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Music on the move

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato talks to Sara Mohr-Pietsch about her work with El Sistema in Greece. Plus other musical responses to the refugee crisis around Europe.

In the last Music Matters of the season, Sara Mohr-Pietsch introduces stories of people on the move: how music is affecting, and being affected by, the lives of refugees and migrants, from ancient ritual singing practices to hyper-directional opera, from instruments made out of buckets and string to the latest web technology.

The mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato tells Sara about her recent experience working with children in the Eleonas and Skaramagas refugee camps in Athens for El Sistema Greece, and how it ties in with her ongoing mission to tell stories of war and peace through the music of Handel and Purcell.

Sara also hears from three composers about their responses to today's migrant crisis: Dee Isaacs on a partnership between the universities of Edinburgh and Athens to take musical projects to children in the Athens camps, the Navajo-born artist Raven Chacon on using refugee stories from Greece and the American borderlands for a sound installation in the Greek capital, and Nigel Osborne on his new website and international movement, This Place is Our Place, which brings together communities in Scotland, Syria and Lebanon.

Sara also meets the violinist Mariela Shaker and pianist Riyad Nicolas, who both left their families in their home town of Aleppo to pursue musical careers in the UK and the US, and who now use music to tell stories of the continuing crisis in Syria.

And a new book which explores how ritual singing in Ireland creates a sense of belonging between immigrant and local communities. Sara talks to the book's Limerick-based author, Helen Phelan, and Toner Quinn, editor of the Journal of Music, puts 'Singing the Rite to Belong' in the wider context of Irish music-making.

Available now

45 minutes


  • Joyce DiDonato

    Duration: 07:42

  • Dee Isaacs - 'Postcards from our World'

    Duration: 07:48

  • Raven Chacon

    Duration: 06:01

  • 'Singing the Rite to Belong' - Helen Phelan and Toner Quinn

    Duration: 09:25

  • Mariela Shaker and Riyad Nicolas

    Duration: 05:15

  • Nigel Osborne

    Duration: 08:53


Role Contributor
Presenter Sara Mohr-Pietsch
Interviewed Guest Joyce DiDonato
Interviewed Guest Dee Isaacs
Interviewed Guest Nigel Osborne
Interviewed Guest Raven Chacon
Interviewed Guest Helen Phelan
Interviewed Guest Toner Quinn


  • Sat 8 Jul 2017 12:15
  • Mon 10 Jul 2017 22:00

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