June 9, 2023


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“Travelers” from around the world to perform at Lincoln Crossroads Music Festival | Music


“Travelers” is the appropriate and timely theme of the third Lincoln Crossroads Music Festival, a world music event that brings an array of internationally recognized musicians to Lincoln for a series of concerts, collaborations with Nebraska musicians and world-class performances.

“After the two complicated-for-everyone years we’ve had all over the world, we realized how important it is for us to travel, to connect with each other, to have the freedom to go from one place to another,” said festival executive director Olga Smola.

“If you look at the titles of the concerts, most of them reflect travel, like J.P. Jofre’s ‘From Buenos Aires to the World,’ which is what he has done, going from Argentina to Korea to the United States. We have artists from Syria, Lebanon. All these people come from all over the world, moving from one place to another to spread their music and culture.”

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At nine days, from Saturday through July 31, the festival’s third season will be the largest yet with 14 concert performances at eight venues across the city, along with a pair of jam sessions open to public and storytelling events, including two storytelling slams.

The festival will host two concerts for kids at SAIL camp and a baby concert for young children and their families in Turbine Flats on July 30. Workshops for adults, film screenings and social events will round out the festival’s nine full days of programming.

The festival’s first concert will be presented Saturday at First Plymouth Church. Titled “Kyiv to New England,” the concert by the Kytasty Family Bandura Ensemble features Julian Kytasty and Irene, Alina and Teryn Kuzma, and Ukraine’s national instrument, the bandura

A third-generation master of the lute-like bandura, Kytasty, a Ukrainian American, was named an Honored Artist of Ukraine by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He performs a repertoire of Ukrainian music, some of it hundreds of years old that tell tales of the need for truth and preparing for war that ring true today.

“The first concert is dedicated to Ukrainian culture,” said Smola, a violinist who is on the music faculty at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “We’re going to give all the proceeds to Ukrainian war relief. I’m from Russia. I’m going to perform there too. The idea is building a bridge between Ukraine and the rest of the world, including Russia.”

Two concerts by acclaimed singer/songwriter Gabrial Kahane, Tuesday’s “Book of Travelers” and Thursday’s “Magnificent Bird” and the July 29 collaboration between Jofre and Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh will take place at the Johnny Carson Theatre at the Lied Center for Performing Arts — the fist time the festival has utilized Lincoln’s primary performing arts venue. “It’s a great advancement for us,” Smola said.

Kahane, who is known for his intense lyrical presentations, will be presenting two of his albums that are released on the prestigious Nonesuch label: On Tuesday, “Book of Travelers,” which recounts his 2016 8,000-mile journey on Amtrak; and on Thursday, his just released “Magnificent Bird,” recorded during the pandemic after a year with no internet and only person-to-person contact.

Azmeh, who performed in the first Crossroads festival, then premiered his “Home Within” at the Silkroad Ensemble at Lied last year, will present more of his works in a concert titled “Damascus To Brooklyn” on July 30 at the South Street Temple.

The festival also will include the North American premiere of Lebanese composer and violinist Layale Chaker’s “The Bow and the Read” for choir and solo violin Wednesday at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

Full festival passes are available — and highly recommended for those who plan to attend more than one or two concerts. But single advance tickets and day-of admission will be available for all the festival events.

“All the events are very independent,” Smola said. ”They have a common theme. But you can go to one, have a great feeling of what it’s about and hear a great performance. We hope that after people come early in the festival, they will want to come back.”

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