Last Sunday, Sadler’s Wells presented a fascinating evening of music, dance, poetry and testimonies dedicated to Aleppo. Requiem for Aleppo is a great show that brought Londoners and Syrians together with a global audience who watched it live online all over the world. All joined in solidarity to express their love, nostalgia, anguish, sorrow, hope and admiration for Aleppo. It is also a fundraiser for two charities, Syria Relief and Techfugees, for their educational projects inside Syria.
Inspired by the tragic events unfolding in Aleppo, the creator David Cazalet decided to compose the requiem to be “an act of remembrance created by the coming together of many nationalities, a means by which to reflect on the plight on an ancient city with thousands of year of history where people of different religion and ethnicities lived, by and large, in harmony – a place of culture, faith and tolerance, rich in diverse tradition.” He also hopes the Requiem for Aleppo will be “a reminder to those of us who feel we live in a similarly sophisticate society that we witnessed in a very short space of time, the utter and brutal destruction of what Aleppo and its people have built over thousands of years and we saw the death, despair, and scattering of its people, yet despite our horror we were able to do nothing” as he wrote in the programme descriptions.
This show is a powerful reminder that art is a great tool to express ourselves, to cope with tragedies, to reflect on events around us, and also to change them. It also inspire us to do something to make a difference in the world, no matter how small or simple our contribution might be.
Personally, I was humbled to be invited to share my testimony about Aleppo, the extraordinary beautiful city that I love. I want to remind the world about the Syrian dream of freedom and democracy. I also want to highlight the great solidarity I have witnessed from people everywhere as I said in my testimony: “It really touches my heart when I see people standing in solidarity with Syrians, when I see people welcoming refugees, doing all they can to help… but at the same time I question everything I knew about international law, about the UN, about Peace, and about negotiation. How did the world let something like this happen? Why? Can we still talk about shared humanity and universal human rights, about justice? We all want an ethical and durable solution. We want to bring these criminals to justice and we Syrians will go back to build our country.”
During the show, it was emotive to hear Arabic poetry and music combined with Requiem Mass music, and to see fascinating performance by dancers from different nationalities: Italy, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea, Portugal, the Netherlands, France, Canada and the UK. I was delighted when I heard the Arabic chant “One One one, the Syrian people is one people” which is a very common chant during the peaceful demonstrations of the Syrian revolution.
My friend Sarah El Hadj, who also attended the show, told me “Requiem for Aleppo is proof that during a dark hour in our world, creativity is a powerful healing tool. Not losing hope and showing solidarity in humanity, not just a war-torn city’s people, is a message I drew from the exhilarating performance through the sound, movement, and lighting. It was an invaluable reminder that artistic expression transcends all of our differences and reiterates that we are all moved by emotive music and movement, and by words that are impossible to ignore and easily relatable. The most poignant part of the performance for me was hearing the testimonies from Aleppians that accompanied the beautiful scores, my father being one of them. I am proud to be a descendant of tolerance and antiquity, as he beautifully described the city.”
All in all, Requiem for Aleppo is a brilliant act of love, remembrance and empathy. It is a passionate expression of grief and a commemoration of lost lives. It is also a celebration of our common humanity, shared values and hope.