Cross-Disciplinary and Multicultural Perspective on Musical Rhythm

NYU Madrigal Singers and Jazz Choir Visit the UAE

The first group of NYU New York students to travel to Abu Dhabi this year, the members of the NYU Madrigal Singers and Jazz Choir touched down earlier this month to give a series of performances. Initially invited to the UAE by United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) associate professor James Mirrione, the ensembles performed in Al Ain, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi, presenting concerts at UAEU and the Bawadi Mall in Al Ain, the American University at Sharjah, and at NYUAD. The purpose? "So that Mirrione's students — both women and men on separate campuses — could be exposed to different genres of choral singing," said Nancy Shankman, adjunct assistant professor and graduate adviser in the Music Education Program at NYU Steinhardt.

With the goal of "sharing our voices and music with students from other cultures," explained Shankman, the Madrigal Singers performed eight songs in five languages, including traditional madrigals (secular songs from the renaissance) and current selections such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," while the Jazz Choir sang seven songs, among which were "Penny Lane" and "Pass Me the Jazz."

Although the ensembles kept busy during their visit with a total of nine performances, there was plenty of opportunity for sightseeing and exploring the emirates. "I loved visiting the UAE," said Karen Chalif, a junior in Music Education at Steinhardt and a member of the Jazz Choir. "Clearly, it has some amazing sites, such as the Grand Mosque and the Burj Khalifa, but the biggest thing I will take away from this trip is the understanding of Arab culture that I now possess."

For Marie Ortinau, a senior in Music Education at Steinhardt and a member of the Madrigal Singers who "had been looking forward to seeing NYU Abu Dhabi since the first rumors of our trip to the UAE," the visit offered a glimpse of Abu Dhabi in contrast with its neighbor of Al Ain. "After days of traveling around the perceptibly more traditional city of Al Ain, Abu Dhabi felt very different, and very exciting! The energy, prowess, and attitude of the city was invigorating in the way that only such a visionary young country could display," said Ortinau. "Seeing the individual students at NYUAD in this forward-thinking environment helps me to see a wealth of possibilities and opportunities for anyone daring enough to take on this adventure."

"Meeting students at all three campuses who come from different cultures and backgrounds was an amazing and inspiring experience," said Shankman. "Students are the same the world over — eager to share their worlds with one another and develop new and lasting friendships."