It’s difficult to grasp the massive scale of the earthquakes that struck southeast Turkey and northern Syria last month. More than 53,500 deaths have been confirmed as of this week, and an estimated one-and-a-half-million people have been made homeless across the region. Collectively, the earthquakes are estimated to have caused more than $84 billion in damage.
Given the almost unimaginable scope of the destruction and displacement, it’s likewise hard to think about how to make a difference. But a benefit concert in Provincetown this weekend is a place to start.
On Sunday, March 12, the Great Music on Sundays @5 series will present a fundraising concert at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House of Provincetown (236 Commercial St.) to benefit all people affected by earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Donations collected at the concert (and via Venmo at any time) will be sent to Doctors Without Borders, an international organization of first responders and other medical professionals that provided crucial aid in the region in the aftermath of the disaster.
The program will feature music from sama ceremonies, one form of which is better known to Western audiences as the whirling meditation ritual practiced in the Mevlevi sect of Sufi religious practice, which was founded in central Turkey in the 13th century by followers of the theologian, mystic, and poet Rumi. Derived from the Arabic word for “listening,” sama incorporates music as a means of meditative prayer and is in keeping with event producer John Thomas’s conception of the concert program as a whole, which he says is intended to “provide a sonic environment for reflection and action.”
Thomas says this concert will be the second time in just over a year that musicians and Outer Cape audiences will have had the opportunity to come together to respond to a global crisis. “Making music is the best way that I know to stimulate healing and action for myself and those who experience it,” he says. “One year ago, all donations from our Music for Ukraine meditation concert were donated to two carefully chosen organizations helping Ukrainian refugees. Nearly one year later, a different kind of tragedy struck Turkey and Syria. So, we will gather again for an hour of pure music — no speeches, no applause, just being together and feeling our connection with each other and the people in Turkey and Syria.”
In addition to the sama music, the concert program will also include traditional Turkish and Syrian folk melodies and compositions by contemporary Turkish composer Fazıl Say. They will be played by an ensemble that includes Thomas on piano, Ken Field on saxophone and flute, Justin Torrellas on reeds, and featured performer Basel Zayed on the oud — a lute-like, fretless stringed instrument common to Arabic and Persian music — and vocals. As a virtuosic performer, conductor, and composer in the Maqam musical tradition, a traditional form of Arabic music based on melodic improvisation, the Boston-based Zayed has played across North America, Europe, and the Middle East. This will be his first time performing in Provincetown.
The concert will be livestreamed and archived on the Great Music on Sundays @5 series YouTube channel. “I look forward to every moment of the music that we will make for and with all who come to the meeting house,” says Thomas, “and everyone who listens online, wherever they are in the world.”
Covid protocols will be in place for the concert at the UU Meeting House, and attendees are advised to bring masks. For more information, or to make a donation, see uumhptown.org.