Trio takes audience to ‘Crossroads’

Cody Luk
Assistant Arts Editor

A trio of musicians took the audience to the Mediterranean and the Near East at “Mediterranean Crossroads” on April 19 in Morgan Auditorium.

Roberto Catalano, senior adjunct music professor and mandocello player; Mehdi Bagheri, a kamancheh and sitar player; and Peter Hanna, an oud player, performed as a trio for the first time with traditional music selections, original compositions and poetry.

“I thought to put things together because the sounds of the Mediterranean, where I came from, really mixes well together with the other sounds,” Catalano said.

Catalano teaches world music, Latin American music, history of rock music and music appreciation at La Verne. Originally from Catania, Sicily, he taught himself guitar in 1973, and plays many other instruments and composes.

“Mehdi is really famous in Iran, and Peter was my student,” Catalano said. “With Mehdi, we started (playing together) last fall, and with Peter, it’s from a month ago.”

“(Catalano) is wonderful,” Hanna said. “He was my professor.”

Hanna is originally from Egypt, and currently resides in California.

Bagheri is a composer from Iran and mainly plays the kamancheh. He has performed in festivals and concert halls around the world.

Catalano started the concert with a piece featuring nature-like sounds with chiming and ringing tones from different instruments. He combined other elements such as hitting two rocks together and adding energetic shouts.

A wooden flute was also played, which sounded like the tranquility of taking a hike along a river. The singing throughout parts of the piece also acted like a narrative story.

The second piece was a North African poetic duet with Catalano and Hanna. It had acoustic elements with both musicians playing the oud, a pear-shaped stringed guitar-like instrument. The piece had a worrisome feel to it as they played the oud, sang a few verses and recited poetry.

“The main line of (this piece) is two races are close, like two hands joined in prayer,” Catalano said.

Bagheri joined Catalano and Hanna for the third piece, a strictly instrumental piece with Bagheri playing the kamancheh, a Persian bowed string instrument, and Catalano and Hanna playing the oud.

There were shifts in tempos throughout the piece, and as it proceeded the music turned more dramatic. The acoustic sounds of the oud were slower and more calming, and the two instruments accompanied each other well due to their heavy contrast.

For several of the pieces the musicians did not make much eye contact with the audience, only with each other, depicting a sense of the trio interacting through music to show the happenings in their own world.

The trio performed a total of 10 pieces, with the second to last piece a medley of three songs from the musician’s home country. The first of the three was about the joy of going outdoors on a beautiful, peaceful, day.

The second was on life, with strong vocals harmonizing with uplifting music. The last one was a rather rapid piece with quick tempo to portray the different emotions of falling in love, similar to the ups and downs of heartbeats.

The concert ended with a piece originally composed by Catalano about prayer and wishes for the Virgin Mary and saints to keep away evil. The performance’s tempo was divided. The slower segment was about closing doors to keep evils away while the faster part was a medical text. Overall, the ending was very rapid and impactful.

Although it was the trio’s first performance together, many audience members were surprised about their professional performance.

“It’s our first time as a trio and we’ve also actually have very few rehearsals,” Catalano said. “The point is, when you know what you’re doing, it’s just a matter of listening carefully. Just listen to what each other is doing and watch each other. This is how we look like we’ve been playing together for a long time.”

“It was neat because I haven’t heard some of the instruments played together before, so it was interesting,” said Cal Poly Pomona freshman liberal studies major Alison Dial. “My favorite part was probably when all three played together.”

Cody Luk can be reached at

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