Center Stage Series: Simon Shaheen Ensemble to perform Feb. 13

Simon Shaheen, famous for his melodic blend of traditional Arabic sounds with jazz and Western classical styles, is bringing his ensemble and a vocalist to perform in Luther College's Center for Faith and Life Main Hall, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13.

The Simon Shaheen performance is part of Luther College's 2013-14 Center Stage Series of professional performing arts events. Tickets for the performance, sponsored by the Luther College Diversity Council, are available online at http://tickets.luther.edu.

With a complement of six musicians and a vocalist, Shaheen mesmerizes listeners with his brand of Middle Eastern-jazz fusion. Click here for a sneak peek of Shaheen's performances.

Shaheen was born in Palestine and studied at the Conservatory of Western Classical Music in Jerusalem, Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University.

For more than three decades, the Palestinian oud virtuoso has promoted his soft-spoken instrument across America and abroad. The oud, a pear-shaped Arabic instrument, typically has 11 or 13 strings, arranged in six or seven courses.

In addition to drafting solo works, Shaheen has also written pieces for oud with wind quintet and string quartet, and compositions for his jazz-tinged band Qantara. He has brought traditional Arabic music to listeners who otherwise wouldn't have encountered it, through his Near Eastern Music Ensemble.

Prior to the 20th century, improvisation was integral to classical music performance, however, over the century, it slowly expired in concert practice. Shaheen helps return these methods to the concert hall in a very distinct and unparalleled grace, a welcome development for anyone who values the spontaneity and risk-taking integral to jazz and earlier eras of classical music.

When Shaheen plays the oud, he's combining at least two distinct ways of making music: contemporary Western composition and ancient Arabic improvisation, which only enhances the appeal of his work. His turns of phrase and solo passages invented on the spot, carry unique melodic embellishments, creating new listening experiences for every audience.

Shaheen's talent has been praised by critics from all over. In 1994 he received the prestigious National Heritage Award, and his album "Blue Flame" was nominated for 11 Grammys.

Tickets for the performance are $23 for adults, $21 for seniors age 65 and over and $15 for youth ages 4-18. They can be purchased by calling the Ticket Office at (563) 387-1357; or by visiting the Luther Ticket Office, open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9-10:30 a.m. and 11a.m.-3 p.m.; and Tuesday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., with extended hours on Thursdays, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.