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Interview: Carl Bahoshy pianist, language teacher

12 June 2015

'I play wherever there's the opportunity. My weekends are manic'

My last piano and organ recital was in St John's, Cardiff, in aid of the UK-registered charity Iraqi Christians In Need (ICIN). It provides direct financial relief to displaced refugees in northern Iraq under the care of the churches.


I'm first-generation British, born-and-bred in the UK to Iraqi Catholic parents, who settled in the UK in the 1960s. I grew up in London with two older brothers in a very loving home, with exposure to both the British and Iraqi cultures, underpinned by a Christian education and Christian values.


Music always played a central part, either my brothers or I practising the piano, or my dad listening to German opera. My brothers played the organ and piano to a high level, but I'm the only one who is performing now.


Given my background, and understanding of both the faith and culture in Iraq, I have an inherent care towards fellow Christians in Iraq. They were a very small, close-knit community, pretty much all knowing one another. I'm hopeful that this recital initiative will help secure greater coverage within the media.


The recital in Cardiff was the 113th in aid of ICIN since the recital series began in March 2014. I was familiar with the charity's work in Iraq before recent events, and know the positive impact the charity makes on the plight of Christians in Iraq.


I first started this recital initiative because I wanted more out of life, and I believed that I had musical gifts that I could share - not only for my own fulfilment but also specifically to raise awareness and monies for our brothers and sisters in Iraq, who are enduring much suffering.


Eric Thomas really inspired me. He's an American youth activist, educator, author, minister, and motivational speaker. I found out about him two or three years ago, and was inspired. His story, and the way he lives his life, demonstrated an ability to overcome real adversity, through character, integrity, and perseverance. He came from a very challenging background growing up in Detroit in the '70s, and was homeless for many years. From what I know of his story, he started going to church, and the pastor took an interest, and told him he had great potential. So he went to church meetings, got an education, and pursued his passion to teach, inspire, and serve others.


I have great admiration for people who overcome adversity. I guess it's because there have been several instances where I have given up on things. One of my main drivers behind this initiative is to redeem some of my past failures. One of the key messages I am learning from Eric Thomas is to use our pains and our setbacks to drive us forward.


People can contact me if they would like to host a concert. I just need a venue, a piano or a good organ, and a willing crowd who would like to come and hear more about the work the charity is doing, and listen to some good music.


I do not remember, and I do not believe I have ever had, a profound experience of God. But I do sense his presence when I'm praying or studying his word. When I pray, I pray most that he would give me a deeper understanding of his word.


I do not remember my first experience of music. My memories are a mixture of me sitting at the piano at the age of five or six, and watching my father listen to German opera.


I wouldn't necessarily consider music my career. I teach piano and modern languages: that is my bread and butter. I teach French, Spanish, and the piano. I grew up speaking Arabic at home, and studied it on Saturday mornings, and then studied French and Spanish at university. After that, I worked and studied in China, and learned Mandarin. I love languages.


I am drawn predominantly to Chopin, notably his Ballade No.1 in G minor; and Rachmaninov - his Third Piano Concerto.


I started playing the organ more seriously from 2009 onwards. I'm currently studying for the ABRSM Diploma in Organ Performing, and the LRSM Diploma in Piano Performing. I probably prefer the piano, but if I am fortunate to play on a beautiful organ, very few things can match that experience.


I play every Sunday for my local Catholic church in London. It's a privilege to lead parish worship, because I understand that I'm helping people in their own worship during mass. They pray as they sing, and what I play, and the way that I play, I hope, helps them to pray.


I really enjoy playing Olivier Messiaen's organ works, notably from La Nativité du Seigneur. He was someone who was deeply inspired by his Catholic faith. Serving on the organ every Sunday morning naturally continues to grow my faith - aside from the fact that I would be there regardless, And I love listening to Gregorian chant.


I travel a lot for recitals, which is tiring but fulfilling. So far, I've only played in England, but I'd be keen to travel throughout the UK, or in Europe - or elsewhere. I play in churches, schools and cathedrals, wherever there's the opportunity. My weekends are manic.


Ultimately, I'm seeking a greater understanding of God's plan for mankind, and of my specific role within that, which, I believe, is found through his revelation and a deeper understanding of God's word. Alongside this seeking, I hope to attain the diplomas in both piano and organ; to continue giving recitals in aid of ICIN . . . and to secure some work as a Michael Jackson tribute performer.


When I was about 17, I started listening to Michael Jackson's music - 14 years ago or so - and really took a liking to it. I watched his videos, and was awed at his artistry. His movements and stage presence were phenomenal. I met someone at school who loved to dance, who showed me a few moves, and I watched the videos, to the point that I started performing at the university in a Michael Jackson tribute act, and performing gigs. It's something I want to do in the future on a more serious basis, but I've yet to pluck up the courage to audition.


I think he was a terribly misunderstood individual. I have no right to comment on his life - I didn't live his life - but I think he was very compassionate and genuine. That was one of the main things I took from him.


I was shocked by his death, though not terribly surprised, because physical death happens to all of us. If it had happened now, I think I'd be more prepared for it. I'd like to think I'm more grounded


I think my favourite sound is waves on the seashore.


Injustice is what makes me angry.


I'm happiest when I'm playing on a cathedral organ or a Steinway grand, or dancing on a smooth platform to a Michael Jackson medley with no one around.


If I was locked in a church with someone for a few hours, I'd choose Eric Thomas. I would love to meet him. I did once, very briefly when he came to London, but I would love to be able to ask him lots of questions.


Carl Bahoshy was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.
Mr Bahoshy can be contacted at c.j.bahoshy@googlemail.com


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