French composer Pierre Thilloy supports Many Happy Returns campaign

French composer Pierre Thilloy supports Many Happy Returns campaign
# 22 July 2014 12:16 (UTC +04:00)

He first visited the country in 2001, and was Musician-in-Residence at the French Embassy in Baku from 2003–05. These experiences were subsequently chronicled in a documentary entitled Pierre Thilloy, la Montagne de Feu, broadcast on the France 2 and Mezzo channels. He has regularly returned to the country since 2008, and has immersed himself in the history, culture and music of the country – both mugham and classical – much of which originates from the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan that has been under illegal Armenian occupation for the past 20 years.

In 2012, The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) commissioned Pierre to write a tone poem to commemorate the lives of the 613 victims of the Khojaly Massacre – the single biggest loss of life during the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The result was Khojaly 613, which received its world premiere during the TEAS Khojaly Commemoration Concert in Paris in 2013 and London premiere a few days later. This evocative piece featured the sound of the balaban, a traditional Azerbaijani wind instrument. In his descriptive notes, Pierre wrote: “The Khojaly Massacre ranks amongst one of the most vivid and nightmarish visions in the collective memory of the Azerbaijani people, stemming from the dark, insidious Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that continues to harm the entire population.” This powerful piece was subsequently shortlisted for the prestigious Victoires de la Musique Classique award, TEAS told APA.

Since that time, Pierre has made a chamber arrangement, designed for performance by standard instrumentation anywhere in the world, and this was premiered at this year’s Khojaly Commemoration Concert in Paris, again being heard in London.

In 2013, Pierre founded and organised the inaugural Festival de Syam, held in a chateau in Eastern France. The first edition combined Azerbaijani classical music with that of western composers. Many of the 30 concerts in the recent 2014 festival, sponsored by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, featured or comprised Azerbaijani mugham, jazz-mugham and classical works, with Azerbaijani and western musicians performing alongside each other. Pierre is dedicated to raising awareness of Azerbaijan’s rich musical heritage, and to harnessing the emotional power of its music to increase understanding of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and its ongoing human impact.

Pierre has made the following statement on the ‘Many Happy Returns’ (MHR) campaign, aimed at highlighting the plight of the 875,000 Azerbaijani refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are unable to return home. He said: “I am a frequent visitor to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan is in my heart. I believe in reconciliation between peoples, and I composed Khojaly 613, an orchestral fantasy, to remember the men and women who died. I support MHR in its awareness campaign.”

The title of the MHR campaign is based on the English birthday greeting ‘Many Happy Returns’ which, in this case, also refers to the wish of the Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees to return to their rightful homeland. The website features photos of IDPs in just three of the camps spread across the 76 regions of Azerbaijan, taken by the renowned German photographer Philipp Rathmer.

Despite a ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia being called 20 years ago, and four UN Security Council resolutions being passed against the illegal Armenian occupation, those whose land was seized remain unable to go home.

The MHR website also gives members of the public the opportunity to pledge their support for a poll – taking just 30 seconds – to redesignate ‘UN World Refugee Day’ as ‘World Refugee and IDP Day’.