When I was in the acting school in Bilkent University, I used to sneak into the concert hall next door to hear Bilkent Symphony and sit in the balcony and listen… I have to confess that couple of times I fell asleep while they were performing, not because I was bored – I hope- but the music was so soothing after a long day’s work in the acting school. It was also because I didn’t know almost anything about the composers or the pieces and I wasn’t engaged enough with what was happening in front of me.
Then I met Emir. He was a classical pianist. My interest in him was not because he was Mr. fancy pants playing the piano, on the contrary from the get-go I have understood that piano will be his true love and I had to act accordingly!
I remember one day, just couple months after we started dating, he was getting ready for an important concert in which he was going to play Mendelssohn’s Violin-Piano Concerto with Marina. This was a piece that he never played before and he only had 50 days to get ready (Which is crazy, if you have any idea about playing piano). So he was practicing in the apartment with his second lover, the metronome (Miss Metronome is very annoying) and was working on a particular passage, over and over again. He has started from a VERY slow tempo and one notch at a time he was getting faster and was still struggling. He stopped, and said “Okay” took a deep breath “Let’s start over” And he went back all the way down to the slowest tempo one more time. I was stunned and annoyed and shocked and scared all at the same time. I said “I’m going”, “Where?”, “I will take a walk”. He didn’t question he knew that it was unbearable.
While I was walking I thought “If I keep dating him, and if this relationship goes somewhere, this will be my life… Do I really want this?” Then I called my friend Yasemin telling her what happened and while I was talking to her, I remember feeling good about this overall situation. Because I knew what it was to put up with the struggles and sometimes pain in order to make your dream come true.
Years went by, piano, metronome, Emir and I are happily married for 6 years now, living in a tiny apartment in New York all four of us. We don’t have children yet, but our foursome gave birth to projects that combine the two loves of our lives; music and theater. Together we created projects like Drama in Beethoven, Talking to Schubert, Genius by Chopin, Two Faces of Schumann… and produced casual concerts and shows in Caffe Vivaldi. Now we are getting ready for a big chamber music concert which will feature seven great musicians from our interdisciplinary group “New Yorker Ensemble” playing a fun concert themed “Folk in Classical Music”.
Obviously along the years I became a huge classical music fan. I often find myself bored while listening to other genres, except when there is a great virtuoso or a truly great voice performing. I find it boring because I feel like the music keeps repeating itself instead of making me travel from land to land, tickling my mind and touching my heart, like classical music does. Some people say that classical music is a “special” thing, they often use the word “education” with classical music. And with “education”, “institutions” come to mind, which I think take it away from our daily life and makes us see it “special”. So this may be seen as a nice round vicious circle, a loop-hole in our culture.
Emir used to say that it takes a little bit more time, maybe requires some effort to become a classical music lover. So you can build patience to follow a long piece of music without words (Of course not every classical music piece is without words, I’m speaking generally here). Also having a context helps, knowing about a composer’s life, what was he or she trying to achieve at that point of his/her life. But hey, every good thing has a price, so this is the price for classical music; taking a moment, slowing the time to breathe with music, to stay present with music. I find it entertaining. I will always remember my first time hearing The Rite of Spring from Concertgebouw Orchestra in Istanbul’s Ataturk Kultur Merkezi. It was like listening to a rock concert, my heart was pounding so hard the whole time. After the concert we couldn’t stop talking about it. So, exposure to live classical music helps tremendously, especially if you are witnessing great musicians playing with all their might.
Our cafe concerts at West Village’s Caffe Vivaldi have been so powerful for our audience, because they get to witness music being created right in front of their eyes; no stage lights, no musicians in black dresses coming from a backstage, no “magic”, just music… Once a young audience member came to us after concert and said “This is the most real thing I have seen for a long time”. His feedback made us very happy. Because that is what we’re tying to achieve. No dress codes, no procedure, no institution, no tickets, just a donation box… We said, if people like what we’re doing, they will support. We named ourselves “Classical for All”
As for our “foursome”, I find myself lucky to be sharing my tiny apartment with Emir’s lovers, although I still want to choke Miss Metronome at times.
Here’s a little clip as a sneak peek into Folk in Classical Music that will be performed on May 20th at Greenwich House Music’s intimate Renee Weiler Concert Hall: