Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Violinist Iggy Jang, right, and Sirin Pancaroglu as they are today.

Strings  attached

The song has ended, but the melody
lingers on for violinist Iggy Jang
and harpist Sirin Pancaroglu

By Scott Vogel

Back before the professional reconciliation and the romantic break-up that led to it, back before their stormy middle years and even before that initial year of bliss, there was the first impression Iggy Jang had of Sirin Pancaroglu, 10 years ago, in the cafeteria at Indiana University in Bloomington.

"It was in the winter and it was cold," says the Honolulu Symphony concertmaster of the exotic young harpist from Turkey. "She had very striking features, a long, pointy nose" -- he means it affectionately -- "and a very striking skin color. I thought that was very unusual, something I had never seen before, something I was totally unfamiliar with."

Seated just inches away from Jang's reminiscence in this Kakaako coffee shop is a somewhat older though still striking Pancaroglu. She blushes before offering her own account of their ancient history.

"First, I had others' impressions of Iggy, and it wasn't wonderful," she reveals. "They said he was a little obnoxious" -- a glance at Iggy reveals no perceptible protest -- "but then I set out to discover Iggy myself."

Violinist Iggy Jang, right, and Sirin Pancaroglu in a
promo shot from 10 years ago.

There's a photo of the duo from this early period that adorns a flyer for an upcoming concert: Jang's violin bow cocked at an impetuous angle, Pancaroglu's elbow perched uneasily upon his knee. "Witness in person the inevitable running of time," runs the press statement -- a false advertisement, as time seems to have made little mark on these two.

At least physically. For clues to their emotional scars, you'll need to attend tomorrow's recital at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, which , despite the couple's tempestuous past, refuses to eschew the romantic repertoire. Expect a dreamy version of Debussy's "Clair de Lune," sensually charged renditions of Piazzolla's tangos and a piece by Jee Young Kim entitled "Longing Under the Moon" whose intentions should be fairly obvious.

What's curious here is that despite their relationship's unhappy finish ("He dumped me," says Pancaroglu, "or that's how I felt"), that's not the end of the story. After a year that Jang describes as a "hiatus," the pair re-established contact and began performing again, in some ways better than ever. Last year, they released an album together of nocturnes for harp and violin ("Under the Shooting Star," on a Turkish label), and will be performing selections from the CD both in Honolulu and Maui, the latter part of the first Ebb and Flow Arts Festival later this week.

"I think that the fact that we were involved makes us better partners because you really know the corners and edges and stuff," Pancaroglu continues. "It's a very rewarding thing -- where once something ended, now there's a new thing coming out of it."

"I think that everything you live makes its mark on
your music," says Sirin Pancaroglu, left, with Iggy
Jang. "And if it doesn't, then it's not worth living

And if there are any hard feelings between the duo, they've long since been buried. It seems fair to say that each is still taken with the other, if not in quite the same way as before.

"She always struck me as being a more complete person than me," says Jang, "very thorough in all her thoughts. And that also translated to her playing of music, which was always thorough, too."

Pancaroglu's fascination with Jang, meanwhile, dates from an Indiana moment when she discovered a part of him that few of his detractors ever got to see. "He borrowed my Walkman. He wanted to record some music. So I gave it to him and then dropped by later. He was recording at the time. And I could not believe that out of this shy guy there was so much sound coming."

Jang wonders, "Obnoxious shy guy?"

Pancaroglu says: "Just a very, very passionate player with a lot of sound. He's so quiet in real life, kind of shy -- verbally. So it was just a very attractive contrast."

Now 33 (Pancaroglu) and 31 (Jang), each remains single ("single but not desperate" is how Jang describes his situation), and each feels lucky to have maintained a continuity with the past, even as one has returned to Istanbul and the other makes his home on a tiny island in the Pacific. Jang has played concerts in Turkey, and Pancaroglu has given recitals in Jang's native Korea. The moral, if you are looking for one, is that romantic relationships come and go, but emotional connections from a certain period of one's life -- and not only those concocted by intoxicating musicians of international caliber -- are precious things to be preserved at all costs.

"I think that everything you live makes its mark on your music," Pancaroglu says. "And if it doesn't, then it's not worth living through."

Jang seems to agree, though he puts it a bit more cryptically. "You can play with a heavy heart, but you can't play with a troubled mind."

Who said that, we wondered?

"I kind of made that up, I think," he says with a sly grin.

On stage

What: Iggy Jang and Sirin Pancaroglu recital; program will feature works by Debussy, Falla, Lorenz, Piazzolla and more
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Lutheran Church of Honolulu, 1730 Punahou St.
Tickets: $10 general; $5 for students and senior citizens
Call: 521-4632


What: Iggy and Siring perform at the Ebb & Flow Arts Festival on Maui
Where: Makawao Union Church, 1445 Baldwin Ave.
When: 7 to 7:40 p.m. discussion followed by 8 p.m. Friday performance
Admission: Free
Call: (808) 876-1854

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