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CIMF / Lior brings Compassion to festival gala


Lior performs at the CIMF opening gala concert. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / CIMF, Concert 2, opening gala. At Snow Concert Hall, May 1. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

The opening gala concert of this year’s Canberra International Music Festival was indeed very gala and emotionally uplifting with a program filled with compassion.

For the first part of the program, Compassion Now, was performed by Australian William Barton, didgeridoo and voice, Persian-Australian, Hamed Sadeghi, tar, and Belgium’s jazz virtuoso, Bram De Looze, piano.

The combination of three very different musical traditions was spellbinding. From the haunting opening with Barton’s didgeridoo, we were taken on a musical journey that was both ancient and modern. 

Sadeghi’s playing of the Persian tar gave a sensuous feeling of cultures past and present and De Looze’s appealing jazz rhythms complemented Barton’s Australian sound created by his didgeridoo and vocals.

William Barton performs at Snow Concert Hall. Photo: Peter Hislop

The second part of the program was Compassion, composed by Lior Attar and Nigel Westlake in 2013. 

This song cycle for voice and ensemble consisted of original melodies and orchestration set to ancient texts in Hebrew and Arabic, themed around the wisdom of compassion.

Lior himself performed the vocals and the starry ensemble included Véronique Serret, violin; Victoria Bihun, violin; Florian Peelman, viola; Freya Schack-Arnott, cello; Ben Ward, double bass; Claire Edwardes, percussion, and Ronan Apcar, piano. It was directed by Roland Peelman.

Westlake’s dynamic music was richly colourful. It was intense, dreamlike and had an enveloping warmth, especially in the final Hymn of Compassion. It was superbly played by the ensemble.

The texts of Compassion deal with clarity, integrity, mercy and wisdom. Lior’s beautifully clear voice and the earnestness of his performance made this a compelling and memorable experience.

Lior’s simple and pleasing encore song finished with the words, “compassion is the measure of a man”. It was a sobering thought to remember.

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