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Music at Tehran's Golestan Palace

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


Sitting in the balcony early in the evening, drinking a nice cup of tea, listening to the soft rain and enjoying the fresh and almost clean air, is something near a true novelty. Yes, at long last it rained. Tehran needed the rain so badly. The trees look so much nicer now that the rain has washed their dust away. We can see the true color of autumn now, bright brown, yellow and orange overshadowing the green. We have had a couple of pretty heavy nights of rain in Tehran. However, tonight the rain was smooth, gentle and almost kind. I felt as if I would betray the good weather, the soft breeze, if I went in; so instead I put on a jumper and went out to have my tea.


Last week, before all this, we went to a concert in Golestan Palace right in the heart of the city centre.  Golestan palace has been done up, destroyed and done up again many times in its history. It is known as the residence of many Ghajar kings, and its location is very interesting as it is almost next door to the main entrance of Tehran Grand Bazaar.


There was no problem with parking as there were plenty of parking spaces available. The guides, who were mainly young conscripts, were most courteous, informative and helpful, which I must add was a pleasant surprise.  As we were directed to the open sittings in the Baadgir Building yard, we passed a round houz (small pond) with three beautiful swans showing off their lovely feathers. I had been there during the day last June with a visiting friend, but now the ceramic works under spotlights gave me a lovely feeling of past and beauty.


We had gone to Golestan to enjoy a medieval music a performance by Unicorn Group, performed the Black Madonna program. They are a mixed group of European musicians and singers. That night they were eight in all, five men and three women, including one of the two singers. Nearest thing to their type of music that I know of is Irish Gallic.


Here I discovered how cello sounded like so many centuries ago. I was touched deeply, as cello is my favorite musical instrument. May be it reminds me of the pains, mine and others,  in this world;  even if it plays a happy note, may be it is reaches the depth of my soul, I don't know all I am sure of is that and I am truly fond of  the sound it makes.


To our great shock, and unlike most such events that I have attended or heard of, most of the seats were empty.  The organizers must have been very disappointed. I learned that this was mainly because organizers were unable to get proper permissions from the proper authorities in time to advertise the program well. The musicians got their visas on the day that they were leaving for Tehran, among other things. But the spirit was live and in full force there. Almost everybody was there because he or she cared for or loved music. To me live music has a special magic, one that no first class CD on the best equipment, even a B&O set, can match.


There were dark clouds up in the sky and a touch of wind that got quite strong and little nasty just before the performance was to start. To cut the long story short, since there were about 300 people instead of the expected 3000, the organizers first apologized for the delay and soon arranged in a speedy and orderly fashion for the program to commence in the Talare Khorshid (the Sun Saloon) which was the nearest one to where the chairs were set. Inside the atmosphere was very casual and informal.  We took our chairs with us inside and sat around. Many chose to stand and enjoy the program. The huge chandeliers there gave a bright and mystic sense to the event.


Then it all started, with what I call "a wake up call of angels," which was an improvisation of  "Ave Maria."  It was wonderful, absolutely great and most enjoyable. I held back my tears until the sound of Nay (Flute) gently took me way past my conscious control and to the deepest part of my heart, with its most moving sound. The next piece of music took up a merry, jolly tune and now we felt as though we were in ancient times, dancing at a court with other dignitaries. Then something totally different again, and this change continued with each and every song. They were a mixture of soothing, sensual sound that would make you dream of Arabian nights or would make you feel to want to get up and get together and dance along- which of-course nobody did!


One of the women musicians, Jane Achtman enjoyed playing her fiddle so much that  it was most pleasing to watch her enjoying it all along with such high level of exultation and energy.


There was a short intermission but by then the weather had changed for better and the second part took place in the open air. While the second half was good, I thought it wasn't as good as the first part. The last song was an exception though, and it was simply enchanting, as if a dark soft wine is pouring down your soul in the middle of the piece; and then suddenly the note changed, and it took a high note and turned the somber melody into a happy jolly sound again.  After the audience clapped for so many minutes the artists came back and played a piece in which they all sang on the chorus, and they used only their bare hands to make a beautiful sound that was truly jubilant. Jaye shoma khali (we missed you).


Some say that we are deprived of choices here and we do not go to or have live music often, and that is the reason that we enjoy -or we think we enjoy- programs so much, and that every time we attend such a program we think everything is so good! Well why not, but in all sincerity, I think this program was truly exceptional and I would think so no matter where I was in this world! Besides, I am truly grateful to all those people who go out of their ways and take so much trouble to make such events take place in order to enrich our humble lives and make it better and richer. My sincere thanks go to all the sponsors, and to the Austrian Cultural Institute in Tehran who have been at the forefront of this crusade for many years. In particular, I would like to thank Martina Ellers from the Austrian cultural centre, who is the mastermind behind these events that involves the institute, and Mr. Christian Fellner from the Austrian embassy in Tehran.


My admiration and thanks must go in particular to all the groups and individual artists who, despite all the negative publicity they might encounter in the international press against their host country, take up the courage and dare to come and perform here and enlighten our hearts and touch our souls. No doubt, we shall be looking for a time when we can have choices, good choices for all from all walks of life, without all this hassles and troubles. Until then, as Millie Jackson sang "we make the best of a bad situation."




... Payvand News - 11/06/03 ... --

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