The melodic mixture of a Turkish jazz ensemble and a Canadian orchestra will take the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall stage at the Singleton Center for the Performing Arts this Tuesday.
Emre Kartari, a 2000 VCU graduate, moved to Ankara, Turkey in 2009 to start the first jazz-music program at Hacettepe University.
“Although Turkey hosted some of the biggest jazz festivals in Europe, they did not have any jazz education programs,” Kartari said.
To celebrate this breakthrough program, Kartari asked VCU professor Doug Richards to compose a piece. Richards started the jazz program at VCU in 1980 and headed it for 20 years.
Richards received a grant from the VCU School of the Arts and composed the “Ben Seni Variations,” which utilizes a Turkish stringed instrument called the kanun, a symphony orchestra and a jazz octet.
“The idea of the piece was to fuse together the musical cultures of Turkey, Western European art music and jazz,” Richards said.
The Turkish folk song, “Ben Seni Sevdugumi” served as inspiration for the piece.
“Ben Seni Variations” was first performed in November 2010 in Ankara, Turkey. The jazz octet there consisted exclusively of VCU jazz faculty.
“Having my teachers (from VCU) in Turkey, performing a Turkish folk song through (Richards’) imagination, being on the same stage with them was a lifelong dream come true for me,” Kartari said. “After the performance, I couldn’t hold back my tears.”
This Tuesday at the Singleton Center, many members of the original jazz octet will be reuniting to play the American debut of “Ben Seni Variations,” which Richards will be conducting.
The Ensemble Appassionata is the Montreal-based professional orchestra of Daniel Myssyk, the director of orchestral studies at VCU for more than four years.
The Ensemble Appassionata made its first appearance in America at the Mary Anne Rennolds Chamber Concerts this past Saturday, but Myssyk wanted to make the most of their visit.
“This is a very special project because it’s going to combine various forces, that is, a professional chamber orchestra playing side by side with the VCU symphony. … It’s a war horse,” Myssyk said. Combining orchestras is rarely done in the music world, he said.
Myssyk said he hopes that this event will inspire students.
“I heard from some kids that they had never played with a professional orchestra. … It should be a joyful moment, a very illuminating kind of moment,” Myssyk said.
Myssyk will be conducting both orchestras in Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, the New World.”
“Because of what I know of what inspired (Richards) and his work, I thought the most natural fit would be to program the Ninth Symphony by Dvorak,” Myssyk said. “It has to do a lot with his own personal American experience.”
The concert will be Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall in the Singleton Center. Tickets cost $15 for general admission and are free to VCU students with a valid ID.
Photos by Chris Conway