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November 8, 2005

Georgian singers put on enchanting performance

Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH):

The ancient and arcane tradition of Georgian liturgical chant would seem to have the makings of a dry concert experience. This was not so Thursday night at the Beck Center, when the Anchiskhati Ensemble thrilled a near-capacity crowd with haunting harmonies and complex counterpoints. The eight men comprise the choir at Anchiskhati Orthodox Church, the oldest in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Their concert consisted of not only sacred music, but love songs, work songs and traveling songs.

Each of their voices had a distinct character, from high and reedy to deep and warm to piercing and laserlike. They used this disparity to full advantage. Each line of polyphony came through with crystal clarity. At the same time, they achieved a rich blend when one was called for. Much of the music dated from the middle ages, but the harmonies often sounded eerily contemporary. Intricate passages were built on top of pungent drones that buzzed in the ear, then snapped to a stunning unison at the end.

Most of the songs were a cappella, but a few were accompanied by chonguri, a four-stringed fretless lute, and panduri, a three-stringed fretted version of the same. One of the oldest songs of the night, a portion of a pre-Christian epic, was accompanied by a quiet instrument that looked like a bowed banjo, played in cello position. The focus of the concert was purely on the voices, with the men standing stock still in black and white military tunics with small swords at the waist.

Posted by acapnews at November 8, 2005 12:07 AM