Lebanon, IL welcomes Turkish musicians

By Lindajoy Fenley

Southern Illinois gave a warm and varied welcome to the Turkish musicians beginning their first Arts Midwest World Fest tour this week.

Official tour activities began Monday with friendly connections at a Rotary lunch and later at an evening reception at McKendree University.

In addition, a surprising welcome was delivered that evening when Aysenur Kolivar, Onur Senturk, Alpay Surucu, and Tolga Yenilmez attended a performance of the St. Louis Brass Band at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts, where the Turkish musicians will perform later in the week. During the performance, artist Patrick Sheridan explained how he and Sam Pilafian from the St. Louis Brass Band had been inspired to compose a piece called “The Strait of Hormuz” to honor musician friends coming from a region of the world that was getting bad press at the time of an oil crisis several years ago. After the audience applauded his impressive tuba solos, the Sheridan said that people from the other side of the globe would be glad to know U.S. audiences liked the music. He had no way of knowing that the audience included Turkish musicians who had recognized the sounds of their region in his composition!

The following day, the Turkish group introduced their music to appreciative students at two elementary schools in Edwardsville. On Tuesday, they repeated their message to elementary and high school students in Lebanon. While the Turkish music was new to nearly everyone, at least one student found it familiar. A student named Pera Onal, who had enrolled at Columbus Elementary this year because her parents now teach at Southern Illinois University, chatted with the musicians in Turkish after a workshop at her school.

In addition to listening to the music and participating by clapping, singing, and dancing, the students learned Turkish words like “merhaba” (“hello”) and “hoşça kal” (“goodbye”). They didn’t learn to say “hoş geldin” (“welcome”), but they expressed that message without words.

Welcoming exchanges at Rotary, the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts, and the public schools in Edwardsville and Lebanon seem like harbingers of a tour that will build bridges between cultures. Having reached about 1,000 elementary students plus several hundred high school students in the first two days of the tour, Aysenur and her friends are off to a good start. Next week they’ll head east to Ohio.

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