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/

 

Poet Bluma Finkelstein Meets Students of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium

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http://levurelitteraire.com

Within the framework of the 49th International Writers’ Meeting in Bled, Slovenia, The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium had the honour of hosting Bluma Finkelstein, a poet and professor of French Literature at the University of Haifa in Isreal. The meeting with third year students took place on 10th May 2017 at 11.00p.m. in the A. Breznik School Library.

Bluma Finkelstein was born in Romania, but was forced to leave her homeland at an early age and has been leaving in Israel ever since. She is an active freedom fighter and has received several prizes for her engagement in this field. Bluma Finklestein has published 25 collections of poems, and 3 essays on Christian- Jewish dialogue. The moderator of the event was Ignacija Jarc Friedl, to who we are most grateful for bringing such a distinguished guest to St. Stanislav’s Institution. We are most grateful for such a lively meeting with the acclaimed poet and the discussion on the current issues as well as simply enjoying the good poetry reading./Lily Schweiger Kotar/

24th Annual Concert of the Choirs and Orchestra of St. Stanislav’s Institution

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Singing Boosts Happiness

Cordially invited to the traditional concert, which will take place on Saturday, 6th May, 2017 at 6.00 p.m. in Gallus Hall in Cankarjev Dom (Ljubljana). The entire choir pyramid of St. Stanislav’s Institution, consisting of almost 500 singers, along with the string orchestra will perform at the concert entitled Song Invigurates. A variety of compositions ranging from renaissance and classicism to rock and folk music will be put on stage. The concert will include also the novelty piece by Damijan Močnik  Jerusalem/ Yerushalayim performed by St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir.

Tickets are available in St. Stanislav’s Institution (call ++386 31 708 313), or on the concert day, an hour before the beginning of the concert in the first foyer in Cankarjev dom.

 

 

Maruška Schenk, Student of DCG, Attends the Award Ceremony in Brussels, Belgium

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Maruška at the Award Ceremony in Brussels

Maruška Schenk is a third-year student of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium and a national winner of the constest Juvenes Translatores 2016. The aim of the contest, which took place in November, is to promote language learning in schools and give young people a taste of what it is like to be a translator. This year 751 schools from all over Europe participated, 8 of which were from Slovenia. All official languages of the European Union were available for translating. It is recommended for students to translate into their mother tongue or into the language they most use. Maruška translated from German to Slovene.

This is how she reports from her experience in Brussels, where she travelled with her mentor Mirjam Lindič, teacher of German at the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium: »The main purpose of our visit was to attend the Award Ceremony in Brussels. During that time, I had the chance to meet and get to know all the winners. There, the European Commissioner Oettinger, the Director of the translation department Martikonis and the winners from Ireland, Spain, Lithuania and the Czech Republic gave a speech, all in their native language. Next to our seats were headphones, which we could use, to listen to the simultaneous interpreting of what was said. This was an interesting experience. Although this was a formal event, the atmosphere was very relaxed and pleasant. A refreshment with drinks followed, where I had the chance to talk to Slovenian translators from Luxembourg. Lastly, we went to a Greek restaurant for dinner and with that the day came to an end. We spent our free time walking around Brussels, sightseeing and buying novelty goods. On Friday afternoon all the winners, their teachers and parents went to the General Directorate of Translation, where three Slovenian translators work. One of them is Mrs Golobič, who showed us around her office and described what her normal workday looks like. Sadly, this was the last stop of our visit. I will always remember these three days. I learned many new things and met a lot of nice people.

I believe the contest Juvenes Translatores is an excellent opportunity for young people, who like languages and want to try translating themselves, to show off their language skills. They are something great to have in life, because it opens up new horizons and enriches your entire life. « /Maruška Schenk, year 3/

 

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/

 

Irish Ambassador to Slovenia Visits The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium

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Selfie with Ambassador O’Regan

Ambassador Sean O’Regan visited St. Stanislav’s Institution on 20th April 2017. He met with third year students and discussed several topics, including his role and duties as a diplomat, work experience in Slovenia and other countries he has served. He also spoke some Irish and taught the class a few basic phrases. The ambassador answered a variety of students’ questions. They were most interested in how ambassador’ work affects his family life. After a coffee break with the headmaster and some English teachers, he was given a guided tour of the school by one of the students, which offered a revealing insight into school history, programme, curriculum and student life. Possible options of student exchange with an Irish high school were discussed. The meeting was organised by Tatjana Jarc, teacher of English at the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium. / Ajda Kok, year 3/

Ambassador of Ireland to the Republic of Slovenia H.E. Seán O’Regan to Visit St. Stanislav’s Institution

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Photo by Trinity College Dublin

On Thursday, 20th April 2017, St. Stanislav’s Institution will welcome the Irish Ambassador H.E. Seán O’Regan. He will meet some third year students and have a discussion on the diplomatic relationship between Ireland and Slovenia, Brexit, a job of a diplomat and other topics. He will also take a tour of St. Stanislav’s Institution. This is his first visit to St. Stanislav’s Institution and the school community is looking forward to the occasion. /Lily Schweiger Kotar/