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Omer Turkmenoglu

Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Debbie O'Leary

Last modified: Friday, April 29, 2011

Interfaith concert at the Buskirk May 10 promotes peace through praise songs

April 29, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A free interfaith concert titled "Abraham's Children: A Prayer for Peace" is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 10 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington.

To highlight the similarities between the three Abrahamic religions, three accomplished opera singers from the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths will perform religious pieces in languages from their own religious traditions. The singers, Omer Turkmenoglu, Arik Luck and Shareese Johnson, will be accompanied by pianist Joseph Noelliste, percussionist Tim Moore and nay performer Michael Ibrahim. (The nay is an ancient reed instrument central to Islamic religious music). The concert will end as the singers perform a new composition by Turkmenoglu, Abraham's Children, in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

The prayer concert was conceived by Turkmenoglu, a visiting scholar and student at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music who was born in Erbil, Iraq, in 1975.

"When I was 5 years old, one of the worst wars in recent Middle East history occurred: the war between Iraq and Iran," he said. "Two years after the end of that war, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, bringing yet more war and bloodshed to the Middle East."

Omer Turkmenoglu

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These wars had a dramatic impact on Turkmenoglu's life and ultimately led to his departure from Iraq on May 10, 1994. "It was in Turkey that I discovered what it means to live in peace," he said.

Having performed before six presidents and many audiences around the world, Turkmenoglu has seen the dramatic effect of prayer songs. "I have witnessed the willingness of people -- from different cultures, countries and religions -- to come together in peace," he said. "It is my hope, my wish and my prayer that this project will have a great impact on the minds and hearts of those who call for peace and all those who embrace these religions."

Omer Turkmenoglu

Tenor Omer Turkmenoglu graduated from the Bilkent University, Turkey, in 2001. He has performed extensively in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Jordan, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia and the United States.

Turkmenoglu has appeared at numerous solo recitals and opera gala concerts and has collaborated with the leading symphony orchestras of Turkey, including the Bilkent Academic Symphony Orchestra, Mersin State Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Bilkent Academic Chamber Orchestra. Currently, he is pursuing post-doctoral studies with Carlos Montané at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Shareese Johnson

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In 1996, Turkmenoglu won First Prize at the Turkish Folk Music Competition held by the TRT State Radio and Television channel. In 2001, he became a laureate at the Bulbul International Singers Competition in Baku, Azerbaijan. In 2003, he participated in the Summer Academy of I Malatesta in Italy, where he studied with baritone Alessandro Calamai, an artist with Arena di Verona, and tenor Mauro Trombetta, artistic director of Binjamin Giulio Opera. For six years, Turkmenoglu has been a soloist at the Ankara Opera House, and for three years, he has been a soloist of the Mersin State Opera and Ballet Theater in Turksoy Opera Festival.

Shareese Johnson

Originally from Sheffield, Ala., soprano Shareese Johnson is a second-year Master of Music student, studying with Mary Ann Hart. She received her Bachelor of Music from Converse College in South Carolina. While at Converse, she performed the title role in Suor Angelica and Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro, along with the roles of Agathe in Der Freischütz, Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier and Bess in Porgy in Bess for the school's scenes program. With IU Opera Theater, Johnson has performed Nella in Gianni Schicchi in Carol Vaness' Opera Workshop. Jacobs School of Music solo performances include Brahms' Ein Deutches Requiem, J. S. Bach's Johannes Passion and Benjamin Britten's War Requiem.

Arik Luck

Arik Luck, baritone, currently serves as cantor at Beth Emet: The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Ill. He received his cantorial investiture from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music, in New York City. Before his career as a cantor, Luck spent five years in New York working as an actor -- appearing in numerous musicals, plays and films. Luck holds a B.F.A. in both musical theatre and acting from the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama and also studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. For his cantorial thesis recital, he conceived and headlined an original musical, Moishe Oysher: The Master Singer of His People!, which debuted in NYC in the spring 2009, was revived in Chicago in spring 2010 and debuted in Paris in December 2010. Additional productions are planned. This June, Luck will give a concert at Havah Nashira, an annual Jewish music convention, and perform at the Aspen Music Festival in July. His debut album, Arik Luck is Moishe Oysher: The Master Singer of His People!, is available on itunes.

The concert is sponsored by a number of Indiana University organizations, including the Jacobs School of Music, Center for the Study of the Middle East, Metropolitan Printing Services, Indiana Memorial Union, Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program, Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center, Turkish Studies Program, Central Eurasian Studies, Arab American Association, Near Eastern Languages & Cultures, Department of Religious Studies and the Indiana Memorial Union. Additional community support is from Metropolitan Printing Services, City of Bloomington, Richard A. Jones, Dr. M.Z. Borhan, Anatolia, Sahara Mart, WFHB and Lynne Shifriss.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The concert is free, but audience members are encouraged to bring two cans of food to donate to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

For more information, contact Turkmenoglu at 812-606-9904 or by e-mail at; or Debbie O'Leary, media relations, at 812-327-0018 or

Visit the Abraham's Children Web site at