The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy held its annual fall gala, Mehregan, on Sunday, September 22. A celebration of Persian culture that has its roots in the ancient Persian harvest festival, the event took place at historic Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers, which is home to the finest Persian garden in the Western Hemisphere. Cocktails in the garden were followed by Persian cuisine in an open tent with spectacular views of sunset on the Hudson River.
Cyrus Amir-Mokri delighted the audience by reading a poem by 14th-century Persian poet Hafez in English and in Farsi. Legendary Iranian-born pop star Aref inspired joyful dancing throughout the night. The Conservancy honored renowned artist Shirin Neshat, subject of a major new retrospective at The Broad in L.A.
Gala co-chairs were Nazee Moinian, Katy Palizban, and Victoria Sakhai. The event raised funds to support the Conservancy’s efforts to sustain the Persian garden and restore its Persian Pool.
Maha Alami, Jane Singer, and Leila Straus hosted cocktails at The Pembroke Room of the Upper East Side’s elegant Lowell Hotel to greet and hear Ramzi Aburdewan, founder of Dal’Ouna Ensemble, a music group performing both classical and folkloric Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian repertoire. The evening was in support of his Al Kamandjati foundation offering music lessons to Palestinian children in refugee camps and in villages on the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon.
Ramzi first came to prominence as the eight-year-old child throwing stones at Israeli tanks in photographs printed round the world. A bitter childhood spent in the Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah, his life was transformed by music. A scholarship from the Edward-Said National Conservatory of Music allowed him to study the viola in France, and today he is a much-acclaimed viola and a bouzouq player. While still a student, he created the Al Kamandjti Association in order to bring the same opportunity to the other Palestinian children. His story is chronicled in Children of the Stone, by Sandy Tolan.
Among the guests at Lowell reception, many of whom made generous donations, were Radhika Balakrishnan, Lawrence Burstein, Mike Daly, Lena Diab, Kathleen Gerard, Frances Kazan, Deborah Krulewitch, Jeanne Linnes, Betsy Perry, Nicholas Lusiani, Mazen MaKarem, Tal Recanati, Sana Sabbagh, Gayfred Steinberg, and Kathy Steinberg. A lavish buffet included delicious Maha Chocolates.
Following the cocktail Ramzi rushed downtown to an appearance at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater where he performed with his Dal’Ouna Ensemble and special guest singer Marian Layouse. Many of the same faces from the Lowell were on hand to cheer him on. His U.S. tour also included performances at San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, Woodbridge CT, Worchester MA, Baltimore, and Bethesda.
From more information see: http://www.alkamandjati.org
Photographs by Ralph Gabriner & Jessica Norman (UGC); Kirstin Boncher (Ramzi)