A song-cycle connecting the Bosphorus and the Thames
– resonances woven through the memories of women

Poetry by Christina Rossetti
Music by Rachel Beckles Willson
Performers: Rachel Beckles Willson (vocals, oud), Ciro Montanari (tabla),
Kostas Tsarouchis (double bass), Evgenios Voulgaris (yayli tanbur)

‘Sing no Sad Songs for Me’ connects the modal musical traditions of the Mediterranean at the time of the Ottomans with the poetry of Christina Rossetti, child of Italian exile in 19th-century London. Guided by a musical language idiom inspired by the avant-garde movements of 20th-century Europe, the combination is unique – a constellation of worlds to discover.

Christina Rossetti, daughter of notable exile Gabriele Rossetti, is considered one of the most important poets of 19th-century England. Her verses, vivid and at the same time other-worldly, are extended here in a serpentine melodies, enveloped in unique sonorities and timbres. The delicate phrases of the oud, and the other-worldly resonance of the yayli tanbur weave into the rhythmic carpet of the Indian tabla and double bass, connecting spaces of Europe and Asia all too often held apart.

Research for ‘Sing no Sad Songs for Me’ was developed at Labyrinth Musical Seminars (Crete) and in Istanbul, supported by the Leverhulme Trust and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Premiered at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, London, on 30 June 2018
Forthcoming performances in 2019: Edinburgh (Scotland) and Heraklion (Crete)

Rachel Beckles Willson is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and researcher, Professor of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. As a pianist she studied with Ference Rados and Gyorgy Kurtag at the Liszt Academy, Budapest, in ensuing years becoming an international authority in the music of late 20th-century Hungary and publishing two books on the subject. She performed internationally as a pianist, but later turned to the oud and voice, making a study of Ottoman and Arab traditions, particularly at Labyrinth Musical Seminars, Crete, where she worked with Ross Daly and Yurdal Tokcan, among many others. She studied saxophone with Steven Trier and at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and plays it these days within a song-writing project for asylum-seekers that she has spearheaded in Sicily in collaboration with Francesco Iannuzzelli. Her research on the oud will be developed as a concert series in Rome in 2018-19, in collaboration with L’Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.

One of Europe’s leading tabla players, Ciro Montanari has spent long periods in India studying tabla. He has worked with Pandit Sankha Chatterjee, as well as Federico Sanesi. Since 2012 Montanari has developed an understanding of the Afghan music world by accompanying Daud Khan Sadozai at his seminars at Labyrinth Musical Seminars in Crete, founded by Ross M. Daly. For several years Montanari has performed regularly in Europe and India, collaborating in numerous cross-cultural musical projects, including the quartet “Rasa Seyir” developing Turkish music; a collective in Ireland blending elements of Indian music,  blues and Irish folk tradition; in Italy with “Samvad” and also “Naghma”, connecting Afghan and Hindustani music; and as “Los Pajarillos” in Spain. He has accompanied leading instrumentalists including Sougata Roy Chowdhury, Daud Khan Sadozai, Pradip Kumar Barot, Ross M. Daly, Hooshang Farani (Iran), Efrèn Lopez Sanz, Giuseppe Frana.

Evgenios Voulgaris is one of Europe’s leading multi-instrumentalists in traditional repertoires, in which he developed interest in 1992, around the time he completed his studies in Byzantine music. He has worked frequently with prominent musicians and composers internationally, in concerts, recordings and television productions, and he has been the first mandolin in the Orchestra of Colors for over two decades. Voulgaris leads the Department of Traditional instruments in the Municipal Conservatory of Patras. He has also taught the oud, yayli tanbur, organology and makam theory in the Department of Traditional Music at the Technological Educational Institute of Epirus, as well as leading seminars at the “Labyrinth” Musical Workshop in Crete and the “Music Village”.

As ayayli tanbur soloist Voulgaris has been involved in various international projects: with Nima ben David at the Conservatoire National de Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris; “Flyways”, a project led by Paul Winter in New York, and “The Kommeno Project” led by Guenter Baby Sommer in Germany and various countries around Europe. In 2004 he released his first personal CD entitled  “Wanderings” together with the singer Dora Petridis. “The message of the prince” followed in 2008 (in cooperation with Ch. Galanopoulos) and recently in 2017, “ Modal4”. work on rebetika  includes the book “Rebetika songs of the Inner War period” firstly published in 2007 by Fagotto Publications (in cooperation with Vassilis Vantarakis) and two collaborative CDs, “Apsilies” and “Psithirizontas to rebetiko”.

Kostas Tsarouchis was born in Patras, Greece. In 2004 he began learning oud with Evgenios Voulgaris in the Municipal Conservatory of Patras. He studied Byzantine music and makam theory with Christos Tsiamoulis, Evgenios Voulgaris and Spyros Psachos and he is a member of the orchestra of traditional instruments at the Municipal Conservatory of Patras. He attended seminars in oud with Yurdal Tokcan (2005,2008,2013) and Haig Yazdjian (2009). At the same time he started to learn double bass with Vilen Karapetyan. He has collaborated with Ross Daly, Evgenios Voulgaris, Ourania Lambropoulou, Senix Udeger, Harris Lambrakis, Nikos Paroulakis, and others. He is performing with a variety of bands and projects as an oud and doublebass player in festivals in Greece and abroad.

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