Wilmington, Ohio: Lots of variety

By Lindajoy Fenley

Variety marked Arts Midwest World Fest’s first trip to Wilmington, Ohio, with Aysenur Kolivar’s Turkish ensemble performing for people of all ages at diverse locations. And thanks to a team effort organized by Murphy Theater Executive Director Maretta Alden, the ensemble got to know many community members.

Murphy Theater board, staff, and supporters Timothy Larrick, Cindy Camp, Diane Murphy, and Leslie Keller as well as Maretta Alden escorted us to workshops and concerts throughout the week.

Activities began on Monday, the morning after a long drive from Southern Illinois. Aysenur Kolivar and her ensemble were able to admire the beauty of the 97-year-old Murphy Theater and talk with technical staff on our first day at a workshop for homeschooled children. (See previous road story for photos of the workshop). The week ended at the same venue with a concert on Halloween night.

Murphy Theater members and others in the community also gave the ensemble a warm welcome on Monday evening at the home of Murphy Theater member Rachel Boyd.

The following day, Murphy Theater Artistic Director Timothy Larrick (pictured above at the reception) escorted the group to Wilmington High School. Music students from both the high school and middle school, who were visibly grateful for the opportunity to learn about Turkey and its culture, filled the cafetorium for two workshops. Despite little time for questions—at one of the workshops there was only time for one question, which turned out to be about Aysenur’s shoes—students were eager to learn more about the music and its influences. Several rushed to the stage after the bell rang to ask more questions about musical styles and influences.

The Wilmington schedule included two workshops at church potlucks: Tuesday at the Presbyterian Church, and Thursday at the Methodist Church. The local Quaker group also participated indirectly by providing childcare for Aysenur’s three-year-old daughter, Asude.

Singing in a sanctuary was particularly rewarding for both the performers and the audience. Aysenur didn’t want to stop singing, she said, because the acoustics were so beautiful. The performers also chatted with congregation members over dinner at both churches. Presbyterian Pastor Deborah Linville, who took up the ministry after a long career in the international construction business, chatted with Tolga Yenilmez about the importance of an international perspective on life.

While most of this week’s activities were right in Wilmington, Wednesday began with a half-hour drive to Hillsboro, near the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. At the end of a well-attended workshop for students at Southern State College, Alin Akar (pictured below with Onur Senturk and Aysenur Kolivar) told the audience how thrilled she was to meet people from her motherland. Alin immigrated to the United States 15 years ago at age 5.

Accordion player Alpay Surucu got one of the biggest compliments Wednesday evening at a workshop for community members at the Wilmington Public Library. A retired photographer among the senior citizens at the library said he always had a strong dislike for the accordion, but after listening to the way Alpay masterfully played the instrument, he wished he were young again so he could “take it up.”

Alpay’s exceptional playing had also sparked interest among the homeschoolers at the beginning of the week (pictured below).

One of the last workshops was at the Cape May Retirement Center where seniors filled a sitting room area. Just like older people in Lebanon, Illinois, some audience members at Cape May remembered trips to Turkey and the Mediterranean region in their younger years. As the musicians packed up, several residents spoke with ensemble members individually. One man who spoke with Onur had tears in his eyes. “Your music really touched my heart,” he said.

On their day off, the visiting Turkish musicians took in a local art museum, a Turkish restaurant, and a shopping center in Cincinnati plus a unique Halloween experience back in Wilmington at the Murphy Theater. Before the annual screening of the film Rocky Horror Picture Show, a cultish audience dressed as roles from the movie participated in a series of costume contests. Aysenur and her friends vowed to bring costumes from Turkey so they can be prepared for Halloween when they tour the rest of Arts Midwest’s region in 2016.

Over the next two years, Arts Midwest World Fest will return to Wilmington with music from Israel; Québec, Canada; and Inner Mongolia, China. The next ensembles will undoubtedly experience a wide variety of activities just as the Turkish group did this week. And when the two-year World Fest cycle ends, the Murphy Theater will be just months away from its centennial celebration when, I expect, they’ll be looking forward to sharing another century of varied programming with the Wilmington community.

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