Dalla Porta D’Oriente opens the doors of oriental music

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Photo: Mary McCown

Constantinople performers, Patrick Graham (percussion), Didem Başar (kanun), Tanya LaPerrière (violin), Marco Beasley (tenor), Kiya Tabassian (sétar/vocals), Fabio Accurso (lute), Stefano Rocco (classical guitar) and Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba), take a bow at the end of their concert.

East and West came together in perfect harmony with the musical ensemble, Constantinople, last Friday evening at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City. The musicians immediately captivated their audience, leading them on an epic journey through time with their newest creation Dalla Porta D’Oriente featuring Italian tenor, Marco Beasley.

Constantinople is an ensemble of talented musicians based in Montreal who offer an eclectic musical experience, seamlessly blending medieval manuscripts with contemporary styles and European sounds with Eastern traditions. The ensemble has developed more than 35 creations and has performed in more than 24 countries.

Dalla Porta D’Oriente features songs from the Italian Renaissance and Perso-Ottoman Empire beautifully intertwined with a manuscript written by Polish-born musician and orientalist Ali Ufki (Albert Bobowski) in the early 17th century. Dalla Porta D’Oriente effortlessly passes from one language to another and from one musical style to another. With the partnership of Italian tenor Marco Beasley, Constantinople recreates sounds from antiquity.

Born in Naples in 1957, Marco Beasley is recognized for the purity of his voice and his particular vocal technique. The cultures of Europe and the East were brought to life by Beasley’s talent for expressive communication.

During the performance, audience members heard excerpts from the epic poem La Gerusalemme liberata (Jerusalem delivered) by Italian poet Torquato Tasso that was first published in 1581. It tells a version of the First Crusade in which Christian knights battle Muslims in order to take Jerusalem. Beasley’s natural talent for storytelling along with the sound of authentic medieval musical instruments transported the audience into another time, another place.
It is not every day that concert goers have the special treat of hearing instruments such as the kanun and sétar.

Artistic director and co-founder of Constantinople, Kiya Tabassian, played the sétar which is an Iranian musical string instrument and a member of the lute family. Its name means “three strings” and is derived from a pre-Islamic lute. Centuries later, a fourth string was added to the instrument.

Turkish born Didem Başar played the kanun, a string instrument played in much of the Middle East, West Africa, Central Asia, as well as in southeastern regions of Europe. The kanun is thought to trace its origins back to Assyria, possibly heard in Mesopotamian royal courts and religious ceremonies. Similar to a zither, the instrument is known for its unique melodramatic sound.

Constantinople offers music workshops in Montreal. Their goal is “to form versatile musicians with a broad understanding of vision and music … and to raise awareness of some of the neglected or little-known musical languages.”

Constantinople will continue their Dalla Porta D’Oriente tour, performing in Montreal from March 25 to 31.