On Friday I braved walking through the pall of the pot smoke of our Vancouver Art Gallery to meet up with my friend Graham Walker at Christ Church Cathedral. We were there to listen to one of the most unusual concerts of the last few years which happened to be part of the 2011-2011 Early Music Vancouver season.
More than ever before Walker and I knew we were going to listen to music we had never listened to before. We did not know that we would also see a collection of musical instruments that were unique, too.
We arrived early for a pre-concert introduction by The Boston Camerata Musical Director (a very French singer) Anne Azéma and Mehmet Sanlikol with a musical pedigree so long that I could go on forever here with its listing. Sanlikol was the leader of Dünya a Turkish-American ensemble (my Bosnian Muslim friend Andre deMondo told me that it means cantaloupe).
The two groups were arranged so that the Boston Camerata representing the West was to our left while Dünya was on our right as the East. The program covered the traditions and stories on Alexander the Great as recorded in various countries through the centuries.
Both Sanlikol and percussionist (both Turkish) sang with those in-between notes that we in the West sometimes find disturbing. But I was soon figuring out where Flamenco came from and I thought I could now appreciate the call of the muezzin to prayer.
Since the music on the Boston Camerata side was music that preceded the 16th century there were far more similarities between East and West that I was able to discern than out and out differences. It would seem that the decisive battle of Lepanto (fought by the famous “manco de lepanto”) and the unsuccessful siege of Vienna by the Ottomans separated two musical worlds and their respective systems for centuries.
As a boy, before there were any Austrian strongmen playing robots I found my heroes in the likes of Gene Autrey, Tarzan and the Lone Ranger. In history my two heroes were Alexander and Achilles. Both gave me the opportunity to craft wooden swords and cardboard shields. My interest in both heroes led me to even read both the fictional and real biography of Alexander by Mary Renault.
My infatuation with Claire Bloom led me to see the awful 1956 film with Richard Burton in which Bloom played a love interest called Barsine. The film was made in an age where the supposed homosexual relationship between Alexander and his dear friend (and general) Hephaestion would have been verboten. And the film never even mentioned the Persian princess; Roxana whom he married as an example by Alexander on how west should meet east, intermarry and produce what may have been the first incidence of cultural globalization, a Greek age.
As I drove home from Friday’s concert I had plenty of time to reflect on the excellence of the concert I had attended and how my curiosity for the music of the East had been renewed. Until then I had that favourite Dave Brubeck Quartet number called The Golden Horn. It was a teaser but not as good a one as Friday’s concert Alexander the Great: Hero, Warrior, Lover.
The Golden Horn
Addendum: Mehmet Sanlikol has written me and graciously pointed out: By the way, I have known that “dinja” in Croatian means cantaloupe but “dünya/dunya” in Turkish, Arabic, Greek and a few other languages means the world. You can learn more about us (and our name) here