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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Tigran Hamasyan and The Voices of Hope @ Sage Gateshead – Jan. 26

Tigran Hamasyan (piano, synthesizer); Voices of Hope (vocals)
(Review by Ann Alex)
I didn’t know what to expect from this original music, which was billed as music with various elements and a choir. It began with the artist referred to simply as ‘Tigran’, smartly dressed in white shirt and grey waistcoat, playing what sounded like a piano sonata, but then jazz-like chords popped up, yet the basic motif of the melody wasn’t lost. So it continued, each piece of music lasting about 5 minutes. The first piece had classical elements, the second was jazzier and the third was based on a folk-like melody, rather eastern in sound, with Tigran humming to parts of the tune. I’d guess that this was music played freely without bar lines.  By about the fourth piece, the synthesizer was involved, with layers of sounds, beats, hums, airy noise, whistles, giving a pleasing cascade. Perhaps this was what Beethoven would have sounded like if he’d had 21st-century technology.

Tigran named only 2 of the pieces, possibly because his knowledge of English seemed to be limited. I didn’t catch one of the names but the other piece was entitled Revolving, which was an appropriate description, as it swirled and circled well, although I thought it went on for rather a long time. Then on came the choir, 5 women and 4 men, all dressed in black and wearing trousers. They sang a couple of beautiful melodies in harmony, the sort that are sung in the Russian Orthodox Church. They were probably Armenian tunes, as that is where Tigran hails from. He meanwhile played the piano, not actual accompaniment, but riffs and melodies which fitted the singing yet also worked as a counterpoint to the choral work. Tigran’s habit of putting his face down close to the keyboard at times is reminiscent of Bill Evans’ style of playing, I was told.

The audience, which filled level one of the hall and some seats on level two, demanded an encore, during which all stops were out, literally, with many synthesizer sounds, passionate piano, humming, whistling. Tigran then left the music to play by itself on the stage for a couple of minutes before returning for his applause. I thought this piece was a bit overdone and I had enjoyed the shorter items towards the beginning of the performance more.

All told, an interesting evening of music which was enjoyable. Tigran has performed in Manchester, Dublin and Oxford, and is due at Celtic Connections in Glasgow today (Jan. 27)
Ann Alex  

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