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Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Trio Arabica Wed Music and Cultures in ‘Tales of Two Cities’ at Schwab Auditorium

on February 23, 2019 5:00 AM

Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Trio Arabica — in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, in Schwab Auditorium — will take listeners back to 1740, when coffee houses were the places to listen to music and share stories in both the famous trading centers of Leipzig and in the ancient city of Damascus.

The visual splendor, music and stories of the historic German and Syrian locations come to life in “Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House.” Tafelmusik will perform Baroque selections by J. S. Bach, George Frideric Handel and Georg Philipp Telemann, while Trio Arabica — an ensemble featuring vocals, percussion, oud (a lute-like instrument) and qanum (a stringed instrument) —intersperses Middle Eastern music.

Tickets are $44 for an adult, $15 for a University Park student and $34 for a person 18 and younger and are available online at or by phone at 814-863-0255 or 800-ARTS-TIX. Tickets are also available weekdays at Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State Downtown Theatre Center and the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Alison Mackay, the Canadian orchestra’s double bass player, conceived, programmed and wrote the script for “Tales of Two Cities.” Tafelmusik Music Director Elisa Citterio directs the program, which is narrated by Alon Nashman.

“Toronto audiences have become so accustomed to the spectacular and varied multimedia extravaganzas cooked up by the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra’s resident storyteller, Alison Mackay, that we sometimes forget how unique they are,” wrote a critic for The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

“Here are members of a great baroque orchestra, playing at the peak of their form for two hours, having memorized the entire concert, prowling around the stage in seemingly carefree abandon, supported by text, images and a clever storyline,” the critic continued. “It’s no wonder so many of Mackay’s creations have been performed for audiences around the world—there’s really nothing like them. Mackay’s latest effort … may be the most profound of them all.”

Tafelmusik previously appeared at Schwab in performances of its multimedia productions “House of Dreams,” “The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres” and “J. S. Bach: The Circle of Creation.”

“Despite the distance, in the eighteenth century the two places evidently had much in common. Both lay at the crossroads of ancient trade routes. Both were hubs of intellectual activity. And both relished the ‘stimulating properties and restorative powers’ of coffee and music in their coffee houses, where the finest musicians of each city performed,” wrote a reviewer for The Huffington Post Canada. “… If one feared a stylistic clash between the Baroque selections played by Tafelmusik and traditional Arabic music played by the Trio Arabica, such a fear proved unfounded: these elements were knitted together in a fluid presentation.”

Renowned for its dynamic, engaging and soulful performances, Tafelmusik is one of the world’s leading period-instrument ensembles. The orchestra has performed in more than 350 cities in 32 countries.

Trio Arabica, also known as Al Qahwa Ensemble, features Maryem Tollar, Demetri Petsalakis and Naghmeh Farahmand. The ensemble performs traditional songs from Arabic classical and popular repertoire, including folk songs from Syria, Egypt and Iraq.

Learn more about the concert and the artists at

Artistic Viewpoints will not be offered before the performance, but artists will engage in conversation with audience members after the concert.

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