Geneva Literary Aid Society

GLAS Christmas concert raises CHF 6,500 for Gaza musicians

The GLAS Christmas Concert was very special this year. It was a story of two halves. One played by the UN Choir, centred on yuletide carols, while The Emigrants gave us music from the rich repertoire of the Irish tradition.

And the result was at least CHF 6,500 collected on the night for the displaced families of students normally attending the Gaza School of Music, a branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music based in Ramallah, Palestine, which we have supported since 2016. Several GLAS friends have also made individual donations directly to ESNCM.

We remembered also the promising 14-year-old violinist Lubna Elian who died on 21 November 2023, along with over 40 members of her family, during an Israeli bombardment that destroyed their home.

In a world weary of war, the yearning for peace on earth is forever caught in the familiar sounds of old favourites such as Adeste Fideles, Panis Angelicus and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.

The UN Choir under the direction of the formidable Kirsty Griffiths raised the roof of the old Lutheran Evangelical Church in Geneva last night.

Somehow, she also managed to blend in a mini-choir of nine Ukrainian refugees, formed by a professional opera singer from Kyiv, Elena Udodenko, who led them in a beautiful rendition of a traditional Ukrainian Christmas carol.

Kirsty sang solo in a moving rendition of Panis Angelicus, a foretaste of what you can expect if you go along to hear her perform this Sunday at 17:00 in the traditional Christmas concert at the Victoria Hall.

Enter The Emigrants.

Right from the off, their steady trad beat had the crowd joining in. There was a wonderful blend of fiddle, guitar, percussion, banjo, mandolin and bouzouki from John Lawlor, Yvette Issar, Matevz Cerv, Donal Hill and John Marc Davies.

GLAS fans who remember the Voice Squad’s visit to Geneva and their peerless rendition of Bonny Light Horseman took great delight in hearing it sung with such feeling by Yvette Issar, whose voice stood out on several songs.

Donal Hill brought us to the Middle East with a heartfelt interpretation of Thom Moore’s Cedars of Lebanon (not to be confused with the U2 song of the same name.)

After a standing ovation and a rowdy call for an encore, band leader John Lawlor brought proceedings to a close with a couple of rousing ballads, The Leaving of Liverpool and The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond. Result: great night had by all.