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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 11:12 GMT
Choirs of the world: Orfeon Chamber Choir
BBC World Service's World Today programme is looking at five different choirs and five different musical communities - all united by a common goal of maintaining or reviving their respective traditions and making these relevant to the present.

Orfeon Chamber Choir
Orfeon Chamber Choir were formed in a high school
Although Turkey is not famed for its choral music tradition, Orfeon Chamber Choir are attempting to change that.

Formed 10 years ago by a group of young amateur singers, the choir has been building its popularity through their renditions of Turkish classics such as Burcak Tarlasi - Vetch Field - and Katibim, The Clerk.

"In the 1960s and 70s, Bucak Tarlasi was a pop song in Turkey - actually this is a folkloric song for hundreds of years," Ilker Ersil, who helped establish the choir, told BBC World Service's The World Today programme.

"The pieces that you remember, that take your attention in a song, come from Turkish folklore.

"We commissioned four pieces from [composer] Jonathan Rathbone and he arranged four Turkish folkloric songs for Orfeon."


Mr Ersil said that Turkey's choir tradition had started in the 1930s with the country's foundation.

The choirs had enjoyed some limited popularity on radio, but not on television. Some opera choirs had also been founded.

"Usually, as we don't have a church tradition, the choirs are formed in the high schools or in the middle schools," Mr Ersil added.

"That's how we started."

Katibim, about the relationship between a clerk and a well-bred lady, is a folkloric song of Istanbul.

Orfeon Chamber Choir use have a composition from Ahmet Adnan Saigun, done in the 1950s, together with Rathbone's new arrangement.

"It's a love song, of course," said singer Vedia Sirmen.

"In ancient Istanbul, the women were not very free to declare their love, and that song is about that.

"It's a very well-known song and my mother and my mother's mother, maybe, at that time, sang."

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Ilker Ersil
"As we don't have a church tradition, the choirs are formed in the high schools "

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