Duo Harmonia: Storytelling through Music & Narration

Pinar Başgöze and Susana Pinto

Harmonious: together, in agreement, in tune. A perfect word to describe the aptly named Duo Harmonia. Two artists from different parts of the world, who after discovering each other, now experience a lifelong passion of interconnecting musical traditions from different countries together. Through the wonders of storytelling, narration, and music, that’s the message they share in their upcoming showcase Heart-Tales.

Looking from a distance, we see all the qualities that set us apart from one another, but step a little closer and we learn, there’s much more that binds us together.

Music came naturally for Pinar Başgöze as a child. Admitted to a conservatory at age ten, with time she becomes a classically trained pianist. The Turkey native has talent so defined, she entered a national competition and placed third in 1998. This opportunity opened pathways for her to continue studying abroad, which she did. Venturing first to England, then to Minnesota, Pinar interviewed at MacPhail Center for Music and began teaching in 2007. The very next year, she meets her musical double.

Susana Pinto was born and raised in Portugal. She grew up surrounded by a family of artists, dabbling in piano herself by age twelve. Shortly thereafter, Susana joined a conservatory, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. Susana aspired to take her musical training further, but without an available master’s degree program in her country, she came to America to study. Whether by chance or fate she began teaching at MacPhail, years before Pinar’s arrival.

The two never planned to create Duo Harmonia but it was the natural result of two kindred spirits colliding. After leisurely playing together, Susana and Pinar discovered a shared passion for chamber ensembles, jazz, and interdisciplinary artistic concepts.

As Pinar realized, they shared “the same will, the same passion, the same sound.” The two teaching artists read music and practiced together. They held similar goals for where they wanted to take their music careers. All the while, they exchanged details about their different cultural backgrounds.

By summer of 2008, the decision was made. Duo Harmonia was formed, and the rest is history. Only, the two are still building their history together.

Heart-Tales is the latest work from the dynamic pair.

They found inspiration for their upcoming show after performing Carnival of the Animals by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns and performing their own arrangement for piano four hands and chamber ensemble of Peter and the Wolf by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev. In both performances, Susana and Pinar witnessed the power of storytelling to pass cultural and musical traditions from one generation to the next.

Next, they asked the question, “Which culture do we know the best?”

They decided to craft a three-part show where they would tell stories from each’s cultures. “A Cloud in Love,” a story from Turkey, and “The Bronze Boy,” from Portugal, are two of the stories being featured. The third, “The Fish Tale,” comes from their other home, America.

The theme of Heart-Tales is exactly what they learned through their friendship.

“Basic emotions. How people reflect on things is very similar.”

“Birth. Death. Political turmoil. These things that inspire people to write music, create dances, write stories create awareness, all bring people together.”

Pinar Başgöze

“Communication” is at the heart of the show, Susana believes. “We can get along with one another despite being from different places and different cultures.”

Pinar adds, “Although people are different. Different countries, different religious beliefs, different cuisines, and traditions. There are so many things that bring us close.”

“Basic emotions. How people reflect on things is very similar.”

“Birth. Death. Political turmoil. These things that inspire people to write music, create dances, write stories create awareness, all bring people together.”

Duo Harmonia has brought together many different people for Heart-Tales. After applying for and receiving generous funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Susana and Pinar commissioned three different composers for the showcase.

Music for “A Cloud in Love” by Nazim Hikmet is by the Turkish composer Turgay Erdener. “The Bronze Boy,” by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, will have the musical score by Susana’s brother, composer, double bassist, and classical ballet dancer Mário Franco. The Thai American story, “The Fish Tale,” is a folktale adapted by Puangpen Prescott, and composed by Thai-Minnesotan composer, interdisciplinary artist Mary Prescott.

Duo Harmonia performs piano four-hands, where one covers the bass and the other handles treble of the keyboard. The tales will be narrated by guest artist actor, director Aycil Yeltan.

Aycil Yeltan

Duo Harmonia hopes that the audience will receive and reflect on this exchange of cultures and consider the ways we all use storytelling to convey our traditions. The two women are mothers and think often of the lessons being passed from themselves to the next generation. With time, that generation will have stories of their own to share.

As the two artists move toward the performance date and the future beyond, together, their goal remains the same.

“We want to explore and attract artists and composers from other cultures and work with them,” they said. “Get together with them and learn about their traditions.”

We as the audience can do the same. At the end of the day, there are a thousand and one things that make us different from one another, but if we take the time to converse and get to know someone, we may find a thousand and two things we have in common.

Heart-Tales offers free admission and is open to the public. You can find out more information about Duo Harmonia’s performances here.

Published on Date: May 17, 2022
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