KARAKORUM :  A most exciting and unusual concert that combines the outstanding talents of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and five members of the Brandenburg choir with the ‘medieval world folk’ ensemble, La Camera delle Lacrime.

Narrated by one of Australia’s most respected actors, David Wenham, as William in a black Franciscan habit , the concert follows the 13th century journey of William of Rubruck, a Flemish Franciscan friar who spent years exploring what we now know as ‘the silk road’ on a mission to convert the Great Khan to Christianity in the Mongol capital, Karakorum.  He traveled through the lands that the Mongols had conquered in the Crimea, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Asia Minor between 1253 and 1255. Wenham as William conveys Michael Costi’s script (a translation which is based on La Camera Director Khaï-dong Luong’s original concept and directed here by Constantine Costi) with attentive respect, considering each observation, before discreetly withdrawing to write in his journal as his adventure develops.

The performance is based on William’s manuscript and itinerarium ( journal or diary ) and evokes each of the main locations of William’s extraordinary journey , leading to the multi faith debate at Karakorum chaired by the Great Khan ( Mongke Khan). On his travels William noted the numerous different religious beliefs , peoples , food, music, challenging landscapes and strange animals in his journal presented to King Louis IX  – at times on his travels  William hugely felt an outsider .There is a captivating blend of both musical styles and faiths – including Latin church hymns, Buddhist chants and sufi music among others interweaving the Christian, Islamic and Eurasian worlds. It blends Gregorian chant , prayerful antiphonal hymns , Buddhist chants , Sufi chants , Mongolian and melodies and troubadour songs. There are hints perhaps of Carmina Burana .

La Camera delle Lacrime,is led by charismatic Bruno Bonhoure who leads the singing and is a silkily smooth , inspired performer .Some of the movements are synchronised blocks of  ensemble work , ( eg the feast ) mime at time is included , or there are sinuous ,stylised ,jazz movements but with a ballet base for example , folk dance and also allusions to the Sufi whirling dervishes . La camera delle Lacrime use a wide range of rather unusual instruments including erhu and kamancheh as well as hand held drums and a hurdy gurdy .Finger cymbals , recorders and a bagpipe like instrument are also used . Of particular interest at one point is Yan Li on the erhu and her lone female voice adds piquant contrast to the dominant male voices throughout .  

The members of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra played period violins , led by artistic director Paul Dyer on an organ .

Bonhoure complements Wenham, becoming Rubruck’s enthusiastic singing alter ego , (as well as other characters ) with an incredible fluidity as he adapts and integrates the various styles of song and chant .

The concert has an atmosphere at times of exuberance and buoyancy , but also unexpected discovery and enigmas. The music is at times infectious, exquisite and multi layered .

A fascinating insight into William’s incredible journey .

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra [Facebook] and La Camera delle Lacrime [Facebook] in KARAKORUM is at City Recital Hall, Sydney until August 3


Ay! Deus | Austorg d’Aurillac (1225-1291) – Troubadour Song
La mer de Pont (The Black Sea) – Melody from the Caucasus
Sri Devi Ashtottara Shata Namavalih – Buddhist hymn
Loving the beauty of Layla - Sufi Chant
Pos ancno-us ualc amors | Bertran de Lamanon (1210-1270) – Troubadour Song in Occitan
Ural - melody of the sacred mountain
Miserere mei Deus – Psalm, Gregorian chant
Vexilla Rigis – Gregorian Chant and Muslim call to prayer
Salve Regina – Marian antiphon, Gregorian Chant
Credo in unum Deum - Gregorian Chant
Heart beating in the steppes - Mongolian Chant
Ave Regina Coelorum - Marian antiphon – Gregorian Chant
A solis ortus cardine | Sedulius (c 430) – Gregorian Chant
Tang Tang – Mongolian melody
Chanson à boire (Drinking song) – Mongolian Melody
Veni Sancte Spiritus - Sequence for Pentecost, Gregorian chant
Vision of the Beloved – Sufi chant
The debate at Karakorum | Bruno Bonhoure and Khaï-dong Luong
Veni Veni Emmanuel - Gregorian Chant
With hearts high - Melody from Kyrgyzstan