Interview with Bob Chilcott: “Music stops us being isolationist, which is something we need to work hard at in our world at the moment.”

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Helena Fojkar Zupančič and Bob Chilcott in Minneapolis, USA in 2017

With these words Bob Chilcott, one of the most active composers and choral conductors in Britain today, pointed to the unifying role music has always had. Chilcott has been involved in choral music most of his life and has poured his energy over the last decade into choral composition, conducting, and promoting choral singing throughout the world. It has been an absolute honour that he wrote a song dedicated to St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium on their singing at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in July 2017 in Barcelona. It bears the title God of the Open Air and is based on a heartwarming ode to nature by Henry Van Dyke, an American poet.

This is how Bob Chilcott kindly appeased girls’ curiosity – and ours as well – in his recent interview. It is a story about Chilcott’s passion for music, commitment to cheerful enjoyment of life and exultation of spirit.

 “I love the freedom of composing.”

Chilcott writes choral and orchestral pieces, but he loves to write music with words, as poetry is another passion of is. He started off as a composer when he was eight years old and went away to choir school and sang every day in a college chapel in Cambridge. He wanted to write the kind of music he sang. Much later, at around 40, he began writing music for upper voices, mainly for young singers. He explains: “I think that the freedom of composing gave me energy which is reflected in quite a lot of the music I have written for upper voices and that has been very important for my work”. As to his inspiration for music writing Chilcott admits the piano played an important role: “I learned the first movement of the Sonatine by Maurice Ravel on the piano and also the second piano prelude by George Gershwin and I thought, I want to write music like that!” It is almost impossible for him to decide which of his composition he likes best. In a way, they reflect his life as it was when he wrote each piece, and this can be both good and bad. However, the work he is most proud of is his large setting of the St John Passion, written in 2014.

One’s private life is always mirrored in human’s creations. Chilcott explains that when you are a musician it is very hard to switch off from music. When he is writing a piece, he thinks about it all the time, so it becomes very much a part of his private and family world. “I love children, I have five of them, and I have always had a childish mind! I also like communicating, and I think all these things are reflected in my works.”

“Music is a thing of great beauty that needs to be learned and loved”

Both the performers and the listeners are always effected by music. That is why he likes live events best and believes that the link between singers and audience is very important. One of the great things about performing is to try and make this connection, as music is so important in our lives. It is a thing of great beauty that needs to be learned and loved. He believes young people have today so many choices when it comes to music – the important thing is to identify with the kind of music you love and work at it.

God of the Open Air:  “I wanted it to be positive and honest.” 

Chilcott admits he was thrilled to discover he would be writing a piece for St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir! “I love the sound and energy of a choir like yours”. In the first place, he was looking for a piece that had a good message bursting with energy.  He ended up finding this in a poem by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), an American author, educator and clergyman. God of the Open Air is a setting of a part of that poem. It took him around a week to write the song. “Normally I think about the piece for a long time and the writing of it then happens quite quickly.” The asymmetric quality of 7 and 5 in a bar pattern appeals to him as when they are quick they can have a pressing urgent feel, which he likes.

First impressions after having listened to the interpretation of his song? “I was thrilled to hear that you sang it much as I imagined it. That is always very touching, because it gives me the feeling that even though I have never met you, we have together managed to make a connection. It is a beautiful connection, because my idea becomes something that you identify with and make your own. That is one of the many magical things that music can do. Thank you!”

Girls’ questions answered in brief:

Did your parents always encourage you to work with music?  “They were not musical, but they encouraged my love of music for which I am very grateful.”

Do you sing yourself?  “I used to be a singer. I sang for 12 years till 1997 with an English group called The Kings Singers.”

Who is your favourite composer and why?  “That’s a very difficult one! I love many composers, the English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis, and the Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti. In addition, I love Rachmaninov (particularly the 3rd Symphony and the Symphonic Dances,) and I also love the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler. I also love Brahms!”

If music were colour, which one would it be? Why?  “Different ones, probably blue, but also yellow, which is my favourite colour!”

What do you do in life, apart from music writing of course?I love sport. I used to play football, and I love the game. I also skip (like a boxer!) every morning for 20 minutes. I have done this for the past 9 years. I used to run. I also like to read novels, and I love to cook as well.”

Which music is particularly dear to your heart?  “I love many different types of music. I like to listen to renaissance English Choral music (there is an English group called Stile Antico, who sing this music beautifully, and I have many of their CDs.) I love German lieder (particularly Schumann). I am a big fan of the Chinese pianist Yuja Wang, who has a beautiful anarchic energy, which I really like, and she plays the piano brilliantly.  I also love jazz. The American pianist Herbie Hancock is a great favourite of mine. I like jazz/funk as well, particularly the American group The Yellowjackets, who I was lucky enough to work with last year. /girls from St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Lily Schweiger Kotar/

 

Damijan Močnik On His Novelty JERUSALEM

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Damijan Močnik

 Composer and conductor Damijan Močnik wrote a composition entitled JERUSALEM  for St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir to be performed at 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in July 2017 in Barcelona. Here are some of Močnik’s reflections on the piece: “Jerusalem means »the city of peace«; however, the city reflects the world we live in. Every morning it wakes up in restlessness, conflicts and hatred. The idea for the composition and its final form were maturing through numerous talks with my friend and conductor Helena Fojkar Zupančič and at rehearsals with the wonderful St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium.

In the composition JERUSALEM I have used the name of the city in several languages (Egyptian, Aramean, Akkadian, Hebrew, Arab, Greek, Latin and Slovene) and applied the sections from Psalm 121 in 5 languages (English, Hebrew, Arab, Latin and Slovene). As Jerusalem is the holy city for the three biggest monotheistic religions, I have used different images deriving from Jewish, Christian and Muslim music. What has been created is a picturesque and powerful fresco, which depicts on one hand, an enormous contrast, but on the other, a fervent wish for peace.” /Damijan Močnik/

 

Helena Fojkar Zupančič: »What keeps me going? Look at the girls! They are my drive!«

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St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir

These words by Helena F. Zupančič, the conductor of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium, rounded off the Gala Concert that took place on 19th April 2017 in St. Stanislav’s Institution. The house was full; almost 800 listeners enjoyed every minute of it, awarding the choir and the prominent guests with standing ovations. No wonder – all performers showed an enviable level of artistry, taking the audience on a music trip from classics to rock, from vocal to instrumental, from Slovene to foreign, from well-established pieces to novelties. Among these, the following songs need to be mentioned: Chilcott’s God of the Open Air, Močnik’s Jerusalem/Yerushalayim and Lebič’ Nekaj je v zraku /Something is in the air/. The concert featured the following guests: WildArt, the winners of the show Slovenia’s Got Talent 2016; internationally renowned vocal ensemble Ingenium Ensemble; (Re)Mixed Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium and the programme host Carmen L. Oven.

The event was much more than a fundraising concert for St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir to travel to Barcelona and participate in the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in July 2017. The concert marvellously mirrored youth’s beauty, energy and commitment to a common goal. This was a topmost event in terms of content, music and technical qualities. One of the girls from St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir posted the following impressions after the concert:” We all feel contented and thankful. I am still overwhelmed by tonight’s beautiful melodies, incredible energy and heavenly feelings, that still resound inside me. /…/ We feel grateful to all those who came to the concert and support our endeavours, helping our dreams come true. /…/ “.

Helena Fojkar Zupančič says St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir will definitely make a remarkable difference in Barcelona. The goal of the concert was helping the choir to get there. I cannot find more appropriate words to top off this writing than by using the verses of Freddie Mercury’s Barcelona. We had the pleasure of listening to it in the interpretation of (Re)Mixed Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium with two splendid soloists, Marta Močnik and Miha Klemenc:

»Let the songs begin
Let the music play
Make the voices sing
Start the celebration
And cry – Come alive
And shake the foundations from the skies
Ah, Ah, Shaking all our lives …«

/Lily Schweiger Kotar/

 

Gala Concert of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir with Prominent Guests

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Warmly welcome to the gala concert which will be presented  in the sports hall of The Alojzij Šuštar Primary School in St. Stanislav’s Institution /Štula 23, Ljubljana/ on 18th April 2017 commencing at 7.30 pm. The concert will feature St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir  of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium anf its conductor Helena Fojkar Zupančič and the prominent guests: WildArt, the winners of the show Slovenia’s got talent 2016, the top internationally renown vocal ensemble Ingenium Ensemble, (Re)Mixed Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium, including two soloist Marta Močnik Pirc and Miha Klemenc with a band and the programme host Carmen L. Oven.

This a fundraising concert in aid of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium, who is participating in the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in July 2017 in Barcelona, Spain. World Symposium on Choral Music is the biggest event of the type in the world, taking place every three years, each time on the different continent. The girls have been chosen among 146 applied choirs from all over the world to join the 24 performing choirs in Barcelona. St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir is besides Carmina Slovenica Choir from Maribor, Slovenia the second Slovene choir ever to take part in this prestigious choral event. Tickets  (to buy call Tina Tandler at +386(0)1 58 22 245) are limited due to the capacity of the venue, and are expected to sell out – so book early to avoid disappointment! Please consider attending the Gala Concert when forming your itinerary.

Make a plan to be with us and support St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of the DCG in their artistic endeavours. /Lily Schweiger Kotar/

All Evening Concert of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir in Škofja Loka, Slovenia

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Girls in action

St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium gave a successful season ticket concert on 29th March 2017 in a full house in Sokol Hall in the ancient town of Škofja Loka.

The choir presented fourteen songs, among which three were premiered, namely: Jerusalem by Damijan Močnik, My First Angel by Ambrož Čopi and God of the Open Air by Bob Chilcott. The evening was spectacular, the performance mature and convincing.  D. Močnik, who had the pleasure of listening to his premiere live,  was enthusiastic about the interpretation and congratulated warmly the choir for the ecxellent job. The audience aplauded loudly, thus thanking the choir for such an outstanding choral event.

Helena Fojkar Zupančič Meets Bob Chilcott

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Helena Fojkar Zupančič and Bob Chilcott in Minneapolis

The conductor of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir Helena Fojkar Zupančič took part in the American Choral Directors Association convention, which was held from 8th – 11th March 2107 in Minneapolis, USA. There she met the British composer Bob Chilcott, who wrote the song God of the Open Air especially for St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir. The world premiere of the song will take place in July 2017 at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona, Spain.

New Website of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir

 

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We are happy to announce that a new website  of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium, Ljubljana has been launched. Here you will learn more about the choir, its history, achievements, concerts, including the details about the latest news on the choir’s concerts and in particular the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona, where the choir is to perform in July. We hope you enjoy browsing the new site!

http://en.stanislav.si/11th-world-symposium-in-barcelona/

St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir Sings a Song Premiere by Lojze Lebič

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Lojze Lebič with St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir photo: Janez Eržen

St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir performed on Wednesday, 25th January 2017, on the occasion of presenting Gallus awards in the field of amateur cultural activities. The event took place on Ljubljana Castle hill. The Slovenian Public Fund of Cultural Activities annually awards the deserving musicians. The piece was the song premiere by Lojze Lebič, a contemporary Slovene composer. The composition entitled “Something is in the air” is based on a poem by Tone Pavček, one of the most renown Slovene contemporary poets. The composition is said to be wonderful and inspiring with full of positive vibe. It has brought about so much optimism!

Bob Chilcott Composes for St. Stanislav Girl’s Choir

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Chilcott’s Composition for the Girls

Breaking news: we are thrilled about the brand new piece composed by Bob Chilcott, British choral composer, conductor and singer. It is dedicated exclusively to St. Stanislav’s Girls’s Choir and its conductor Helena Fojkar Zupančič. It bears title God of the Open Air and is based on a heartwarming ode to nature – a poem by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), an American author, educator and clergyman.

And what is the conductor’s first reaction? »The piece is exactly up my street! It is wonderful, soft, melodious, lively and airy. I believe this compostition will enable the girls to show all the attributes of their singing and interpreting. What a lovely challenge!«

We cannot wait for the first performance to take place in July at the 11th World Symposium on Choral Music in Barcelona!