December 15, 2017

AUDIO: Alash ensemble of Tuvan throat singers performs at Webster

Three members of the Alash ensemble, a Tuvan throat singing group, perform in the Community Music School. PHOTO BY MAX BOUVATTE

An eerie low-pitched humming sound came from the mouths of the Tuvan throat singers. Simultaneously, the three men raised and lowered their pitches.

The Alash ensemble, a group of Tuvan throat singers, performed at the Community Music School at Webster University on April 27. The Center for International Education (CIE) and the Department of Religious Studies cosponsored the concert.

The three singers, dressed in traditional Tuvan clothing, were introduced by their manager and interpreter, Sean Quirk. Quirk, an American, moved 10 years ago to Tuva, a small republic located at the bottom of Russia.

“The singing is ancient stuff,” Quirk said. “It goes back to a time when human beings were still inventing languages.”

Tuvan throat singing uses the human vocal cords much like a bagpipe. Throat singers can produce up to four pitches simultaneously, by laying higher pitches on top of a continuous low drone.

Lauren Huffman,  graduate assistant to the CIE, invited the ensemble to play Friday night.

She watched Alash perform at Webster last year, and wanted to have them back again.

“It was to bring a different part of the world to Webster that most of the world has never heard of, or seen,” Huffman said.

Huffman described the throat singing as, “one of those things, when you’re driving on your way home, you try to figure out how to do it.”

The singers have been on tour with Quirk for six years. The three singers who performed Friday night were Bady-Dorzhu Ondar, Ayan- ool Sam, the “Golden Throat of Tuva,” and Ayan Shirizhik. Each performer played a variety of instruments. This included the igil, which can be either bowed or plucked, a flute with no holes called the murgu and the guitar.

Quirk said throat singers learn the art by imitating. At a young age, an aspiring throat singer will listen to other throat singers perform and attempt to match what they are hearing.

Some of the members of the Alash ensemble cannot remember when they first learned to throat sing, Quirk said.

“Some of the guys, they laugh because they can’t remember, they were so little when they started to learn,” Quirk said.

The ensemble performed 16 songs, including “Ondar Girls,” a Tuvan “rock and roll” song “Oglumgu (To My Son),” and “Ivizhilerning Yryzy (The Reindeer Herder’s Song).”

Roger Chapman, freshman technical directing major, said he had heard Tuvan throat singing before attending the concert Friday night.

“My mother, especially, was very into globalized music, so I heard it (Tuvan throat singing) when I was younger,” Chapman said. “I was really impressed and it was nice to hear them (the Alash ensemble) in real life.”

The ensemble is currently on a tour of the United States. Quirk said he looks forward to coming back  to Webster in the near future.

Tuvan throat singers @ Webster University, St. Louis, Mo. by wujournal

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