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Romanian participation at the International Choral Art in Ohrid

Tuesday, 31 August 2010 , ora 14.07

Sound Choir participated at the third International Festival of Choral Arts of Ohrid, in Macedonia, from 26 to 30 August 2010. Throughout the deployment event we were kept up with the latest news by music critic Dumitru Avachian:

Here I am, witnessing the Choral Music Festival, on the shores of Lake Ohrid, at the border between Albania and this country, Macedonia that belonged once to the Yugoslav Federation. It is a festival at its third edition, which is dedicated to children choirs, mixed choirs, chamber choirs, as well to folk music ones.

Byzantine music can be heard in more than three hundred churches here in Ohrid. There are thirty-five choir competitors from sixteen countries: from Spain to Ukraine and Russia, from Switzerland to northern Africa. Romanian participation is significant: Sound Ensemble from Bucharest, directed by the eminent musician Voicu Popescu, Polyphonic Cappela Choir from Arad, Vox Animi Choir from Sighisoara and Vox Humana Choir from Sfântu Gheorghe. As we can see, there is a broad representation of the Romanian choral music here at the third Festival of Ohrid.

Tonight the official opening of the festival takes place.

Dumitru Avachian, August, 26, 2010

We are in the second day running of the Ohrid Choral Arts Festival. Yesterday evening the official opening ceremony took place. So, it was really impressive to see the street parade of all the choirs. 35 choirs enrolled for the festival, which means an estimated 1,000 participants, who came from sixteen countries.

This morning three children choirs have already performed. They are from Latvia, Lithuania and Serbia. The natural timbre of their voice impressed the audience and this section promises great delights for the inhabitants, the tourists and also for other participants who witness their colleagues art within the contest and festival.

Vox Humana, from Sfântu Gheorghe, enters the competition in several hours and Sound Choir, from Bucharest, can be heard tomorrow.

Dumitru Avachian, August, 26, 2010

There was a great joy here among the members of the choir directed by musician Voicu Popescu. Yesterday evening the outcome of competition in Macedonia was made public: it's about winning the Grand Trophy and also the special distinction award for the interpretation of a Macedonian song, which is compulsory in the program.

The whole show has received good publicity annd the public proved itself to be a very generous one, as after the public announcement regarding the winner, the whole audience - hundreds of people - chanted for minutes the choir name and the name of our country. It was that type of promotion for the real Romanian spirituality in an international context, a very special promotion that here, we note with regret, neither political nor civil society are able to achieve.

Musicians - in this case members of the Sound and conductor Voicu Popescu - prove themselves to be true ambassadors of the Romanian spirituality in Europe.

Dumitru Avachian, August, 30, 2010

Here it is what conductor Voicu Popescu stated in an interview after the competition had reached its end:

Congratulations, Mr. Voicu Popescu, for winning the Great Prize of Vocal Arts Festival in Ohrid! What does this news mean to you?

We are extremely happy that this time around, the Great Prize is part of the Romanian "heritage".

Sound Choir sang two evenings - on Saturday and Sunday - having two different programmes. What did you sing?

Regarding the sacred music, I made changes to the original repertoire, guiding us according to what we could hear at the festival. I turned to a purely Romanian repertoire, mainly Byzantine, because I noticed that this area was not represented. I sang Podobia by Paul Constantinescu, Prayer - Our Father by Dan Voiculescu, The Song of the Cross and Anest Christ - these two songs (composed by George Cucu and Gavriil Musicescu) - were sung as a diptych.

I should mention that the audience received these works with great joy, because they were imbued with the precise dimension of a culture that has strong roots in this type of music, because this time the Byzantine music, which was turned into choral work, found a very strong expression.

We also enjoyed the presence of the jury that might have defined its option to offer the Great Prize after hearing the concert. It was a very emotional time for us, and also carrying the utmost professional responsibility, because the place was more than challenging; our concert was held within the walls of the Hagia Sophia Church, a church that belongs to the fourteenth century and which hosted many editions of this famous festival here in Ohrid.

Could you listen to the others choirs? Maybe all of them?

Sure. We tried as much as we could to listen to the others choirs' repertoires. I think there were only three of them we could not hear (because of our rehearsals for our recital). Hearing our competitors we felt a huge pressure, as we were able to hear choirs that possessed somehow a pure timber of their voice, others showing very difficult repertoires, which made us consider it was beyond what we could offer. But, however, the jury decided that the Great Prize should be awarded to us, probably taking into account the quality of our repertoire and also the quality of our interpretation.

Romanian Cultural Institute, by the Cantemir program - Festivals Department - was one of the institutions which substantially supported our tour, and our triumph was also possible with the help of the Student House of Culture from Bucharest. We must thank the two institutions that had confidence in our effort to participate in such powerful event in the world. We hope that this Great Prize will bring satisfaction to all who helped us.

Irina Cristina Vasilescu
Translated by Alinda-Gabriela Guțu (Ivanov) and Andreea Velicu
MA Student, MTTLC - Bucharest University