Nowruz, also known as the Iranian New Year, is an ancient holiday celebrated by millions of people worldwide, particularly in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Balkans. Nowruz is a time for renewal, joy, and hope, marking the beginning of the spring equinox and the start of a new solar year. This holiday is steeped in history, tradition, and symbolism, representing a time of transition, new beginnings, and the triumph of good over evil.

The origins of Nowruz date back to the ancient Persian Empire and Zoroastrianism, a pre- Islamic religion that predates Christianity and Judaism. The holiday was later adopted by various cultures, including the Muslim world and the Turkish and Kurdish communities. Nowruz is a secular holiday that has become a symbol of unity, cultural identity, and pride for Iranians, Afghans, Tajiks, and other ethnic groups in the region.

The celebration of Nowruz typically lasts for 13 days and involves various customs, rituals, and feasts. The holiday is a time for spring cleaning, decorating homes with flowers and colorful symbols, and preparing traditional dishes, such as sabzi polo (herbed rice) and ash-e reshteh (noodle soup). Families gather to exchange gifts, visit each other, and feast on sweet treats, such as baklava and halva. Another significant aspect of Nowruz is the haft-seen table, a ceremonial display of seven symbolic items, each beginning with the Persian letter “sin,” representing good health, happiness, abundance, and prosperity.

On March 26, Pacific Symphony is celebrating Nowruz in collaboration with Farhang Foundation with a special concert titled “Unity for Freedom.” The festive program will feature Grammy- nominated musician and composer Kayhan Kalhor, who is a master of the kamancheh, a spiked fiddle instrument popular in Iranian music. Kalhor has collaborated with various musicians worldwide, including Yo-Yo Ma, and has performed in prestigious venues, such as Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall.

Joining Kalhor will be vocalists Sussan Deyhim and Azam Ali, who are renowned for their fusion of Persian, Indian, and Middle Eastern music. Deyhim has worked with artists such as Peter Gabriel, Bobby McFerrin, and Philip Glass, while Ali is known for her work with the group Niyaz and her solo albums. The program will also feature dance performances by Tara Ghassemieh, a prominent choreographer and performer in the Iranian dance community.

The “Unity for Freedom” concert will be conducted by Pacific Symphony’s Music Director Carl St.Clair and guest conductor Shardad Rohani. St.Clair is known for his commitment to promoting cultural diversity and artistic excellence. Rohani is a composer and conductor who has worked with various orchestras, including the Tehran Symphony Orchestra and the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The “Unity for Freedom” concert promises to be a unique and uplifting experience, celebrating the cultural richness and diversity of the Iranian community. Through music, dance, and tradition, the concert aims to promote unity, hope, and freedom, reminding us of the power of music to bring people together and bridge cultural divides.

Anoosheh Oskouian (CEO of Ship & Shore Environmental, Inc.), who serves as a trustee of the Farhang Foundation and as a board member of Pacific Symphony, commented “I am so pleased that the Farhang Foundation has been a partner with Pacific Symphony to celebrate Nowruz, which marks the arrival of spring and rebirth of nature.” She continued, “This year more than ever it is important to welcome Nowruz with the hope of ‘UNITY FOR FREEDOM’ for a New Day and support of all Iranians.”

“Farhang Foundation is extremely proud to be able to continue our long partnership with Pacific Symphony,” said Alireza Ardekani, Executive Director of Farhang Foundation. “This year’s concert further exemplifies the incredible contribution of Iranian artists to the world of music, and we are so grateful to Maestro St.Clair and the entire team at Pacific Symphony for their commitment and dedication in showcasing the true face of Iranians and Iranian culture on such a grand platform.”

In a world that often feels divided, events like “Unity for Freedom” provide an opportunity for us to come together and celebrate the things that make us unique while also highlighting our shared humanity. Pacific Symphony and Farhang Foundation’s collaboration is a testament to the importance of cultural exchange and understanding, and the power of the arts to create connections that transcend language and borders.

As we approach the spring equinox and the start of a new solar year, let us take inspiration from Nowruz celebrations and embrace the spirit of renewal, hope, and unity. Whether we celebrate Nowruz or not, we can all appreciate the beauty and richness of Iranian culture and the power of music to bring us together. We look forward to an unforgettable evening of music, dance, and celebration with “Unity for Freedom,” and to the opportunity to come together in a spirit of joy and unity.

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