This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a very special concert in Izmir. “Egen’nin iki yakasindan esintiler: Turkiye-Yunanistan Dostluk Konseri”, which translates to “Aegean’s two breezes on the Seashore: Turkish-Greek Friendship Concert”. Combining the traditional musical styles of both cultures, the night was capped off with musical pieces sung together in both Greek and Turkish.
After having discovered about the concert from the Greek Consulate in downtown Izmir, I was excited to tell my fiancé about the event. Coming from a Greek background, and her being Turkish, the concert reflected one of the many beautiful aspects of our relationship, as it is a very important outlet for people to share and teach about each other’s cultures. It never ceases to amaze either of us though on how much music is shared in both Greek and Turkish, as we sometimes kindly argue as to which language it came in first! Of course, that’s all in good fun.
The concert was held in Bayrakli’s city hall building, which houses a beautiful concert venue for such events. With a packed house in attendance, the evening was hosted by both Greek and Turkish representatives, with the Greek host translating in both languages. Also in the audience was the Patriarch of Constantinople Archbishop Bartholomew, who was doing a church tour of Izmir for the week. His entrance was met with great applause, as his presence brings an important significance to the historical ties of the Greek community in Asia Minor. Having been born in Turkey, he speaks both Greek and Turkish fluently, and has strived to keep a growing relationship between both cultures. Alongside him were the mayor of Bayrakli, and a few other Turkish and Greek dignitaries, who came up to the stage to receive honors and awards for their work on peace building.
The music started off with traditional Ottoman sounds, comprised of a Turkish orchestra and choir. With each song, a soloist from the group took front stage to headline a piece. Their voices filled the air beautifully, and the performances were top notch. Having gone to several clubs and events both in Turkey and New York, I would say this was the best Turkish performance I’d ever seen. And on top of that, the event was free! The orchestra was true to its roots, as they played all natural instruments, bringing the audience back to a time when the Ottomans ruled the land. The people in the seats sang along, snapping their fingers and shaking their shoulders. And every so often, the music would stop, and the audience would shout “Allah!”, which is a traditional Turkish music custom.
After the Turkish performances, the choir switched up with the Greek chorus. Having all come from the Greek island of Lesbos (Midilli in Turkish), they announced that their pairing with the Turkish choir would have a repeat concert event in the coming weeks on the island of Lesbos, as a part of the peace tour. From there, the Greek choir began, with a nice contrast of style, as there were no musical accompaniments from an orchestra. Singing traditional Greek island songs from Lesbos and Samos, which are both located closely to the Turkish mainland, their voices brought a level of solace to the audience, exuding a more reflective approach to the music, as opposed the festive style beforehand.
Soon after, both choirs joined together on stage and ended the show singing shared songs in both languages. The audience chimed in, with myself being one of the few in my seated area to sing the Greek portions.
Reflecting on the evening’s events, the close bond that both the Greek and Turkish communities solidified that night made me feel truly at home. It was a great window into the artistic and historical aspect of living in Izmir, and hope that window remains open forever.