Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Turkish Piano Concert

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful concert performed by Fazil Say, a famous Turkish pianist and composer, at the lovely Bostanili open-air theater.

A friend secured tickets to this sold-out concert several weeks ago. I'd never heard of Fazil Say but after saying "yes" to the concert and writing the date on my calendar, his name started popping up frequently in the news. Apparently he'd recently received a 10 month suspended sentence and 5 years of parole for exercising his freedom of expression.

Fast forward to last night and I'll have to admit that I was little concerned about attending a concert of a celebrity musician who is a poster child for free speech at the exact time that protests have escalated here in Turkey. Also, attending a concert in an open-air theater (although they closed most of the windows to block some of the noise from the beating-on-frying-pans) in the middle of a neighborhood where light protests were going on outside made me think about my exit strategy a little during the concert.

Fortunately, the concert was excellent! Fazil Say is loved by his fans who gave him a standing ovation  the minute he entered the stage and approached the Steinway concert grand. He began the program with a rousting, five-finger-chords, heavy-on-the-bass rendition of the Turkish National Anthem and sung by Turkish citizens of the sold-out crowd.

Aside from this masterful performance with fingers flying across the keyboard, the structure of his piano concert was interesting as well. He played everything from memory. He stopped after very song, took a bow, reached for the microphone and the talked with the audience. His rapport seemed friendly and joking but supportive of the protests and openly critical of the current administration.  He used both the pedal and the strings in ways that made me want to go home and try the piano to see if I could achieve the similar sounds: hollow echos, plucked strings with haunting resonance, changes in mood and timbre.The sway of his body into the keyboard and the expressions on his face between a smile and a grimace was not distracting but rather led me deeper into the audience into the music.

(You can hear the protesters in the background)
As I'm writing this post I'm greeted with the 6th night in a row of the "music" of pots and pans being beat by my neighbors. They've been playing for over 10 minutes with no sign of let-up. The rhythm just recently changed to match the chant "resign Erdogan". Fireworks are exploding, people are whistling, car horns are honking, and cheers can be heard from a distance. I miss the music of last night's concert.

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