Well Done, Divas, Thank You, Sultans 

On December 4th 2014, in a room packed with smiles, cheers, and good food, award-winning actor Zaib Shaikh MC’d the Canadian Arab Institute gala reception. The reception was to be followed by the long-awaited concert, no less cheerful, and no less intimate, inside the Koerner Hall.
In his opening note, Shaikh welcomed all guests but especially Toronto mayor John Tory and the two honorary gala chairs, the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson and Mrs. Najla Al Zaibak.
Shaikh also congratulated the Canadian Arab Institute for making its mark on the Canadian landscape in such a short time. In two years, CAI has managed to organize conferences, lectures and galas; publish research reports, policy documents and public commentaries.
In two years, he remarked, CAI has managed to partner with the ROM, the Ontario Science Centre, and with other educational institutions at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, and, as was the case for that evening, with the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Besides setting the mood for the music to follow, the reception gave guests the chance to take art home. Or at least a piece of it. Four Canadian, Arab, and Canadian Arab artists had their works presented at the reception hall with an option for each guest to bid on a painting, or two, of their choice in a silent auction. All proceeds were donated to CAI, the latter being a non for profit charity that welcomes all donations and support, with thanks.
Not so silent, however, was the audience’s vote for the concert. There was much applause, both in-between musical pieces and throughout, ending with a standing ovation. Those claps were put to test during the Sultans of String’s Road to Kfarmishki too: could they coordinate claps with the playful on-stage rhythms? Many could, a few wouldn’t, and others just absorbed it all in.
The “all” included many classical and Arabic-inspired tunes, such as Miriam Khalil and Julie Nesrallah’s floral duet, Katia Makdisi’s inspired direction of her OktoEcho ensemble, and “Ave Maria”, Latinised and Arabised – a poem, soothing and introspective.
The concert ended, as it should, with a Fairuz tune. All musicians and ensembles joined together to celebrate, play, and sing with the almond-eyed girl (Bint el Shalabiyyeh), seated underneath a pomegranate tree.
Also celebrated in the concert booklet were the 12 Canadian Arabs to Watch of the past year with a summary of their stories and projects, with hopes to receive more such nominations for the upcoming 2015, to inspire and connect faces to words and to actions.
And on this note, the Canadian Arab Institute would like to wish you a good end of 2014 and an excellent 2015. Celebrate with music, dance, and love.