STORY OF COMPASSION
A song cycle for voice and orchestra based on a collection of ancient Hebrew and Arabic texts.
Compassion uses the individual artistic strengths of singer/songwriter/composer Lior & fellow composer Nigel Westlake. Lior and Westlake join forces to express the wisdom of compassion through a combination of music & ancient writings. The work was premiered and recorded with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in late 2013 at the Sydney Opera House
Lior and Nigel Westlake have since performed "Compassion" with the state orchestras around Australia where it has been received with standing ovations and rave reviews. The CD recording of the work spent over 10 weeks at #1 on the ARIA Classical Charts as well as the Classical/Crossover Charts. The texts are largely a collection of poems, proverbs and songs drawn from the rich worlds of Judaism and Islam that give us an insight into such wisdom. Their similarities are immense and their universality is undeniable. Far from the misguided commentaries that have so often steered humanity away from the true enactment of compassion, these texts affirm that attaining a greater sense of compassion is an ultimate goal, and letting it guide our actions is the ultimate wisdom.
USA Premier April 8 & 9, 2016
Austin Symphony Orchestra, TX
conductor: Peter Bay
Winner of the 2015-2016 Austin Critics' Award, Best Symphonic Performance
ADDITIONAL WORDS ON "COMPASSION" FROM ITS COMPOSERS
The research that led me to the texts threaded through 'Compassion' took me from conversations with religious leaders to linguists who coached me through the finer details of Arabic pronunciation and the subtleties of the Arabic texts.
As a fluent Hebrew speaker, I initially thought that singing texts in Arabic would feel foreign and disingenuous, yet to my surprise, many of the words I encountered were common to both languages. In learning these texts, it became clear to me that these two languages share a common origin. Just as experience often validates the existence of a well-worn cliche, it is difficult to escape the analogy of two brothers starting from a common source and branching out to become what we now know as Hebrew and Arabic. In time, I would come to learn not only of the similarities in language, but in the very essence of the messages embodied throughout these proverbs and poems.
The catalyst for 'Compassion' was a single watershed moment: my first Lior concert, the inaugural fundraiser for the foundation our family formed in memory of my son Eli. At dusk, Lior began to weave his magic upon the crowd. It was a poignant occasion planned to coincide with the one year anniversary of Eli’s death, and the music held a very special meaning for all.
Lior’s music had been part of our family playlist for years. ‘Autumn Flow’, the album that rocketed Lior to prominence in 2005, was among the last music I shared with my son Eli before his death.
As Lior came back on stage for an encore, little did I realize that his final offering for the night would hold the germ of an idea that would become a life-changing journey. Without accompaniment, Lior embraced the plaintive strains of the ancient Hebrew hymn of compassion ‘Avinu Malkeinu’. The power and spirituality of the song struck a deep resonance among us all.
It was following that concert, I suggested to Lior that I work on a symphonic arrangement for ‘Avinu Malkeinu’, which subsequently had commissioning support from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
ABOUT LIOR AND NIGEL WESTLAKE
Lior burst on to the Australian music scene in 2005 with his stunning debut album - “Autumn Flow”. Recorded and released entirely independently, the album became one of the most successful independent debuts in Australian history with sales surpassing Platinum. A swag of accolades followed, amongst them three ARIA nominations - including Best Male Artist. Most artists set out with an ambition to build a career based on musical credibility and integrity whilst maintaining an independence and individuality in their craft. Lior is certainly part of that rare breed that has achieved this whilst garnering a great degree of success and critical acclaim.
Nigel Westlake is one of Australia’s most respected composers. Recently awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of New South Wales, his compositions have earned many accolades, including the Gold Medal at the New
York International Radio Festival, 15 APRA awards and the prestigious Paul Lowin Orchestral prize in 2013.
His film score credits include Miss Potter, Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, and the IMAX films Antarctica, Imagine, The Edge & Solarmax. He has conducted all the major Australian symphony orchestras in recordings & performances of his own works.
Nigel Westlake and Lior's 'Compassion' is one of the most compelling works I have had the pleasure to perform, and I cannot recall a new work that was received so rapturously by our audiences.
Lior's voice spans nearly three octaves and is expressive like no other.
His passionate delivery of the text surrounded by the remarkable orchestrations by Nigel make this work one of the great compositions of our time or any time.
Peter Bay, Music Director / Conductor
Austin Symphony Orchestra