FOJAM and MSO unite for ‘A Night of Compassion’

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FOJAM and MSO unite for ‘A Night of Compassion’

Taking place on September 29, 'A Night of Compassion' will see composer Nigel Westlake reuniting with singer-songwriter Lior to perform their ARIA award-winning song-cycle 'Compassion' alongside the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Created after the tragic death of Westlake’s son, this seven-movement song cycle draws on ancient Hebrew and Arabic poems, proverbs and texts that express the wisdom of compassion. A meeting of song and symphony, Westlake and Lior explore healing in a world struggling with divisiveness. “Though Compassion draws from the languages and cultural richness of two worlds, the overriding theme of the work is the wisdom and universality of compassion,” says Lior on the collaboration.

What you need to know

  • FOJAM and the MSO are presenting A Night of Compassion at the Melbourne Town Hall
  • The performance sees composer Nigel Westlake reuniting with singer-songwriter Lior
  • An evening of classical and contemporary music, it takes place on September 29

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

A Night of Compassion is a collaboration between Festival of Jewish Arts and Music (FOJAM) and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The evening will also bring together pianist and MSO Composer in Residence Paul Grabowsky AO and Indigenous soul vocalist Emma Donovan. Accompanying Emma Donovan singing in language, the pair will also play tracks from their recent gospel and country collaboration, The Old Rugged Cross.

The classically trained, Ukrainian-Jewish-Australian duo made up of vocalist Billie Tumarkin and multi-instrumentalist Alex Burkoy will also perform – joining Lior and Westlake to perform culturally significant works that address themes of compassion and healing.

As the Festival Patron of FOJAM and Compassion’s co-creator and lead performer, Lior welcomed the opportunity to re-present the original work along with pieces from fellow musicians.

“As a fluent Hebrew speaker, I initially thought that singing texts in Arabic would feel foreign and disingenuous, yet to my surprise, many of the words I encountered were common to both languages,” Lior continues.

“In learning these texts, it became clear to me that these two languages share a common origin. Just as experience often validates the existence of a well-worn cliché, it is difficult to escape the analogy of two brothers starting from a common source and branching out to become what we now know as Hebrew and Arabic.”

Eight years after the critically acclaimed Melbourne debut of their award-winning song cycle Compassion, Westlake and Lior reunite once again. “The catalyst for Compassion was a single watershed moment: my first Lior concert, the inaugural fundraiser for the foundation our family formed in memory of my son Eli. At dusk, Lior began to weave his magic upon the crowd. It was a poignant occasion planned to coincide with the one year anniversary of Eli’s death, and the music held a very special meaning for all,” states Westlake. Featuring FOJAM Festival Patron and singer-songwriter Lior and acclaimed composer Nigel Westlake’s ARIA award-winning song cycle Compassion as the centerpiece, FOJAM re-stages this outstanding work with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for the first time since 2014.


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Lior’s music had been part of our family playlist for years. Autumn Flow, the album that rocketed Lior to prominence in 2005, was among the last music I shared with my son Eli before his death.  As Lior came back on stage for an encore, little did I realise that his final offering for the night would hold the germ of an idea that would become a life-changing journey.”

“Without accompaniment, Lior embraced the plaintive strains of the ancient Hebrew hymn of compassion ‘Avinu Malkeinu’. The power and spirituality of the song struck a deep resonance amongst us all.  It was following that concert, I suggested to Lior that I work on a symphonic arrangement for ‘Avinu Malkeinu’, which subsequently had commissioning support from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.”

Get tickets to A Night of Compassion, or find out more information, by heading here.

Made in partnership with FOJAM and the MSO