Available for on demand viewing from Thursday November 16, 2023 at 8:00pm until Wednesday November 22, 2023 at 7:00pm ET.
Karim Sulayman and Sean Shibe, two fascinating artists with wide-ranging performance interests and big ideas, come together for a beautifully eclectic recital that examines the relationship between the East and the West. The program brings together 16th- and 17th-century Italian and English works; traditional Sephardic and Arab-Andalusian songs; Benjamin Britten’s settings of translated poems, Songs from the Chinese; 20th-century and contemporary compositions; and more.
Sulayman and Shibe were recently nominated for a 2024 Grammy Award for Broken Branches, in the Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Watch and listen to their performance from home with our streaming concert, available until November 22!
Lebanese-American tenor Karim Sulayman, a 2019 Grammy Award winner for Best Classical Solo Vocal, is a sophisticated and versatile artist consistently praised for his sensitive and intelligent musicianship, riveting stage presence, and beautiful voice. Sulayman earns acclaim for his thought-provoking programming and recording projects, and maintains a busy career on the world’s opera and concert stages, in programs that range from often-heard classical favorites to new work, to audacious commissions and curatorial projects. In 2022, he debuted the widely acclaimed Unholy Wars, a program that recontextualizes Italian Renaissance music about the Crusades through an Arab-American lens and pairs it with new work by American composer Mary Kouyoumdjian.
One of the most versatile guitarists performing today, Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe’s innovative approach to his instrument has enhanced his reputation for being “the most interesting voice on the guitar for a generation” (Gramophone). A great admirer of the masterful composers of the past, Shibe is equally committed to new music. Alongside his transcriptions of Bach’s lute suites and 17th-century Scottish lute manuscripts, he continues to explore, experiment, and expand the repertoire for his instrument with recent works and new commissions, including a solo work by Thomas Adès and a new collaboration with Cassandra Miller and Dunedin Consort.
I met and started working with Sean a decade ago at the Marlboro Music Festival, the storied chamber music Mecca in southern Vermont. Ever since those days in the confines of a most traditional classical music space, Sean and I frequently discussed making an album together. I am so pleased the time has come to offer Broken Branches to our listeners.
Over the years, I have often strayed from the well worn footpaths of a career in classical music. It’s in these wanderings where so much can be learned about one’s roots and the idea of a home base. For me, music (regardless of genre) will always be my home. I want my storytelling-through-song to resonate with the times we’re living in and how I experience them as an individual artist.
As 2020 upended the classical music world in so many ways, an explosion in the port of Beirut occurred and shook every Lebanese household, both in Lebanon and throughout the world. Four days later, my father died from cancer and I was staring into a void. With my father’s death, a blank calendar, and a world in total chaos, “home,” in all its meanings, was in shambles.
In the weeks and months after this, I rebuilt my home by dreaming up and following through with projects, including this program with my dear friend Sean (who reached out often to offer support in a bleak time—he was one of my many solid oaks, if you will). Broken Branches explores a wide range of repertoire offering its listeners the idea that home can transcend one specific place or time. Referencing the final line of Sinan Antoon’s poetry in the song Layale Chaker wrote for us, the title reflects the many themes of this album: the wood of the guitar and its relatives, our own family trees, and the splintering of that history as we examine the diaspora, and the attempt to build “home” separate of physical borders.
“A tenor such as I have rarely seen in my life as a music lover. In addition to making his voice heard with unparalleled clarity and depth, Sulayman masters all the registers of stage performance… His charisma is magnetic, always at the service of the work he interprets… which he fully makes his own. ”Revue L'Opéra (Quebec)
“Sean Shibe has a “great gift for painting notes in what seems a thousand colours, with multiple dynamic shadings en route… there are exquisite and tender sounds everywhere you look.” ”The Times (UK)