An amazing and emotional concert held at the Fethiye Cultural Centre on Monday 16th January 2012 was a fitting tribute to the the late Benyamin Sönmez.

Even if you didn’t understand the tributes in Turkish, you couldn’t help be moved by film of Benyamin performing; an improvised piano piece based on ‘Happy Birthday to You’ played by one of his musician friends; his brother’s beautiful playing on the contrabass and his parents’ speaking about their loss.

Our picture shows his older brother Mehmet playing the contrabass accompanied by the harp.

Benyamin was actually born in Bremen, Germany where his father played saz for Turkish weddings.

The family returned to Turkey when he was three, and he grew up surrounded by music.

He and his brother accompanied their mother’s singing and father’s playing, on Kanun (Turkish zither) and Darbuka, but would also try their hand at any other instrument that happened to be available.

At the age of 14 Benyamin auditioned for the conservatoire in Ankara and was admitted to learn the violincello.

At that point he had never played the instrument and couldn’t read music.

Three short years later he won his first international music prize, and in 2000 became one of the BBC Young Musicians of the Year.

He went on to win other international music competitions and his death last November, at the young age of 28, was widely reported in the classical music press.

If you’d like to see him play, type his name into the Search box on YouTube, and there are lots of films of him performing.

Monday 16th January would have been his 29th birthday and accordingly cake was served in the interval.

His father told us how they had never celebrated his birthday because traditionally Turks don’t do so.

“Today I wished him happy birthday for the first time ever at his grave”.

The evening was compered by Naci Dincer, who announced that it is planned to hold a series of concerts in October under the title ‘Music Days’. Classical music will be performed in the ampitheatre, in Kayaköy and on the beach at the lagoon in Ölüdeniz.

We look forward to rounding off the summer with some memorable musical evenings.

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