Born in Paris but raised in Lebanon from the age of 6, composer and violinist Layale Chaker was raised speaking multiple languages, both linguistically and musically. Her complex sound universe, described by NPR as “beguiling” with “bright and beautiful strands… gorgeous, wine-dark swirls,” lies at the intersection of classical contemporary music, jazz, Arabic music, and improvisation. A 2020-2022 Jerome Hill Fellow, Chaker is also recipient of the 2022 Opera America Discovery 2022 Award, among many other accolades.
To open Chaker’s 2023-2024 season, the New York Philharmonic presents the world premiere of her double concerto for clarinet, violin and orchestra Dawning, co-commissioned with Nebraska Crossroads Music Festival and Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra. Featuring the composer as violin soloist alongside clarinetist and husband Kinan Azmeh, Dawning is a musical love letter to the innocent children who have joined earthside amid trying times, drawing inspiration from the many lullabies the couple has been singing to their new son. Chaker describes her central image as “resilient seedlings sprouting from the cracks of leaden landscapes, symbolizing the enduring spirit of life and the promise of a new dawn. It's a testament to the human capacity to create and nurture life, even in the face of adversities, and a poignant reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is room for joy, love, and the promise of a brighter future.”
Ruinous Gods, Chaker’s debut full-length chamber opera in collaboration with librettist Lisa Schlesinger, will see its world premiere at the 2024 Spoleto Festival, followed by its European premiere at Wuppertal Opera in the fall of 2024. Ruinous Gods uses elements from myths and fairy tales to create a 21st-century fantasia exploring how mass displacement triggers profound psychological trauma among its youngest sufferers. 2024 will also bring the release of a new double portrait album on In a Circle Records, one disc featuring Chaker’s classical works performed by the ETHEL Quartet, and the other a complementary portrait with Chaker’s chamber jazz quintet, Sarafand. include a residency in Havana, Cuba.
Chaker recently completed a year-long residency as part of WQXR’s Artist Propulsion Lab and premiered a new work for violin and choir at Morgenland Festival Osnabruck in Germany with the choral ensemble Capella Amsterdam. She has worked with Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Ziad Rahbani, Johnny Gandelsman, Holland Baroque, Oxford Orchestra, New World Symphony, London Jazz Festival, Alderburgh Festival, Junger Kunstler Festival Bayreuth, Lucerne Festival, Beethoven Festival Bonn, and Avignon Festival among others, with featured performances at the Berlin Philharmonic, Abbaye de Royaumont, Hancher, The Stone, National Sawdust, Royal Albert Hall, and Wigmore Hall.
Chaker’s debut album Inner Rhyme (In a Circle Records, 2019) was named "Top of The World" by Songlines, ranked #2 on NPR’s 10 Best Releases, lived at #1 for several weeks on Amazon Music, and received rave reviews by the The New York Times, BBC Music Magazine, Strings Magazine, Jazz World and many others. Composed between Beirut, Paris and London from 2016-2018 and recorded in New York over the summer of 2018, the album unveils musical threads that are mapped through the rhythmical cycles of the twelve classical Arabic poetic meters, the fluidity of oral and free forms, the abstraction of language into the physical contour of verses and the percussive potential of words.
Chaker commenced her musical training at the National Higher Conservatory of Beirut in her native country, before pursuing higher degrees at the Conservatoire de Paris and the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is a Laureate of the 2019 Concours international de Chant-Piano Nadia et Lili Boulanger; Finalist of the 2018 Rolex Mentor & Protege Prize; winner of the 2017 Ruth Anderson Competition; and recipient of the 2019 Diaphonique Franco-British Commission Prize, the 2018 Arab Fund for Arts and Culture Grant and the 2018 Royal Academy of Music Guinness Award.
Chaker now lives with her husband, clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, and their family in New York City.
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