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Lior & Westlake

Lior-Westlakes-674x379px-Feature-AThe West Australian Symphony Orchestra presents Lior & Westlake – Songs With Orchestra on Wednesday, December 11, at the Perth Concert Hall. LEAH BLANKENDAAL reports.

Joining the list this week of contemporary Australian musicians who’ve gone orchestral (Tex Perkins, Tim Rogers, Tim Minchin, The Whitlams to name a few) is singer/songwriter, Lior.

Teaming up with composer Nigel Westlake, the duo will present an intimate setting of spiritual pieces from the Jewish and Islamic faiths, as well as a number of Lior’s most loved songs.

“It started with the Jewish hymn, Avinu Malkeinu, a hymn of compassion, which literature equates to a type of plea on the road to freedom”, explains Lior.

This hymn brought Lior and Westlake together in tragic circumstances. Originally an a cappella hymn performed by Lior at solo gigs, Westlake first heard Lior perform it at a memorial service for his son Eli after his well-publicised death in 2008.

After this meeting Westlake and Lior floated the idea of creating a work for symphony orchestra based around Avinu Malkeinu. The result of these harrowing circumstances was an exceptionally beautiful and spiritual work called Compassion.

“We entertained the idea of borrowing from several places, but that to me felt somewhat superficial,” Lior says. “The idea of borrowing from texts from the world of Islam in Arabic of a similar nature felt good because the ancient cultures share so much yet they’ve had such a tumultuous history.”

After some searching, it became increasingly apparent to both Lior and Westlake that these were cultures with more similarities than differences.

“The first poem I found in Arabic was almost identical to Avinu Malkeinu in terms of the text and what it was saying, so that just gave me a really strong sense of validation that I would uncover some of these really beautiful texts if I went looking.”

In addition to Compassion, Lior will perform a selection of his own songs arranged for orchestra by some of Australia’s top composers, including Ben Northey, conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and West Australian, Ian Graindage.

The icing on the cake of this project? The different audiences both Lior and Westlake have attracted to each other’s worlds. Premiered with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra earlier this year, the combination of these two artists has created new experiences for their respective audiences.

“There’s a really good mix I think, between SSO subscribers who perhaps wouldn’t usually come to see me, and I know there were quite a number of people who were my audience who wouldn’t usually come out to see the Sydney Symphony’s shows,” laughs Lior.

The combination of two different audiences could hardly be more fitting given the deep-seeded spirituality that runs through Compassion.

“The texts that we researched all have a humanitarian focus. Both of us really gain our spirituality through music, so having a piece that has the weight of these ancient writings has really lent itself well to this being a spiritual piece.”

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