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Photo: Chris Hutcheson


About Bassam Bishara:
Bassam Bishara was born in the village of Rama in Upper Galilee, Israel in 1954. He started his music education at the Robin conservatory in Haifa, and graduated from the music department of the Hebrew University. Bassam, taught Middle Eastern music at the Music Academy in Jerusalem, and has performed internationally as a soloist, blending tradition and innovation, and forging important musical links between the Middle East and the West, from traditional Arab compositions and arrangements to jazz, documentary films, and orchestral scores. Bassam has received several awards: the “Award of Honour” for his achievements in linking traditional Arabic music and the music of the West; the “Jerusalem Encouragement Award” for his contribution to the revival of cultural heritage; the “Israeli Radio Broadcast Award”; and the “Arab Women Association Award” (London, England) for his role in reconstructing classical and traditional Arabic repertoires. He has performed in England, Germany, Sweden, and at several universities in the United States. Bassam moved to Canada in 2001. He teaches Middle Eastern music at York University, and is Music director and composer for the Arabesque Dance and Music Academy.

About Wen Zhao:
Wen Zhao is an internationally acclaimed pipa virtuoso, a sensitive and lyrical performer. Born in Beijing, she began to study the pipa at the age of seven, eventually winning the first prize at Beijing Youth National Instrument Competition in 1985. After completing her university study with the renowned pipa master Wang Fan Di.  Wen continued her musical career in England, performing and teaching Chinese music throughout the U.K. Wen has been living in Toronto since 1997, and teaches pipa at both the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University in Toronto.  Wen has appeared at major ethnic music festivals worldwide; including those in China, Switzerland, the U.K., Canada, and the U.S.  These appearances deeply impressed the audience and were highly acclaimed by the media: BBC TV, CBC TV, CBC radio and OMNI TV have all broadcasted her solo performances.  The Toronto Star and several Chinese media groups have interviewed her to showcase her masterful pipa playing.  Beyond her work as a soloist, Zhao has collaborated with some of the world’s top Western ensembles, including Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Toronto Consort and the Accordes String Quartet. She is especially honoured to be one of the featured musicians for the CBC award-winning documentary film The Four Seasons Mosaic.

“Wen Zhao must be Jimi Hendrix of the Chinese Pipa” (The Wholenote)

“Wen Zhao, a virtuoso player who displayed her dexterity and percussive skills on Pipa.” (Toronto Star)

About Lucas Harris:

Lucas Harris studied the lute and basso continuo in Italy at the Civicascuola di musica di Milano (as a Marco Fodella Foundation scholar) and then in Germany at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen.  Based in Toronto since 2004, Lucas enjoys a very busy freelance career, adding plucked continuo to dozens of ensembles across Canada and the USA in addition to being the regular lutenist with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. He also makes time for special projects such as the solo recording, Baroque Lute Recital. Lucas is on faculty at the Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute as well as Oberlin Conservatory’s Baroque Performance Institute. He is founder and director of the Toronto Continuo Collective and also co-directs the community chamber music series Beaches Baroque with violinist Geneviève Gilardeau, with whom he has recently released the CD The Bach/Weiss Sonata.  He also plays with the new Vesuvius Ensemble, dedicated to folk music of southern Italy. He has been a guest music director for projects with the Ohio State University Opera program and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, and is currently a pursuing a Masters’ degree in choral conducting at the University of Toronto.  Lucas was praised for his work with Les voixhumaines in Montréal: “The revelation of the concert was the Torontonian lutenist Lucas Harris, who weaved a poetic thread through his infinitely subtle interventions.  The sweetness and patience of his playing ... was astonishing.”  (Le Devoir)

Lute Legends Ensemble


Flowing from the same source, what happened to the pipa, the lute and the oud at intersections along the silk road? Can they speak to each other today?

The Lute Legends Ensemble is a new collaboration between three of Toronto’s most noted performers and teachers of plucked-string instruments. Each represents one of three ancient musical traditions: European polyphony of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, virtuosic modal improvisation of the Middle East, and the exquisite musical depiction of nature from China. Although the lute, the oud, and the pipa are cousins with a common ancestor, each instrument evolved very different playing techniques and styles along different parts of the Silk Road centuries ago. This ensemble now puts them on the same stage in order to search out ways in which the three traditions can come together to create a new musical heritage.

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