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by Camellia Elerman
posted 25/06/2019

East and West Meet on a Magical Night With the Tawadros Brothers and Sydney Symphony Orchestra

When I heard Joseph Tawadros was playing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra I had my doubts; would the orchestra drown the sound of the oud? Would the different scale system of the East and West result in a disorderly cacophony of sound? I had grown up listening to both styles but this was my first time listening to an Eastern instrument with a Western orchestra together. I dressed in my favourite green silk skirt and made my way to the iconic landmark to see what it was all about. I had invited my friend David because he is both a polymath and a fan of Khalil Gibran, the poem that inspired Tawadros’ Reason and Passion’. We got there half an hour early and David gave me lesson on Lebanese poetry and all the musical techniques and instruments I didn’t know about like the African kora and banjo and the Japanese koto.

 The vibe at the Opera House was wonderful. Everyone seemed excited and curious. The crowd was a mix of professional listeners (that is what I call people who know their music) and those who were there to learn something new (I was in the latter category). There must of been more of the former as the crowd cheered energetically as Joseph Tawadros walked on stage and performed a solo, joking that he couldn’t afford an opening act and the we’d have to made do. He then invited his brother James Tawadros on stage. As someone who grew up listening to the darbuka (I am Sydney born Istanbul bred, recently returned back to the homeland) I was spellbound by how James transformed the room. Without him, the whole thing would of sounded less lively.

 The whole things was magical. Two musical types that are structurally so different, as the Maestro pointed out, actually complemented each other perfectly.

 I had heard that Joseph Tawadros is usually quiet during his concerts and doesn’t speak much. He must of been in a good mood last night as he really didn’t stop talking to the point of rambling at some stage. The interesting points I remember was when he explained that the oud is the ancestor of the guitar and found it’s way from North Africa to Europe through the Moors in Spain. He also joked about cultural appropriation and his fez; the audience laughed; but I found it unnecessary. I liked his colourful clothes and fez but after his joke I wondered if it was his fashion taste or a bitter stance against something. I would like to ask that to him if I ever meet him one day.

 For me, the highlights of the evening were listening to Constellation, Eye of the Beholder and Constantinople. The audience were on their feet at the end of all those pieces. The best things about the night is that it felt like everyone; the Tawadroses, the orchestra and the audience were enjoying themselves immensely.

There is no doubting Tawadros’ (both of their) talent. And despite my reservations, the Sydney Symphony didn’t drown their sound at all. It was just beautifully made, composed and executed. If I can I will go see them together again. Music is transient, but I never thought two such distinctive styles could technically create pieces that sounded, as millennials would ungracefully put it ‘soooo goood’.

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