• The ten-piece Either/Orchestra, led by Russ Gershon and based in Massachusetts, has been invited to return to Addis Ababa, site of our historic 2004 trip, to perform a series of concerts.
• The concerts will pay tribute to Nerses Nalbandian, an Armenian who found a home in Ethiopia in the 1930s and rose to become the Maestro of his adopted country through the 1970s.
• The project has sponsorship from the French Alliance Ethio-Francaise, the US and Turkish Embassies in Addis and other sources, but the concerts will be free to the public, so additional funding is necessary. Ticket prices high enough to pay for the trip would make this program unavailable to 99% of the Ethiopian public.
• Live in Addis, the double CD recorded on the E/O's previous visit, was our first collaboration with Ethiopian musicians and resulted in rave reviews including "Astonishing...monumental...the best live album of the year—in any genre" (Paul Olson, AllAboutJazz.com), and "sends the senses into the very heart and soul of communal human love...A force that dares to break barriers." (Lofton A. Emenari III, WHPK, Chicago)
A note from band founder Russ Gershon:
"As many of you are aware, the E/O's 2004 trip to Ethiopia was a life-changer for me and the other musicians in the band. It brought our commitment to Ethiopian music full circle, as we played our Americanized interpretations to audiences that really knew the songs. The response of audiences and local musicians was astonishingly enthusiastic and warm, as Ethiopians marveled at our interest and knowledge, and at the ways we had made their songs our own. For all of the traveling we have done in 25 years, this was by far the most fruitful trip.
"Our musicians struck up relationships with music students at the Yared School (Ethiopia's conservatory) which led to a small program wherein trumpeter Tom Halter and I sent instruments to a number of students who were graduating and didn't own their instruments.
"While we were in Addis Ababa, we also began collaborating with Ethiopian musicians internationally, adding another dimension to our connection with that music and people. These collaborations continue to the present, with concerts in Massachusetts on March 24 and 25 scheduled with Mahmoud Ahmed, Ethiopia's most beloved singer.
"The band members, especially our "heart and soul," conguero Vicente Lebron, were profoundly moved by the experience of going to Africa, where so much of North and Latin American musical culture is rooted. Experiencing the beauty and poverty of a huge African city was almost indescribable. We now have five new members since that time who are looking forward to their first visit, especially since they have worked so often with Ethiopians in the US and in Europe.
"I hope that you will help us realize this trip - if we can afford to go at all, it won't be a money-maker. But as veterans of the 2004 trip were reminded by our immersion in Ethiopian culture: the opportunity to learn and grow and connect with people is worth far more than money."
- (30 days)