The University of Texas Middle Eastern Ensemble “Bereket” is a group comprised of UT students, faculty, staff and community members. “Bereket” is a word with cognates in Turkish, Arabic and Persian that translates as “abundance”, “fruitfulness”, and “divine gift”. About half of our members are from the Middle East, and all are interested in learning about the culture, history, religions and languages from these areas. The ensemble has several goals: to gain experiential understanding of the music and cultures of the Near, Middle East, North Africa, and former Ottoman territories; to foster community outreach; to work with UT language and other classes; and to create a sense of community around musical performance. Ensemble members learn to play basic melodic and rhythmic modes; to structure free-meter improvisations and semi-improvised heterophonic styles; vocal and instrumental compositions; how to organize repertoire into suite-like performance formats such as fasil, waslah and nawba. Members meet once a week for general rehearsals with occasional sectionals and/or individual coaching.
The ensemble’s repertoire includes music from the Near East, the Middle East, Southeastern Europe, and North Africa. Each semester we focus on a particular era, area or topic. Themes have included: “Music of the Turkish Ottoman Court and Urban Traditions” (Fall 2006); “Music of Minorities” (Fall 2007); “Western Orientalisms and Eastern Occidentalisms” in conjunction with the Early Music Ensemble (Spring 2008); Music of Arab lands (Fall 2008). Additionally, the ensemble invites Middle Eastern and Southeastern European language students to sing with us. In the past we have collaborated with Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Farsi/Persian language classes. The ensemble members have also learned songs in Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Hebrew, Armenian, Bosnian, Kurdish, and Turkmen languages.
Rehearsals begin with separate percussion sectionals in MRH 6.252, and melodic warm-ups in call-and-response format for melody instruments in MRH 2.614. Both groups join together for full rehearsal until 10:00 pm. Additionally, we will schedule shorter sectional rehearsals for those working on solos or improvisations.
How to join
There are no auditions, and the ensemble welcomes all levels from beginner to advanced. Reading notation is not required. However, sheet music transcriptions and recordings of the semester’s repertoire are provided in the course packet. Ensemble members are encouraged to bring in songs representing their own backgrounds, interests, and research as they pertain to that semester’s theme.