The Gumusluk Classical Music Festival was started ten years ago by my old friend Eren Levendoglu who is a fabulous pianist. We lived and studied together a long time ago and met up again at the Harare International Festival of Arts last year.
The idea behind the festival is to being students of classical music from Turkey together with international teachers. The big difference is that instead of just one masterclass in a single day, followed by a concert, the Gumusluk Festival brings the teacher there for a whole week of intensive teaching in a beautiful location – RIGHT on the beach! …with grand piano’s housed in reed practice rooms, the sound of the sea lapping just outside the door.
Ruth and I arrived during the last piano week, with Pierre Réach playing the Goldberg Variations in the incredible new festival concert venue – the ancient quarry of Koyunbaba. Concert began at nine in the evening and the mix of location, music and warm night air were magic beyond words.
The guitar week began last Saturday, with the arrival the day before of Italian guitar composer Carlo Dominiconi. I was familiar with Carlo’s music through various compositions (he has composed more than 500 works for the solo guitar alone over his 40 or 50 year career), but had never heard him play his own music. We began teaching by teaching a morning class together on Sunday, finding we had a lot of ideas in common. We spent the rest of the week teaching separately with Carlo focusing on the harmonic subtleties of guitar music and me focusing on performance, interpretation, and new ways to work with music and playing guitar.
In my class we tried many experiments, examining our own beliefs, ideas and thoughts about playing, the composers whose music we played…especially those ideas that got in the way of our own natural ability and playing. There were some really great results: playing which was rather stilted transforming into beautifully phrased and expressive music. Sometimes the transformation was in a matter of minutes!
There was lots of time in between to enjoy the sea and Turkish food and just relax, talk to Carlo about guitar or play guitar and meet other musicians.
I also did two small double bill concerts with the absolutely amazing Gulsin Onay (listen to her on this link to get an idea of what I am talking about), a world renowned Turkish pianist whose playing totally blew Ruth and I away when we first heard her play the Rachmaninoff piano concerto in one of the teaching rooms on the beach. Incredible. I also jammed with Erkan Ugur, a very well-known Turkish guitarist and inventor, back in the seventies, of the fretless guitar.
Finally the time came for the concert, with Carlo and myself performing to 550 people in the beautiful quarry. After two weeks of hearing classical piano music, talking about music, teaching and thinking about the place of African Classical music in it all, I was ready to sit down and get down to some playing. The response was fabulous.
And then Carlo came onto the stage. he played three pieces, lasting about ten minutes each. He began with what may have been an atmospheric introduction…and sustained this throughout each piece..with total mastery of the guitar’s sonic potential…never straying from this intense extraction of the instrument’s sounds, rarely straying into the conventional sounds of the instrument. He really blew every little corner of my mind. Thanks Carlo!
I have been scouring the globe for interesting solo guitar music, eventually discovering Gismonti about fifteen years ago…I would say that the 30 minutes I sat and watched Carlo play on the that stage in Turkey, under the night sky with cliffs rising above him, was one of the more profound musical experiences of my life.
What I saw that night has challenged me to delve deeper into the sonic potential of my guitar and to break down the elements of my technique that are set, open them up, and let a new freedom result. I hope I can say that I will never be the same again.
We played two or three improvs together (Carlo had refused to play together before the show, so this was really fresh and there were some amazing moments…and some amusing ones…)
Then it was time to travel home. Ruth has gone on to the US to write her final exams, so I am not-home-alone with my four crazy children, just finished a beautiful gig with Sannie Fox (Savane!) and The Brother Moves On at The Slave Church in Long Street.
And then, come September, the US…
I found this pretty great video of Carlo some years ago…pretty close to what he did at Gumusluk…