"Impossible Grace" a poem written by Indian poet Meena Alexander has inspired the first Al-Quds Composition Award. Alexander wrote "Impossible Grace" while she was poet in residence at Al-Quds University in 2011. "I was haunted by divisions in this city of golden stone and prayers, and the fact that some of the gates are shut to people" Alexander said, referring to ancient gates in Old Jerusalem, and Israel's constant military presence. "And the almost impossible light that edges it all, the mystical Jerusalem."
Selected by a panel of international composers and contemporary music experts, the winning composition received a prize of 1000 Euros and two public performances in Jerusalem and Abu Dies under the artistic direction of Anke Rauthmann, director of the Berlin International Opera. The goal of the award was to encourage the creation of high quality chamber music that combines the human voice with elements of both Arabic and Western European musical traditions, thus celebrating the cultural uniqueness of the city of Jerusalem. Al Quds University was delighted to receive submissions from Palestine, Austria, Spain, Finland, Brazil, Switzerland, Poland and the United States.
The poem "Impossible Grace" which has already been published in the United States in a literary journal TriQuarterly Online, was also part of a pamphlet of Alexander's Jerusalem poems, published by Al-Quds University in conjunction with the winning composition's October premiere.
Winner of the first Al Quds Composition Award is the Austrian composer Stefan Heckel. His composition was remarked by the committee of experts for its special instrumentation, its atmosphere, originality and sensitivity regarding the use of Meena Alexander's text.
Stefan Heckel, who has been connected to Jerusalem in his work as an artist for many years, perceived Meena Alexander's poem as a promenade through the Old City of Jerusalem. He composed a musical equivalent to Meena Alexander's lyrics by creating a musical style recalling medieval and oriental sounds choosing the oud as his leading instrument.
The world premiere of "Impossible Grace" was performed by an ensemble of Palestinian and international musicians and was enthusiastically acclaimed by audiences in Jerusalem and Abu Dies. Further performances of "Impossible Grace” are planned for the coming season. The piece was recorded at Al Quds Educational TV in Ramallah and will soon be presented by the Al Quds University College of Music.