Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert

Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert
Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)
Short Url
Updated 23 January 2022

Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert

Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell dazzles in first Saudi concert
  • Ithra hosted violist Bell alongside pianist Alessio Bax for 2 nights of classical music
  • “Music can bring us all together,” Bell told the crowd

DHAHRAN: On a chilly Dhahran night, Joshua Bell’s violin serenaded a full audience at Ithra’s Theater. Although everyone was wearing a mask, you could see excitement in their eyes.

“When I was growing up, Saudi Arabia was a very exotic place that was far away, and now I am here. Music made this happen. Music can bring us all together,” Bell told the crowd.

On plush red chairs, with social distancing stickers urging people to skip a seat, time stood still. The auditorium filled with the reverberations of strings and keys as US Grammy-award winner Joshua Bell took to the violin, with Italian classical pianist Alessio Bax playing in unison.




Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)

The violin and piano were in equal partnership; with the gentle stroking of violin strings and graceful glide of the piano, it pulled at our heartstrings. We each had the luxury to create our own individual interpretation as we collectively sat down and let the two instruments take us on a journey. We let our minds wander and stumble, and falter with the rhythm. Unlike a movie, we did not need to follow a plot or read subtitles — the concert provided a full journey through Europe without saying a single word. The pace went from fast to faster to slower at the end, because not only were Bell’s hands tired by then, but it helped ease us back into the pace of the current world.

The night started with arguably the most famous composer, Mozart, and then went on to Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, one of the most prominent composers of the Romantic era. The sound was raw, passionate, and at times, sounded like the composer ripped his heart out with his bare hands. Bach, to me, was an unraveling love story. At one point, Bell took out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped beads of sweat, then continued with a calmness only found in still water. The violin seemed to weep then sigh as it told a story of love from the depths of despair and purest of joy. I would argue that the almost two hours of music took the audience on an emotional ride, swinging between youthful wonder and deep melancholy.

The energy was palpable.




Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)

Dhahran resident Faris Mahdi works in finance during the day but dabbles in art at night. He said that before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, he used to frequently travel to Europe to attend live opera and ballet, and was pleasantly surprised to see it offered in his own backyard.

“I’ve attended other concerts at Ithra, but this is so nice. I didn’t know Joshua Bell, but I saw a post on Instagram and did a search and decided, why not? This is the type of concert that I’d normally travel abroad for, but now I can take my own car and just come,” he told Arab News.

Mahdi was surprised to find such a good turnout at the concert. He said he understood if pop music brought in the crowds, but did not expect classical music to attract people.

“I like to listen to classical music. It seems that even the radio favors fast-paced music, but the ear sometimes needs to be cleansed with calm sounds. I prefer to listen to something gentle and, let’s say, elevated. Tonight’s event might open up people’s horizons and allow the audience to seek a different flavor of sound. I was honestly very surprised to see such a big audience tonight,” he said.

The tiny booklets marking the program were in such high demand — and will likely become valuable keepsakes from the two-day event — that only a handful of audience members got to take one home on closing night.




Joshua Bell’s violin serenades the audience at Ithra’s Theater. (Yasir Alqunais)

In that program guide, Majed Z. Samman, head of performing arts and cinema at Ithra, wrote: “As part of our commitment to cross-culture exchange, we are privileged to be able to present some of the world’s most acclaimed artists to perform live here in Saudi Arabia. On this occasion, we are proud to present our audience with an unforgettable musical performance by world renowned violinist, Joshua Bell.”

Lamees Saad Almesfer, a 17-year-old high school senior, decided to take a chance and attend the concert. “None of my sisters or brothers really appreciate classical music, so I decided to come alone,” she told Arab News.

“I tried to make a story out of the music while it was playing. The first piece that he played, Mozart’s sonata for violin and piano No. 32 in B-flat major, was like the piano and the violin were speaking with each other — like a conversation. He was just repeating whatever the violin was saying. Music is like this; it’s words conveyed in a way that is nonverbal,” Almesfer said.

While many famous pieces were played, some were lesser known to Almesfer, and she appreciated all of the hard work, dedication, and practice it took for the music to sound so crisp and clear.

“Two chords can make 64 moods. The minute Joshua Bell walked in, my eyes started to cry — but I held it together. Each composer has a piece of their soul in the pieces, and we got to listen. It was just mind blowing because I never expected this world-renowned violinist to just be here in Saudi Arabia. I’m in shock,” she said.


Saudis are natural-born storytellers, says Saudi Film Commission CEO

Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf held several discussions with international industry professionals. (Supplied)
Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf held several discussions with international industry professionals. (Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2022

Saudis are natural-born storytellers, says Saudi Film Commission CEO

Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf held several discussions with international industry professionals. (Supplied)
  • Abdullah Al-Eyaf discusses the importance of Saudi talent during the 75th Cannes Film Festival

CANNES: Abdullah Al-Eyaf, the CEO of the Saudi Film Commission, aims to drive the Saudi film industry by fostering an environment for young Saudi filmmakers to develop their passions and talents.

During a panel discussion hosted on Sunday in the March du Film pavilion in Cannes, Al-Eyaf expressed his vision for Saudi youth filmmakers and the important role they play in the industry.

“We in the commission strongly believe in the filmmakers in Saudi, actually they are the reason behind all that we do,” Al-Eyaf said.

The Kingdom’s film industry is bursting with talent and passion from Saudi filmmakers, writers, and artisans. What is needed now is the strong support from an entity to facilitate that growth. This is where the Saudi Film Commission plans to come into play.

The Saudi Film Commission, under the Ministry of Culture, has conducted numerous outreach and education programs to help Saudi filmmakers in the industry through masterclasses, workshops and training.

According to the CEO, Saudis play a pivotal role in the industry’s growth on a global and local level.

“These young filmmakers started before the commission was established and they will continue with or without the film commission that’s why we think the industry will not be built in Saudi without these filmmakers,” Al-Eyaf said.

HIGHLIGHT

With many blockbusters films showing an interest in shooting in the Kingdom, doors are opening for Saudi production teams, special effects artists, actors and many more talents to contribute to the industry.

Therefore the commission is striving to establish a wider creative opportunity for Saudi talent through partnerships and representation in global film festivals such as the Cannes festival.

Through the organizations and initiatives of the Saudi Film Commission, the Saudi presence during the Cannes Film Festival has only grown stronger since the 74th Cannes film festival held in 2021.

It is known that Saudi Arabia has a wealth of locations through its 13 diverse provinces. During the initial days of the festival, this is what attracted many producers and filmmakers to the Saudi pavilion to learn more.

With many blockbusters films showing an interest in shooting in the Kingdom, doors are opening for Saudi production teams, special effects artists, actors and many more talents to contribute to the industry.

Al-Eyaf said that Saudis are natural-born storytellers; what is needed now is to support and empower them throughout the film sector.

“We really appreciate what they are doing and our only role is to support them and to have Saudi Arabia as a friendly environment for filmmakers to create their films and tell their stories to the world and to Saudi,” Al-Eyaf said.

The Saudi Film Commission aims to expand and strengthen the Saudi film industry on a local and global level through partnerships, investment and educational empowerment.

During the 75th Cannes Film Festival, the Saudi pavilion welcomed some of the biggest global names in the film industry — producers, directors and actors — to partner on Saudi film projects.

The commission’s role isn’t only to support Saudi talents but it’s also to foster a community where directors explore collaborative initiatives from filming in Saudi to creating films with some of the many Saudi talents in the sector.

In January the commission launched the third phase of the “Film Makers” program that took students through sets of comprehensive training workshops that were spread throughout the Kingdom.

“We have already contacted hundreds (of Saudi filmmakers) via either training programs, grants or the fund that we launched a couple of years ago,” the CEO said.

The commission has developed an incentive package for local and international filmmakers to establish the Kingdom as a global hub for film, creative production and industry talent.


People vaccinated against smallpox likely safe from monkeypox, says specialist‏‏

People vaccinated against smallpox likely safe from monkeypox, says specialist‏‏
Updated 54 min 11 sec ago

People vaccinated against smallpox likely safe from monkeypox, says specialist‏‏

People vaccinated against smallpox likely safe from monkeypox, says specialist‏‏
  • Saudi Ministry of Health has also confirmed that no cases of monkeypox have been detected in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: People who have received a vaccination against smallpox are “highly likely” to be safe from getting infected with monkeypox, a Saudi health specialist has said.

Dr. Nizar Bahabri, an infectious disease consultant, said in a video on his Twitter account, that the disease has been a well-known virus since 1950 and added the first case outside Africa was registered in 1970.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has also confirmed that no cases of monkeypox have been detected in the Kingdom, following reports that it has recently begun to appear in some European and North American countries.

“Since the disease is caused by a virus, no antibiotic can be used to cure the disease, some viruses and bacteria can be transmitted through air,” Bahabri said.

He also said that monkeypox is like smallpox in that it can be transmitted via droplets.

“It is difficult that one can get infected if they are two meters away from an infected person. Monkeypox can even only be transmitted from a shorter distance,” he said.

Cases being recorded in Europe are due to parties where people gather close to other infected people, he added.

“Those who have been vaccinated against smallpox are not likely to get infected by monkeypox, and here lies the importance of taking the vaccine,” Bahabri said.

The consultant pointed out that some people in Europe refused in the past to give anti-smallpox vaccines to their children, which has caused the virus to attack again.

Bahabri said that symptoms of monkeypox normally appear 12 days after coming into contact with an infected person. He added that an infected person normally recovers without any medication.

“Five percent of infected people get complications, while less than three percent die of the disease,” he said. “However, no deaths were reported in the countries with advanced health systems, with most of the deaths in Africa.”

The health ministry added in a post on Twitter that the disease can be transmitted by direct contact with blood or mucous of an infected animal.

It added that it can also be transmitted in humans through droplets, touching the blisters on an infected person’s skin or a hand touching contaminated surfaces.

The health ministry noted that the virus has an incubation period of 7-14 days, and that cannot extend to 21 days.

As for the symptoms, the ministry included high temperature, backache, skin rashes, lymphadenopathy, fatigue and muscle pain.

The ministry recommended people to avoid getting in contact with infected people, wearing gloves and face masks when close to patients, washing hands regularly and avoiding touching infected animals.


Saudi Arabia re-elected president of ALECSO’s executive council

Saudi Arabia re-elected president of ALECSO’s executive council. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia re-elected president of ALECSO’s executive council. (SPA)
Updated 23 May 2022

Saudi Arabia re-elected president of ALECSO’s executive council

Saudi Arabia re-elected president of ALECSO’s executive council. (SPA)
  • Members agreed on importance of maintaining council’s new and advanced vision

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been unanimously re-elected to chair the executive council of the Tunis-based Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization until 2024.

The decision was made by members of ALECSO’s executive council after the 26th session of the general conference, which concluded its activities on Saturday.

Council members expressed their appreciation for the positive results achieved and the complementary work of the executive council during the past 10 months.

They unanimously agreed on the importance of maintaining the council’s new and advanced vision and reiterated that the accomplishments represented an important shift in the council's history toward strengthening its role in supporting the organization and its programs to serve its orientation in the Arab world, as it had worked on several initiatives that strengthened joint Arab action.

The decision to re-elect the Kingdom came after the appreciation of the general conference for the efforts made by the executive council under the Kingdom’s stewardship, which executed its tasks according to a clear methodology and spirit based on integrated work between the executive board and administration of ALECSO.

The Arab ministers praised the initiative of the Saudi representative and chairman of ALECSO's executive council, Hani Al-Moqbil, to develop the council’s road map, which was put together with a transparent methodology based on the involvement of countries in building a common Arab vision to support and enable the organization to achieve its goals.

Al-Moqbil extended his appreciation to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their constant support, empowerment, and care, which was reflected in the Saudi role and its presidency of the executive council to contribute to a beneficial impact and supportive action for the development of ALECSO.

He also thanked Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, who is also the chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture, and Science, for his support, guidance, supervision, and harnessing of capabilities which gave direct and significant support throughout the Saudi presidency which helped it in serving its goals with all Arab countries.

Al-Moqbil also thanked the Arab countries and members of the ALECSO executive council for their re-election of the Kingdom and for renewing their confidence in the results that had been achieved during the past 10 months.

He added that this could only have been achieved through the spirit of teamwork and keenness to develop the organization's activities and constructive participation in adopting decisions and organizing tracks of action to reach the best possible results to contribute to achieving the goals of the organization, and to promote building dialogue and cooperation thus serving the organization’s joint work among the countries.

Al-Moqbil said: “Saudi Arabia, in its presidency of the executive council, worked to oversee the interests of the countries by listening to their proposals, observations, and visions to ensure that they are reflected on the ground and implemented in stages. The countries will work with greater effort and higher interest in taking care of the organization's interests."


New Saudi academy to train nationals in military sector

New Saudi academy to train nationals in military sector. (SPA)
New Saudi academy to train nationals in military sector. (SPA)
Updated 23 May 2022

New Saudi academy to train nationals in military sector

New Saudi academy to train nationals in military sector. (SPA)
  • Al-Ohali said the authority was committed to supporting national personnel and that the Kingdom’s military industries sector had witnessed qualitative leaps during the past five years

RIYADH: Saudi nationals are to be trained to work in the military and defense industries sector following an announcement from the General Authority for Military Industries to establish a new academy.

GAMI Gov. Ahmed Al-Ohali said it was an extension of the military industry sector’s strategy that was approved by the Cabinet in April last year.

The National Academy of Military Industries would be the largest supporter of the sector’s strategy of backing the country’s human resources, he added.

The launch ceremony was held at the academy’s headquarters in Riyadh and attended by more than 35 local and international companies and government institutions. The academy's board of directors was formed at the event and the establishment license was handed over to the academy's chairman Walid Abu Khalid and other founding partners.

Al-Ohali said the authority was committed to supporting national personnel and that the Kingdom's military industries sector had witnessed qualitative leaps during the past five years.

He praised the special care, interest, and support that the military and defense industries sector received from the government of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to embody the ambitious vision toward enhancing the strategic independence of Saudi Arabia and building a local and sustainable military industries sector.

The Saudi Arabian Military Industries CEO and academy chairman Abu Khalid said the new institution was considered a strategic tool to ensure the success of the supply chain project in the military industries sector through developing and refining people's knowledge and capabilities in specialist technological, engineering, and scientific fields and specialists concerned with the military, defense, and security industries.

He stressed that developing, rehabilitating, and enabling national personnel, creating innovative and new industries and technologies, enhancing the strategic independence of Saudi Arabia, and seeking to localize this promising sector were all considered strategic goals that supported realizing the sector’s targets of localizing more than 50 percent of military expenditure by 2030.


Saudi minister hails KSA’s work in field of education 

Saudi minister hails KSA’s work in field of education. (SPA)
Saudi minister hails KSA’s work in field of education. (SPA)
Updated 22 May 2022

Saudi minister hails KSA’s work in field of education 

Saudi minister hails KSA’s work in field of education. (SPA)
  • Speaking at the conference Al-Sudairi praised ALECSO’s remarkable achievements in joint cooperation with member states, as well as the Kingdom’s adoption of many constructive programs

TUNIS: Saudi Deputy Minister of Education for Universities, Research and Innovation Mohammed Al-Sudairi headed the Kingdom’s delegation to the 26th session of the general conference of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization and the meeting of its executive council at its 117th session in Tunis.

Speaking at the conference Al-Sudairi praised ALECSO’s remarkable achievements in joint cooperation with member states, as well as the Kingdom’s adoption of many constructive programs and initiatives with regional and international organizations that serve its Vision 2030.

He also hailed the Kingdom’s achievements in the field of education, culture, science and intelligence, most notably its first position in the Arab world in patents, with the registration of 1,871 international patents, and its second place in terms of quality of education for 2021.

Al-Sudairi also talked about 22 awards it had won in the International Science and Engineering Fair 2022, as well as the award for the best researcher and project scientist at a global level, noting that the Kingdom supports national, regional and international visions to develop innovative cultural policies.

He said that the Kingdom launched an interactive laboratory for cultural policies, as well as a cultural scholarship program and development fund to enable young people to join the creative field.

The deputy minister said that the Kingdom gave $30 million to the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, in addition to launching an environment hackathon to support the objectives of the “Saudi Green Initiative” and to enhance the Kingdom’s digital role globally through a set of studies related to artificial intelligence.