Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dramaturgy for Aleppo: David Cazalet @ Edfringe 2017

Pleasance at EICC, Venue 150
Wednesday 16th August

Aleppo is no longer - all that is left are its stories”
Anonymous, Citizen of Aleppo

  • Following a sold-out evening at Sadler’s Wells in April, this very special, one-off event REQUIEM FOR ALEPPO takes place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 16 August as part of the Pleasance’s Fringe programme.
  • Conceived by composer David Cazalet with choreography by Jason Mabana, REQUIEM FOR ALEPPO aims to raise awareness of the Syrian humanitarian crisis and funds to combat it.
  • All proceeds from ticket sales go to the charity Syria Relief.

Following a sold-out world premiere of Requiem for Aleppo at Sadler’s Wells in April, this very special event takes place in Edinburgh on 16th August as part of the Pleasance’s programme for Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017.
In response to the human tragedy of Aleppo composer David Cazalet has written Requiem for Aleppo, a personal lament in music which fuses Christian liturgy with early Arabic poetry, mixing the beautiful voices of Juliana Yazbeck and Abdul Salam Kheir with more formal choral composition and counterpoint.

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

The despair of the people of Aleppo. The sheer inability of being able to sit in front of the TV each night to watch the horror of the war. In the middle of last year I decided to go to bed early each night, wake at 4 am and write a requiem piece combing the lyrics of the Requiem mass as used by Mozart, Verdi etc., interweaving into it 12 century Arabic poetry – also setting this to music, leaving space throughout for contemporary voices to speak about their lives so that they might be heard. From a musical perspective I wanted to honour the rich musical heritage of Aleppo. I then thought dance would be a good way to bring this together as a performance piece as the abstractness of contemporary dance would be the best medium to get to a universal message beyond the politics.

My inspiration continues as, following its premiere at Sadler’s Wells in April, it will tour the Middle East and beyond, continuing to raise awareness and money.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Yes – if it has integrity and passion it is the best space for the public discussion of ideas. And this matters more than ever now in an increasingly fragmenting world. This is what Art is for.

How did you go about gathering the team for it? 

I found all the musicians/singers through different networks in London. When Jason Mabana put his name to the dance element we put out a call for auditions across many different dance sites. We had responses from over 600 dancers from all over the world. After many auditions convened at the Rambert School of Dance we chose 12.

How did you become interested in making performance? 

Because, as suggested above, performance is probably the best space for the public discussion of ideas. And the content and intent of this piece is specifically geared to this.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

To find people whose passion and integrity shine through in every part of the show, to make it all and iterative process, to ensure that the environment is right for experimentation. To ensure that whatever is portrayed, sung, played is done with utmost respect and reverence for the subject matter.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

This is my first such production. As an artist I am a singer songwriter who sings under a different name.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Empathy, compassion for the people of Syria, and understanding that behind the catch-all word ‘refugee’ there is a person, a sense of the futility of war, an understanding of the fragility of life, a momentary unity through art to the lives lost, a realisation that those who lost their lives were just like you and me – with the same aspirations and loves, a sense that the loss of  Aleppo, a place of great history, tolerance and sophistication, is humanity’s loss.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

To be truthful, to allow for the live spoken testament to carry much of the non-abstract impact, to create big and then intimate pieces of music to move people, to allow for the right light changes to create different moods and most important, to allow freedom for the choreography to explore as best it can the subject matter.

Choreographer Jason Mabana has set the 'big, evocative score' (The Times) to dance, bringing together a ‘crack team of international dancers’ (The Stage) to emphasise the truly international element of this piece. The result is a uniquely moving performance interwoven with powerful real life testimony of former residents of Aleppo. Following the sell-out world premiere of Requiem for Aleppo at Sadler's Wells last April, this powerful collaboration between musicians, dancers and those affected by war is already creating waves and is coming to Edinburgh on 16th August before a planned international tour. Now is the chance to see this exceptional collaboration, a collective expression of solidarity with the people of Syria, and a way of donating money to those suffering in Syria as all profits from ticket sales go to the internationally renowned charity Syria Relief.

Fringe audiences will see a slightly reworked version of Requiem for Aleppo with a couple new pieces added to the show.

Anthony Alderson, Pleasance Director said: “In the year of 70th anniversary of Edinburgh’s Festivals, festivals created to reunite Europe and the world through art and creativity following war, this piece is not only an expression of our unity and support for the people of Aleppo in a period of conflict but also a poignant reminder of why our festivals were founded and what they celebrate.” 

The work brings together 12 dancers from across the world. Cazalet’s original music is a combination of Requiem Mass lyrics set to choral music, linked by Arabic poetry from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, also set to music, and interwoven throughout with the voices of people from Aleppo telling their real-life stories - stories gathered from recent interviews and which have fed into the development of the work.

Syria Relief is the largest Syria focused charity registered in the UK. With a solid network of committed management and logistics staff on the ground inside Syria, Syria Relief operate in some of the most hard to reach areas of Syria, including besieged areas.

With this level of expertise on the ground, Syria Relief implements humanitarian projects inside Syria in a number of different sectors from education, healthcare, livelihood, protection to food security and sponsoring orphans in the most desperate areas. Syria Relief is directly supporting civilians and displaced communities while providing the tools and training to help them become self-sufficient in their altered circumstances. Since their work started in 2011, they have touched the lives of 2 million people distributing more than 75 million dollars worth of aid.

Composer David Cazalet said: “I want Requiem for Aleppo to be a reminder, now and ongoing, of the suffering of a people and what the world has lost. It is an appeal to our common humanity - an expression of grief articulated in movement, song and design. It is a refusal to pay silent witness to a humanitarian crisis". Requiem for Aleppo is written in memoriam for the lives that have been lost, destroyed, dislocated and displaced, it is a lament for the destruction of a city of great sophistication, history and tolerance whose loss is humanity’s loss.”

Further info on creative team can be found at

"Requiem for Aleppo is more powerful than the biggest bomb" - Dr Elie Elhadj, former resident of Aleppo
"Requiem for Aleppo is a brilliant act of love, remembrance and empathy... a celebration of our common humanity, values and hope." Fardous Bahbouh, Journalist & Oscar-winning documentary translator

Venue: Pleasance at EICC, Lennox Theatre

Edinburgh International Conference Centre

The Exchange Edinburgh, 150 Morrison St, Edinburgh EH3 8EE

Date: Wednesday August 16th at 7:30pm

Tickets: £15 Standard


Pleasance Ticket Office: 0131 556 6550

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