We have ten minutes or so while the adverts are on to rehearse the second song. Somehow it comes together and, when we perform it……
We are finally called on stage at around 6.45pm. There is a 17-piece orchestra and, despite a CD of our music having been sent to the studio some days ago, the orchestra haven’t received it and, initially, say they can’t play either of the songs we want. But this is Turkey and professional musicians here are great at playing by ear so, within minutes they are playing Deli Kız after one of their number hums the tune. Unfortunately they aren’t successful with the music to our other song so the Director says “One song will be enough, let’s get on and rehearse it.”
Now we need microphones and the man in charge of sound equipment is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He says he has been in the studio since 7am without a break and, if we demand lapel microphones, he really will have his breakdown. We settle for hand-held cordless mikes and he is clearly relieved. He tells me he spent time at the BBC and a German TV station in Hamburg as part of his training. “Your BBC would have rehearsed this show for days” he says “here it has all been done today.”
We rehearse and the Director announces that we will sing only two of the song’s three verses – two is enough. What’s more that is all we will do. As we had expected to perform two complete songs plus, possibly, a folk dance, to be reduced to only part of one song is a blow – and after travelling all the way from Fethiye. Still we decide to make the best of it, take a quick group photo on stage then return downstairs to the waiting room.
We still don’t know exactly when we will perform. There is a host of young women rushing around wearing radio headsets and, at frequent intervals, I ask if they know when we will perform. The usual answer is “Not yet. This is live TV”. I want to say “But surely you have a running order?” However, I don’t really want to know their answer to that one. Eventually, when the show is underway and downstairs is almost deserted, we change into costume and the women in the group go to makeup. This writer finds she has visible eyebrows for the first time in her life, and wears her dancing hat low to hide them – don’t want to frighten the viewers. The young women makeup artists tell me they have made up 260 people so far today – and they aren’t paid per person!
One of the men in the group gets to try on a head-dress as worn for the Zeybek dance which we are currently learning.
Finally we are called up to perform and do so. Afterwards the male presenter comes to talk to us, the jury write a perfect score of 100 on their hand-held white boards and we are clearly a success. Then the presenter says “I believe you also do Kiziroglu Mustafa? Could you sing that one for us after the break?” That is the one the orchestra couldn’t play, what now……………..
We have ten minutes or so while the adverts are on to rehearse the second song. Somehow it comes together and, when we perform it, two members of the jury get up to dance along with the main singer as you can see here.
After this song we are again to chat with the presenter and the jury member from the National Folk Dance Federation interrupts to say the President of the Federation phoned during the break to praise our performance, but also to point out we aren’t wearing the regionally correct costumes for the songs we are performing. The Federation wants to present us with a set of the right costumes, and we are pleased to accept the gift.
And that is the end of our appearance in Istanbul. We change, dash to the airport, catch the 23.55 flight to Antalya and then drive home through the night with a meal break in Korkuteli.
Later on Sunday, in the market, I run into another British resident who had seen the first part of our performance by accident. “What did you win?” she asked – not speaking Turkish, she had presumed we were competing and, when the jury gave us 100 points, the perfect score, she guessed that we had won the competition.
The national press also covered the event and you can see the article here although it is all in Turkish.