GUAMARJOS! No, that's not a typo. It's the Georgian word for “cheers”, and if you are in Crediton on Saturday, March 18, it's a word you might want to know.
A small country in the Caucasus mountains, the Republic of Georgia lies at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and is rich in history and culture. Guamarjos literally means “victory”, which possibly says a lot about the turbulent story of this varied and mountainous land.
But while Georgia has been invaded countless times, and taken many influences from its neighbours, it has resolutely retained its own unique character.
Central to this national identity is a UNESCO listed tradition of polyphonic singing, of which the Georgians are rightly highly proud. Mostly sung in three parts, the songs blend challenging, dissonant and microtonal chords with sweet and lyrical close harmonies. Ancient pagan, shamanic ritual songs with soaring liturgical chants. Powerful work songs, rousing wedding songs, and modern, composed songs all continue this music into the present day.
Now you have an opportunity to hear or even learn these songs, right here in Crediton, as Bristol based Borjghali choir visits the town for the first time on Saturday, March 18.
Founded and led by Anthony Johnston, Borjghali choir specialises in the beautiful songs of Georgia. Anthony first encountered and came to love Georgian singing in 1994. Already then an experienced musician and teacher, Anthony went on to found Borjghali 10 years later.
Borjghali Choir has visited Georgia a number of times over the years, learning songs and experiencing Georgia's rich and vibrant culture first-hand.
In the afternoon Anthony will teach an open workshop. There is no need to read music, know the language, or have previous experience. Anthony is a highly experienced workshop leader with a patient teaching style, and there will be experienced singers on-hand to help and support newcomers.
If you are unfamiliar with this tradition, you are guaranteed a warm welcome and an enjoyable introduction to this beautiful music. As well as teaching songs, Anthony will spend time in the workshop explaining how to sing Georgian songs more authentically, not just in the technical sense, but also in learning to embody and convey the true spirit of each song.
Following the workshop a group of singers from Borjghali, Bristol Georgian choir, will give a short performance of sacred songs. There is no charge for the performance, but donations are invited to support the Disaster Emergency Committee's work in Turkey and Syria.
Then, in the evening, Borjghali choir members invite you to join them for a supra, or ritual Georgian feast.
Led by a toastmaster, or tamada, the banquet is accompanied by heartfelt toasts and, of course, further songs. Some of these "table songs" will be taught at the afternoon workshop, so guests can join Borjghali in singing at the supra table.
Borjghali firmly believe that the supra is more than the sum of its parts. Their aim is not merely to entertain, but to welcome and move you.
The structure of the supra creates a space where it is possible to connect with each other not as performers and audience, but as hosts and honoured guests, for an unforgettable, moving and highly authentic experience of Georgian culture. Guamarjos!
To find out more about this event, and to get tickets, go to: www.tickettailor.com/events/pitchblend .
It will take place at Moose Hall, Bowden Hill, Crediton. EX17 3EJ
Workshop 1.30pm-4.30pm; Performance 5pm-5.30pm; Supra 6pm-8pm. Workshop £35/30, Supra £30/25, Combined £55/45. Performance: £5 suggested donation to DEC in aid of emergency relief to Turkey and Syria.