From soothing music to magical Roman ruins, the "city of the sun" Baalbek, Lebanon, was lit with joy and hope in an extraordinary one-of-a-kind music concert in the archaeological Temple of Bacchus on Sunday night.
The annual Baalbek International Festival, established in 1955, was canceled this summer due to the ongoing pandemic that still imposes social distancing even after lockdowns have been eased. Canceled or not, this year offered a special show that was streamed across regional TV channels and social media platforms.
Nayla de Freige, the director of the Baalbek International Festival, called the concert a message of "hope and resilience" amid ever-worsening daily woes.
"All of the Lebanese channels have agreed to broadcast the concert at the same time. It is a unifying and all-encompassing cultural event and, for the first time in Lebanon, we see the solidarity of the media. The idea was also supported by the minister of culture, who offered the services of the orchestra free of charge," explained de Freige in an interview with Arab News.
The concert starred the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra and choirs from the Antonine University and Notre Dame University along with the Lebanese music group Qolo Atiqo.
Launching the night with the national anthem and following it with Carmina Burana's "O Fortuna," a 13th century poem, Lebanon's most prominent musical talents delighted local and regional audiences over the course of an hour.
Conducted by Lebanese maestro Harout Fazlian, more than 150 musicians and choristers embraced their passion inside the decorated Temple of Bacchus. Although a physical audience was missing, precautions and safety measures were taken to ensure performers are kept safe.
"The festival committee worked with the minister of health to guarantee the necessary physical distancing to protect the 150 participants on the stage," said de Freige.
Audiences watching from home were able to move with the cameras and drones between the corners of the temple which columns were illuminated in different colors, with red overshadowing the site.
"Lebanon does not want to die. We have an extremely productive and creative art and culture sector," de Freige told AFP. "The concert was named 'The Sound of Resilience,' with the hashtag 'Let's raise the sound of music,' because music is considered an engine of creativity, solidarity, resilience and life," she commented.
At times of a pandemic and a never-ending economic meltdown, this concert is the flair of hope and resilience people might find themselves needing to challenge the devastating Lebanese reality.