. Frankly, though, I think we have done enough looking away lately, as individuals and a country. It might be a good time to pay attention, and this labor of love, faith, and moral urgency could help us do it.

Philip Greenfield, American Record Guide, September 2020

Further information

American Record Guide

American Record Guide

Founded in 1935, American Record Guide is America’s oldest classical music review magazine. In 1992 it absorbed the editorial side of Musical America, so it also covers important concerts, orchestras, and musicians on the American scene.

We cover only classical music. There are up to 500 reviews in every issue, written by a freelance staff of over 80 writers and music critics. Many issues have an “Overview”, an extensive survey of recordings of one composer or one area of the repertoire, such as “Guitar Music”. “Independence” is a guiding principle: in an industry dominated by advertising, ARG remains free of advertiser influence, which results in few ads and no puff pieces for record labels or artists.

Visit website: American Record Guide

Convivium Records

Convivium Records

Convivium Records (est. 2009) is committed to working with exceptional artists and composers to record and share their music. It recognises that a great recording project needs to establish a balance between artistic aspirations and commercial expectations. In addition to commercial releases, the label takes on private projects for schools, charities and other institutions.

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