Singing Anatolia’s sorrows and joys

The stories of Anatolia will be on full musical display this month as the Turkish-Canadian Society’ Choir Ensemble takes the stage for their major annual concert.

The 30-member choir will be led by conductor Sevgi Dogan and accompanied by a dozen musicians, as they look to share a variety of folk and classical songs whose histories are rooted in the Turkish peninsula.

While the choir is composed of members of the Turkish-Canadian Society of Vancouver, Dogan says the “multinational and multicultural” choir is open to all. She adds that this open-door policy of cultural sharing extends to inviting all audiences who are interested in the show.

“Our guests will have a great time for sure,” she says. “[The] music is lovely, beautiful people are on stage singing their hearts out. We believe our success is not a coincidence, it is [the] result of hard work and deepest care about our Turkish culture and history.”

The Turkish Canadian Society’s Turkish Choir Ensemble looks to offer a rich showcase of Anatolian culture and history. | Photo courtesy of the Turkish Canadian Society

For TCS vice president Ezgi Kilic, showcasing the history of Turkish music is an opportunity to open a cultural window into the greater spirit of Turkey itself.

“This concert underscores the Turkish-Canadian Society’s commitment to nurturing and showcasing Turkish arts, celebrating diversity and fostering connection within Vancouver’s vibrant community,” says Kilic. “We believe in the transformative power of art to unite people, showcasing our dedication to enriching both Turkish and broader communities in Vancouver.”

The show will take place at the Chan Centre on May 12.

A history and community of Turkish music

Dogan says she’s been inspired to see the growth in both scale and passion that the choir ensemble has seen over the years since it was established in 2003. She joined the choir in 2011 and became conductor a year later.

Before then, Dogan says she had some level of experience with conducting before moving to Canada, but since that time she’s been pleasantly surprised to see her conducting role with the TCS expand to leading a full-fledged choir for annual performances and weekly rehearsals.

“I did brief [conducting] experience when I was back home, but never imagined to conduct the scale of this 40+ ensemble,” she says.

Although Dogan is at the front of the choir in a directing role, she notes that deciding which songs to perform involves input from all members of the collective. Musicians and choir members submit their song suggestions and decide on the concert lineup collectively. This year the group chose a mix of folk and classical pieces, including songs with themes of nostalgia and yearning for homeland.

“We gather all the info, make a list, present the list and we collectively decide which folk and classic songs to perform,” explains Dogan. “So, it is not only my decision which makes it very exciting.”

That theme extends to this year’s most challenging song, Bahcemde acilmaz seni gormezse cicekler, which roughly translates to Flowers won’t bloom in my garden if they don’t see you. Dogan says that every year she suggests one particularly challenging piece for the group to perform, in this case, a piece from a well-known musician – Münir Nurettin Selçuk – based on a poem by a well-known Turkish poet – Faruk Nafiz Çamlıbel.

“Every rehearsal we practiced this piece until we perfected it,” she says.

Beyond Flowers won’t bloom, Dogan says the lineup includes a mix of different emotions and songs pulled from both Anatolia’s folk and classical music history.

“Anatolia’s sorrows, joys, love of each other and love of the country… Uplifting, joyful, colourful pieces with a very happy beat on it. But we have a few very sad songs. When [the] choir sings them, I know it is from the heart,” she says.

Overall, one emotion that stands out among the rest is pride, as Dogan is happy to continue to lead a team that is just as rewarding for audiences as it is for its members.

“[We] build a great team as a choir and there is a real chance we can reflect this to the whole community. Being a part of this amazing group of people is a privilege,” says Dogan. “Sharing [the] same values mutual respect to our music, selfless act of volunteering. All good examples for the future generations.”

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