Thursday, May 7, 2015


In-round staging - Turkish Embassy - Lamentations for a soldier.
Photo: Peter Hislop
Canberra International Music Festival

Turkish Embassy: Monday 4th May.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

By happy circumstance the title of the first solo on the program, “No Cloud in the Sky”, also perfectly described the glorious Canberra autumn day on which this brilliantly conceived and superbly staged concert was performed.

The spacious, airy Turkish Embassy formal reception room with its high vaulted ceilings and warm acoustic,  with its walls hung with evocative archival photos of Gallipoli scenes depicting both the Turkish and Anzac involvements , provided the perfect environment for a mostly solemn program of 16th Century and contemporary lamentations.

Turkish Ambassador - Reha Keskintepe
Photo: Peter Hislop

After a brief welcome to the capacity audience  by the Turkish Ambassador,  Reha Keskintepe, the plaintive tones of Oguz Mulayim’s  ney (or Turkish flute)  heralded the entrance of the six members of The Song Company, who filed into a  circular performance space, while performing the first section of the world premiere of  Sydney composer, Ekrem Mulayim’s  extraordinary setting of “some echo still”, a 13th Century poem by Persian mystic and  poet, Rumi, for which Mulayim has attempted  to re-create the effect of the  ritual of whirling dervishes by having each singer vocally create a spinning sphere of cyclical rhythmic and melodic motion. The effect was compelling, unnerving and fascinating, as the singers skilfully negotiated the five movements of this remarkable work, which were interwoven through the program.

Ney player - Oguz Mulayim
Photo: Peter Hislop
 Indeed the construction of the program itself, presented in a seamless stream, without any break for applause or announcements, was noteworthy, creating as it did, exactly the correct atmosphere for quiet contemplation, necessary to savour the complexities of the various compositions. Performing in a circle allowed the audience to share the almost imperceptive signals passed between the singers as they negotiated with unfailingly accurate intonation and stunning tonal control, the complexities of Robert White’s  “Lamentations  for six voices”, Thomas Weelkes extraordinary “When David heard”’ or , in another world premiere performance,  Kim Cunio’s  glorious “Psalm 57”. Occasionally the singers would move quietly to the perimeters of the room, leaving the space to Mulayim for his atmospheric solos, then gently reclaim the space and surround the flute player for the following item.  By the time Mulayim accompanied the singers into the adjoining ante-room to perform the final piece in the program, Arvo Part’s prayer for peace “Da pacem Domine”, composed for victims of the 2004 Madrid train bombings, no one in the capacity audience was in any doubt that they had participated in an extraordinarily moving and memorable performance.  
         This review first published in the digital edition of "City News" on 4th May 2015