In a year when tensions in the Middle East have literally exploded both here in the United States and in the troubled region itself, the USM Chorale and Orchestra are teaming up to present what may turn out to be one of the most relevant and timely convocation presentations this year. The groups will be performing “Vizamrun Shirin,” a piece composed by Music Professor Bruce Fithian that explores the spirit of the Jewish people in their emigration to Europe and their eventual return to a homeland in Israel.

The theme of the University’s convocation is “Diaspora: Meanings of Home.” The term “diaspora” refers generally to the flight of a people from its native land and specifically to Jewish people living outside of Israel. Fithian has composed a work in two parts expressing the despair, faith, desire, and ultimate elation of the Jewish people in their exile in and return from the diaspora.

Created in 1997, this piece marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of Israel and was composed specifically for the USM chorale and orchestra who debuted the work in 1998. In the span of a few short years, tension between Israelis and Palestinians has grown into more of an international issue, a fact that Fithian acknowledges and hopes to overcome.

“It should be noted that although this work depicts one people’s saga, I would hope that the message of tolerance and respect for every faith and heritage could one day become universally realized,” says Fithian in his program notes.

Conductor Robert Russell will lead the chorale and Robert Lehmann will lead the orchestra.

This will be Lehmann’s debut performance as conductor of the USM Orchestra, a position he took after Laurence Golan left the post last spring.

Lehmann is excited to be working at USM and on this collaborative work.

“I’m very happy to be here,” he says. “There’s an awful lot of talent here in the School of Music.”

The community can judge for itself in the South Portland High School Auditorium, 637 Highland Ave., South Portland on Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for the public and $3 for students, staff, and seniors. For more information, call 780-5555.

Arts & Entertainment Editor Meghan Conley can be contacted at: [email protected]

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