Ode to Young Singers and Conductors

The Magic Moment Between the Conductor and Singer -St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir

So much has been going on – on different stages and even more behind them – at The Europa Cantat Festival that it is not an easy task to recap the event. Nevertheless, one thing is clear. The protagonists are the singers and conductors. After this mostly pandemic academic year, they have shown us so much that as an average music lover I cannot but enjoy the abundance of messages conveyed to the audience in this fabulous week of choral music. The Europa Cantat Festival took place from 16th-25th July 2021, bringing together music-related enthusiasts and professionals from all over the world, among who also St. Stanislav Youth Mixed, St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Megaron Chamber Choir. The students and alumni from St. Stanislav’s Institution, more precisely from The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium, sing in these choirs. All three choirs are led by Helena Fojkar Zupančič and Damijan Močnik, whose personal charisma and leadership add so much to a young person formation in terms of personality and music making.

What are singers’ drives? Live singing, keeping together and top conductors

It is surprising what passion, determination and joy the singers demonstrated while taking part in different ateliers, workshops and especially on the stage during concerts. What or who can be held responsible for this, in particular after the morbid year of social distancing, uncertainties and anxieties? Well, to start with there was a factor of change in the air, the singers and the audience simply wanted to sing live and express themselves after such a long period of silence. Arts offers numberless ways of expression and choral music is definitely one of the most eloquent, combing the mind, body and soul. The focus, hard working attitude and artistic expression of the young singers were widely admired. Panda van Proosdij, Dutch prominent conductor, praised the sound of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir, its colour and strength. “For the first time I have heard a spiritual interpreted by European singers that sounded authentic and not like some imitation.”, she said. She added that “the lemniscate walk into endlessness symbolises the incredible strength of the girls.”

Secondly, the singers loved being together. Already in ancient Greece Pherekydes of Patrae, known as the ‘Giver of Rhythm’, was described in a report from 709 BC as somebody leading a group of several hundred musicians by beating a golden staff “up and down in equal movements” so that the musicians began “at the same time” and “all might keep together”. So “the keeping together” was huge at the EC, too.

Last but not least, the singers were in the good hands of top conductors, who translated their visions into glorious sounds – and the young followed. For me this is a matter of trust. This is why the adults should never ever betray the trust the young have in us. What exactly does a single person on the podium (i.e. the conductor), making almost no noise at all, do? Conductors not only beat time and offer interpretation, but most importantly, they listen and lead. From what I have heard from the singers talking off the record on the EC, listening is the crucial one. Both the singer and conductor can together become something bigger, at the same time feeling fully realised as individuals. We have witnessed this phenomenon on both full evening concert given by both, St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Megaron Chamber Choir.

 All the above are the points that make the student singers of St. Stanislav shine on the stage, grow into great young adults, thus contributing a priceless share for the embetterment of the society we live in. Heroes pugnates (Heroes, fight), if I use Galuss’ words that echoed at one of the EC concerts. For the young heroes, determined, yet emphatic, there will be a lot to struggle for in the future. However, boosted by their outstanding performance and mentors in the field of arts, sports or science, they will be unbeatable, irreplaceable and indispensable. Using the words of Panda van Proosdij we may say that “the young are the loving preachers of the future”. Or in Damijan Močnik’s words: “What would conductors do without their beloved singers?”  /Lily Schweiger Kotar/

Two Choirs Under the Conductorship of Damijan Močnik to Feature at Europa Cantat

St. Stanislav Youth Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium

Damijan Močnik, Slovene composer, conductor and a long serving music teacher is the deputy chairman of the Europa Cantat Music Commission and the chief music advisor for the music image of the opening ceremony and concerts representing Slovene choral music to international audience. Unfortunately, the intended programme will be materialised only partly due to pandemic restrictions. Damijan Močnik is the conductor of both Megaron Chamber Choir and St. Stanislav Youth Choir of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium.

Megaron Chamber Choir will perform at the concert on Thursday, 22nd July 2021 at 5 p.m. in Cultural and Congress Centre Cankarjev dom in Gallus Hall. In the section Listen to Slovenia Slovene sacral music by Jacobus Gallus will be presented; the programme will also include pieces from the flourishing period of the 19th century Slovene music to timelessness of choral works by contemporary Slovene composers including Mav, Klemenčič, Ipavec, Dev, Lebič, Vulc, Makor, Mlakar and Sojar Voglar. For more detailed information please follow: https://europacantat.jskd.si/programme/special-projects/sing-to-slovenia/ and https://europacantat.jskd.si/programme/concerts/listen-to-slovenia-concerts/

St. Stanislav Youth Choir is the festival choir of the residence and is to perform in Open Singing section and Discovery Ateliers. Open Singing is a daily open-air event where everybody is welcome to join in for the sake of pure joy of singing. An intensive musical experience is guaranteed. Open Singing is led by Jan Schumacher, German professor of conducting and conductor of award winning ensembles. Discovery Ateliers are designed for those who love diversity in terms of style, singing techniques and genres of choral music. Workshops are to take place from 17th-20th July, 2021. For more details follow: https://europacantat.jskd.si/programme/workshops/discovery-ateliers/

Both Megaron Chamber Choir and St. Stanislav Youth Choir will perform at the concert Sing to Slovenia in Slovenian Philharmonic on Sunday, 18th July, 2021 in the morning (9.30-12.00 a.m.) and evening session (6.p.m-8.30 p.m.). This event celebrates the 30th anniversary of Slovenia’s independence.

At St. Stanislav’s Institution we strongly believe singing is an important part of education of every young person. Students of The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium and alumni take advantage of probably the best musical education available in Slovenia. Singing brings with it also the benefits of skills that will last a lifetime and singers gain a natural self-confidence, as well as the appreciation of good time-keeping and the rewards that result from hard work. Warmly welcome to any of the above mentioned events. The more, the merrier! /Lily Schweiger Kotar/

“Society that is not aware of the balance between physical and mental activities is doomed to die.”

Singing Changes Just About Everything In Life – Megaron Chamber Choir

These are the meaningful words by Zvezdan Pirtošek, M.D., Ph. D., professor of neurology and cognitive neuroscience, that underpinned the versatile positive aspects of singing at the panel discussion to mark the Europa Cantat festival 2021. It will take place from 16th-25th July in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The round table entitled Choral music in psychophysical dimensions gathered experts from all walks of life, all dedicated to choral music and collective singing. They discussed the benefits of musicianship and focused on the challenges the pandemic has brought about in this field.

Benefits of collective singing Undoubtedly singing in Slovenia is a valuable asset. The astonishing numbers support this fact: 10 million hours per year of music-related voluntary work, 80.000 active singers, 2.500 singing ensembles and 1.300 conductors. All in the country with 2 million inhabitants. To start with, Sonja Greiner, Secretary General of the European Choral Association, pointed out at the well-known benefits of collective singing from physical aspects (general wellbeing), psychological features (relaxation and invigoration) to positivity brought about by the sense of community and bonding. Some other speakers at the round table discussed the astonishing fact that singing in fact regulates each singer’s emotion in relation with those of other singers, which leads to each other’s adaptation and ultimately to a more harmonious society as a whole.

What happens in human brain when we sing? Zvezdan Pirtošek was specific about the positive processes related to singing in different stages of human life from children, who respond favourably to harmonious sounds, to people with Dementia, Parkinson’s or mental health issues, who are enlivened by music. While singing, during exhalation, the vagus nerve is activated and this brings about peace of mind, state of relaxation and the sense of belonging and trusting people I feel close to. It is all about raising musical-linguistic awareness. The left hemisphere is open to semantics, analytical thinking and comprehension, the right hemisphere deepens the wonderful feeling that cannot be expressed through words, but it is so strong that as humans we will not be able to survive without songs or music.

Singing online vs. singing in a choir in person It goes without saying that when it comes to music, technology can actually bring people closer together than ever before. The sensation of feelings in the virtual or real world is activated by the same part of brain; however, there is a fundamental difference between the two. The activation of brain is much less intensive and much more limited in scope when singing online. »No digital medium cannot possibly be compared to a real life experience, especially not for children«, accentuated professor Pirtošek.

“So, I say thank you for the music” The experts wrapped up the discussion with the fact that singing boosts joie de vivre, which improves positive self-image, regulates anxieties of all types and encourages singers to overcome the individual, “soloist” needs for the benefit of a harmonious sound of the entire society. What more could we wish?  “So I say thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing, thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.” At St. Stanislav’s we feel immensely proud that singing is such an important part of young people’s education. /Lily Schweiger Kotar/

St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Megaron Chamber Choir Join the Europa Cantat 2021

We are proud to announce  that two choirs from St. Stanislav’s Institution namely St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Megaron Chamber Choir, will actively participate in the event. The music festival is to take place in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, from 18-25 July 2021 .

The Europa Cantat Festival is one of largest international music festivals worldwide. Singers, composers, conductors, instrumentalists and choral publishers from all over the world  participate at Europa Cantat festivals, but unfortunately this year this is not the case due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The programme will be adapted and only partly realised.

Keep an eye on this webpage for further updates.