DePaul University’s Concert Hall: A Taste of Georgia

It is not a secret that one can go to DePaul University's Concert Hall on an ordinary day and enjoy the high-quality “entertainment” there. On a fairly cold Friday night when music was the one to warm my heart, I witnessed a very exotic night with a very nice flavor: A Taste of Georgia.

AmerKlavier studio, with its artistic director and founder Eteri Andjaparidze, and DePaul A Cappella and its leader Clayton Parr were the hosts of the evening. Joining together, they presented vocal and instrumental music of Georgia.

Old Tbilisi
Tbilisi, Georgia in 1671

As indicated in the program notes, the country of Georgia has an ancient cultural heritage. The vital components of the national identity include a unique language with its own alphabet; delicious cuisine, exquisite wine, and famous Georgian hospitality (all true, from personal experience); and unparalleled choral singing. Unique in sound qualities, melodies, harmonies, polyphony, and modes, Georgian vocal music can be divided into two groups: East and West. (The East Georgian song often has two solo upper parts and a lower part with flexible drone tones. West Georgian songs are characterized by a pronounced polyphony, which usually has a complex melodic structure that disregards harmonic consonance.) By oral tradition, the song forms were passed on from generation to generation.

Tbilisi Georgia
View of Central Part of Tbilisi, Georgia

The concert started with Eteri Andjaparidze, who played a sonata by Sulkhan Nasidze and dedicated it solely to the performer herself. Deep sonorities of the piano were explored in this piece, together with a masterful performance of this world-recognized artist. Students, all Georgian natives, together with a new DePaul piano faculty member Alexander Zintchentko (who was very sophisticated in his performance of the piece named Poem by still living composer Bidzina Kvernadze) were all equally impressive in their presentation. The most notable was young Nata Metskhovrishvili in her mature performance of Otar Taktakishvili's two piano pieces. Georgian piano music is rather eclectic, with its pianism deeply rooted in the music of Liszt, Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev, however, with strong folk momentum, rich use of harmonic language, and colorful rhythm.

Jvari Church Mtshketa Georgia
Jvari Church, 7th Century, Mtskheta, Georgia

In the second part of the program, we were able to hear all those treasures of the choral singing presented by DePaul A Cappella. We heard a true variety with a maqruli or a wedding song, Shen khar venakhi (Thou Art the Vine); Shepherd's song; as well as Alilo (which means Alleluia), songs not sung in church but sung while caroling during Christmas and the New Year.

Clayton Parr brought to DePaul's Concert Hall a breath of Georgia not only through a genuine and knowledgeable performance, but through his appearance — he was wearing a traditional Georgian costume. “Men wear black wool pants and a long-sleeved shirt that buttons half way down the front. This shirt is usually black and is often decorated around the edges with silver or gold thread. Soft, tight-fitting leather boots that extend above the knee are also worn. These boots have a thin sole and no heels. A wool coat, usually black, brown, white, or gray in color, is worn over the shirt and pants. A belt containing a dagger (kinjal) or sword is worn around the waist. The head is adorned with a papakha, a fur cap of sheep or goatskin with the fleece side out, which hangs down over the forehead. A cape made of goat or sheep wool, called a bourka, is worn around the shoulders. It is usually black and semicircular in shape, and fastened at the neck with thongs.”

The faithful audience of both AmerKlavier and DePaul A Cappella had witnessed a well-plotted program — a night of extraordinary musicianship and artistic voyage.

The AmerKlavier is a unique model of advanced piano performance study created by Eteri Andjaparidze at DePaul University's School of Music, and is the first piano performance studio ever granted the privilege to join the prestigious International Steinway Artists roster. DePaul A Cappella (DAC) has been a part of a mentoring program with the professional ensemble Chicago A Cappella and its director Jonathan Miller. In 2007, DAC won prizes in four categories at the International Musical Eisteddfod in LLangollen, Wales.

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