Europa Cantat in Brief
We are pleased to announce that St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Megaron Chamber Choir from St. Stanislav’s Institution are to participate actively at The Europa Cantat Festival 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. Therefore, the programme will be adapted and only partly realised. The festival is to take place in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, from 18-25 July 2021 .
Keep an eye on this webpage for further updates on both choirs at The Europa Cantat Festival.
St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir
St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir is one of the greatest Slovene choirs in the world. Their achievements in national and international competitions, as well as their participation at the most prominent world choir events rank the choir among the very best. St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir performed at two of the most internationally recognizable events for choral experts, namely at the IFCM World Choral Symposium 2017 and the ACDA 2018 National Convention, where it performed as one of the five non-American invited choirs.
St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir is one of the five high school choirs at The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium in St. Stanislav’s Institution. All forty girls of the choir, aged between 16 to 19, attend The Diocesan Classical Gymnasium. The St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir was founded based on the desire to provide musically and vocally ambitious girls the opportunity to further develop their singing ability through more demanding repertoire. Helena Fojkar Zupančič has been the choir’s conductor since its establishment in 1996.
Their repertoire is very versatile – from classical choral music of various periods to vocal pop. They pride themselves in several world premiere performances of compositions by contemporary Slovene composers as well as in their performance of some larger vocal-instrumental works. The choir has been enthusiastically praised for its subtle interpretation, outstanding repertoire and colourful sonorities. The girls have fascinated the audience with their creative and vivacious performances, youthful passion and with their incredible concentration and sound accuracy at the same time.
Together with St. Stanislav Youth Choir they have been actively shaping the Slovene choral scene at its highest level for almost two decades.
Choir Mission – Sharing My True Self
Singing in the choir is about sharing just about everything: discipline, hard work, compliance, focus, trust, vigour and a love for singing. The moment a beautiful sonority is created, it is time to pass it on through concert performance. When sharing their true selves in front of the audience, the girls become an inspiration for others and the mission is accomplished.
Megaron Chamber Choir
Megaron Chamber Choir unites about 60 alumni of the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium at St. Stanislav’s Institution who had before been active in various choral ensembles and received music education in one or more of the five choirs at the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium. As such, Megaron Chamber Choir represents the peak of the choir pyramid of St. Stanislav’s Institution.The choir is distinguished by its recognizable rich sound and diverse repertoire and collaborates with many orchestras and guest conductors.
Megaron Chamber Choir was founded in 2003 on the initiative of Damijan Močnik, composer and conductor, who has been leading the choir since then. Megaron Chamber Choir has evolved into a high-quality choir performing regularly in Slovenia, Europe, the USA and Canada, thus earning a reputation at home as well as abroad.
The choir is noted for its rich sound and exciting interpretations of music from different stylistic periods. It prides itself on numerous awards received at various national as well as international choral competitions. In 2010 it won 2nd place in the mixed choirs category and 1st place in folk music category at the International Choral Kathaumixw in Powell River in Canada. In 2017 it took part in the International Chamber Choir Competition in Marktoberdorf, winning the award for the best interpretation of a renaissance piece; in 2018 it won 1st place in the mixed choirs category at the International Warsaw Choir Festival “Varsovia Cantat”.
Megaron Chamber Choir regularly works with renowned orchestras (the Munich Symphony Orchestra, the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra), and conductors (David de Villiers, Jacek M. Blasczyk, Martina Batič, En Shao, Valery Gergiev, Uroš Lajovic, Jonathan Nott, Ari Rasilainen, Andreas Spering, Hansjörg Albrecht) on vocal-instrumental projects.
St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir Represented Slovenia at Europa Cantat 2018 in Tallinn, Estonia
St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir under the conductorship of Helena Fojkar Zupančič visited Estonia from 31st July to 4th August 2018, where it represented Slovenia at the biggest European choral convention. Being organized every three years, this unique festival usually brings together more than 4000 singers, conductors, composers and choral managers from Europe and elsewhere for 10 days of singing enjoyment. It was an honour for the choir to be presented with the festival flag, which was brought to Slovenia, as Slovenia is the hosting state of the next Europa Cantat 2021.
The prime event was the concert given in Tallinn with some prominent guests from Ljubljana and Tallinn, many conductors, composers and choral singers from all over the world. “Majestic, unforgettable, mastery and inspiring” …were only some superlatives used by the audience to describe the event in Tallinn. It is every singer’s wish to sing in front of the audience that breathes with the choir from the first to the last chord, rewarding it with a loud and long applause. It was an absolute joy for the girls to be a part of this heart warming singing event. See you all at the next Europa Cantat 2021 in Ljubljana Slovenia! /Lily Schweiger Kotar/
Music at St. Stanislav’s Institution
Since the re-opening of the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium in 1993, much attention has been devoted to the systematic training of choral singers. Half of about 600 students of the DCG participate in choral singing.
The five school choirs, which vary according to the age of their singers and the level of their repertoire, form a choral pyramid. Due to its large scope, the number of participating students and quality, this choral programme is quite unique among Slovene schools as well as within the European school context. The DCG choral pyramid consists of: First-Year Girls’ Choir, First-Year Boys’ Choir, (Re)Mixed Choir, St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and St. Stanislav Youth Choir. After finishing their education at the Diocesan Classical Gymnasium, the former students can continue their singing career in two alumni choirs.
The Alojzij Šuštar Primary School with 450 pupils was established in 2007 and has been building its own choral pyramid on the model of the DCG’s. During the first three years all children sing in their class choirs, while in subsequent six years the pupils join choirs on the basis of their interest and talent for music and singing. There are two choirs in the Alojzij Šuštar Primary School: The Children’s Choir and the Youth Choir featuring a repertoire of folk and art songs and presenting an annual musical. There are about 75 pupils singing in both choirs.
“Society that is not aware of the balance between physical and mental activities is doomed to die.”
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 with 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.” (by Abba) 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 – the Only Amateur Choir to Hold a Full Evening Concert at Europa Cantat
If you want to listen to one of the greatest choirs in the world, this is your chance! The concert will take place on Wednesday, 21st July 2021 at 9 p.m. in Cultural and Congress Centre Cankarjev dom in Gallus Hall. The first part of the concert will feature the Slovene composers from Gallus to Bec, Čopi, Močnik and Vovk. The second part offers two world premieres by international composers among who are also Jennefelt, Ešenvalds, Patriquin, Hyokki.
The night will be a perfect realisation of St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir mission statement, which is summarized in the words Sharing My True Self. The girls share discipline, hard work, compliance, focus, trust, vigour and naturally a love for singing. The moment a beautiful sonority is created, it is time to pass it on through concert performance. You do not want to miss this, right? When sharing their true selves in front of the audience, the girls become an inspiration for others and the mission is accomplished. We shall be honoured if you could make it.
Still hesitant? Listen to (and watch) St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir and Butterfly by Mia Makaroff.
/Lily Schweiger Kotar/
Two Choirs Under the Conductorship of Damijan Močnik to Feature at Europa Cantat
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 Dicesan 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 (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 of The Diocesan Cassical Gymnasium 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/
How does being a singer work?
Some girls from St. Stanislav Girls’ Choir have offered an answer to this question.
»Singing is not only a task but also our hobby, so we were happy to take time for it even during the summer. The great company and close relationships we have built with each other and with the conductor have also contributed to this decision. During the Europa Cantat Festival we are most looking forward to one-week intensive rehearsals, which actually means a reunion and a concert in the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev dom. This is a great opportunity for each and everyone in the choir. It is also the first time we will be singing together on stage after a year and a half. The preparations for the concert were very intensive and quite exhausting for all of us, as we sang for the whole week after such a long break. We have had to sacrifice a lot to achieve this, but we do not regret it, because we have deepened the relationships and renewed the joy of singing. The program covers a lot of works by Slovene composers as well as foreign music, which has been a challenge for us, as we had to learn other languages and use various singing techniques.” /Jasna, Ana and Jana/
Ode to young singers and conductors
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 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/
St. Stanislav’s Institution / Zavod sv. Stanislava
Štula 23, 1210 Ljubljana, Slovenia
St. Stanislav Girl’s Choir
E-mail: [email protected]
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