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. Shaped by a musical language idiom inspired by the avant-garde movements of 20th-century Europe, the combination is unique, conjuring up a kaleidoscope of sounds.

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 uncustomary 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 monographs 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 at the Royal Academy of Music, London and privately with Steven Trier, and is currently drawing her experience into educational projects with asylum-seekers that she has spearheaded in Sicily. Her research on the oud, which led to Sing no Sad Songs for Me, will also be developed as a concert series in Rome in 2018-19, in collaboration with L’Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente.


Ciro Montanari has emerged as one of the most significant European tabla players, following his studies with Pandit Sankha Chatterjee in India and with Federico Senesi at the Conservatorio di Vicenza. Since 2012 Montanari has played regularly with the foremost Afghan musician Daud Khan Sadozai at a range of international venues, including Labyrinth Musical Seminars in Crete, and the ensemble of Jordi Savall. He has contributed to numerous cross-cultural music project in Europe and India, ranging from traditional Turkish and Hindustani through to Blues and Irish folk, working with ensembles such as Rasa Seyir, Samvad, Naghma, and Los Pajarillos. He has also played regularly with leading instrumentalists such as Sougata Roy Chowdhury, Kumar Barot, Ross M. Daly, Hooshang Farani (Iran), Efrèn Lopez Sanz, and Giuseppe Frana.


Evgenios Voulgaris is one of Europe’s leading multi-instrumentalists in traditional repertoires of the Mediterranean, asnd acknowledged as a leading exponent of the yayli tanbur, the bowed long-necked lute of Turkey. Following his studies of Byzantine music, Voulgaris developed the potential of theis instrument both in classical Ottoman repertoire and in contemporary music, realised in concerts, recordings, TV productions and in collaboration with leading composers and musicians internationally. He teached oudyayli tanbur, organology and makam (the modal system of the region’s musical traiditons) in several institutions, including the Conservatory in Patras, the Department of Traditional Music at the Technological Educational Institute in Epirus, Labyrinth Musical Seminars in Crete, and Music Village in Mount Pelio, Greece. 

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 Sommer in Germany and several other countries in Europe. He has a long discography, including his solo album “Makam Synergies on Yayli Tanbur” (2006),Wanderings(2004) in collaboration with singer Dora Petridis,The message of the prince(2008), in collaboration with Christos Galanopoulos, and more recently, the quartet projectModal4.

Voulgaris is also an important reference in the world of rebetico. Aside from two CDs (ApsiliesePsithirizontas to rebetiko), in 2007 he published Rebetika songs of the Inner War period in collaboration with Vassilis Vantarakis, which provides a comprehensive guide to the repertory of rebetico during the 1930s and ’40s.


Kostas Tsarouchis was born in Patras, Greece, where in 2004 he began learning oud with Evgenios Voulgaris at the 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), also developing a specialism in double bass through studies 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, and is currently working in Athens.



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