The week began with a reception held at the house of the president of Valley City State University. We were treated to a home cooked early Easter dinner, served on fine porcelain dishes with real silverware.
The last concert was at the Health Activity Center of Valley City High school. After the concert, Wes Anderson from the Bridges Arts Council received this email from one of the audience members.
“Thank you and the Bridges Arts Council for the exquisite music last evening. They were amazing.
One morning at breakfast at our hotel, Wes Anderson, curator at the Barnes County Historical Museum, mentioned that a local Jewish immigrant had once tried to create a New Israel in North Dakota. Believing few Jews live in the region, I found Anderson’s comment intriguing.
“Would you like a Greek party? … a Balkan party? … a Middle Eastern party?”
Midwestern children at the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s workshops shout “yes” as Sefi Asfuri Hirsh picks up his bouzouki with intricate mother of pearl inlay for Greek sounding music and Talya Solan sings Hebrew lyrics.
When I heard a Jefferson school third grader listening to the ensemble’s sound check say their music sounded both Egyptian and Indian, I knew the last workshop of the tour was going to be good. The kids were primed for it and so was the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble. The only thing left on the ensemble’s itinerary were two classroom conversations at Valley City State University, a short musical presentation at the Sheyenne Care Center on Friday, and their final concert on Saturday, Nov. 13.
We drove nearly an hour over straight prairie roads to give workshops to high 70 high schoolers in the small town of Marion and later to about the same number of elementary students at Litchville Elementary. This small North Dakotan school district with dwindling enrollment draws students from a 400-square-mile area.
Appreciative high schoolers were shy about asking questions but as soon as the workshop ended, they told their choir teacher they’d like to get a bus for Saturday because so many of them want to go to the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s concert at Valley City State University.
Valley City students filling the auditorium twice Monday morning asked the same well-worn questions the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble has heard for the past month: How long have you played? When did you form the band? What is the most difficult instrument to play?
But things got interesting after Yonnie Dror turned the tables on them in the band class that followed lunch.