Sing as One – Concert of the EEB1 Secondary Choir
in the Notre Dame de la Chapelle, Brussels
on the 22nd April 2023
We cannot be more thankful to the EEB1 Secondary Choir that gives so many opportunities to our children to present their talent in various prestigious events and to a wide range of audiences.
Last April, the Choir held their “Concert for Peace” in the Saint-Adrien Church in Ixelles. They just came back from Italy this March, where the choir attended the European Choral Association’s 9th Music Festival in Rome. They gave seven performances within three days in beautiful venues like the Teatro Don Bosco, the Trinità dei Monti or the Basilica di Santa Lorenzo in Lucina.
This time, back in Brussels, the EEB1 Secondary Choir gave a dedicated performance on the 22nd of April, Saturday evening, in one of the oldest and most famous churches of the town, the Notre Dame de la Chapelle (where 16th-century Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Older happened to take his wedding vows).
The concert titled “Sing as One” demonstrated how special it was to create music together, no matter one’s origin, language or other differences, that has the power to move and motivate people. An idea that the choir’s artistic director and teacher-conductor, the excellent Dr. Joanna Musko, motor of the choir’s professional development and a unique and dedicated pedagogue, believes in strongly.
The concert started with the powerfully emotional “To the Mothers in Brasil: Salve Regina” by the internationally acclaimed Swedish choral conductor and composer Gunnar Eriksson, a song that by now became a flagship piece of the choir.
Second we heard two sacred compositions representing different periods in music history. The 16th century Polish composer Waclaw from Szamotuly “Kryste, Dniu naszej swiatlosci” gave a glimpse into renaissance polyphony. The sound of the choir with exquisite solo part by Cathrin Englev came together particularly notably in Sergei Rachmaninov’s “Tebe Poyem” of the Romantic period.
The choir during the whole evening was accompanied by Agnieszka Zywert, acclaimed Brussels-based Polish pianist and beloved teacher of Cesame.
A string quartet, consisting of excellent musicians and friends of the choir – Monika Tomasik (violin), Marc Devreese (violin), Marta Deichakivska (viola) and Miriam Brewka (cello) – assembled for the occasion. They accompanied the following two songs.
It was a delight to hear a Gregorian melody, around which the choir and the musicians created a fuller sound together, in the Norwegian new generation composer Ola Gjeilo’s piece “Ubi Caritas”. We then heard “Sing Gently” by contemporary American composer Eric Whitacre, a song he created during the COVID-19 pandemic that became famous because 17.000 singers from 129 countries performed it together online.
It is great to see so many boys singing in a school choir, and it happens to be one of the strengths of this choir, too. The male voice chamber choir gave a touching interpretation of “The Gallant Knight” by contemporary American composer Mark Patterson.
This piece played a connecting role to the second half of the concert which consisted of compositions based on folk music – a Ukrainian song by Mykola Leontovych, a Slovenian one by Samo Vovk, a Polish piece by Marcin Wawruk and a Norwegian lullaby by Gunnar Eriksson, – as well as traditional African-American spirituals (“Everybody Sing Freedom”, “Joshua Fit the Battle O’Jerico” and “Elijah Rock”).
In this second half of the concert the singers sometimes added movements to their performance. Tilting to the left then to the right, slightly lifting arms and clapping to the rhythm. The Ukrainian folk song was accompanied by renowned harpist Nataliia Smishchenko, in some of the songs low hand drum sounds could be heard, and students Lisa Banti and Zofia Fijalkowska sang solos.
The concert ended with the lovely popular melody “Circle of Life” from the Lion King musical by Fidel Calalang Jr., which of course made everyone smile.
The audience, which filled the church’s spacious central hall – parents and other family members, teachers, fellow students and visitors – was very happy and touched to see such a devoted group of performers.
“What unites us is our love and passion for music – the universal language which helps us to communicate across cultural and linguistic boundaries” – the two student-narrators, Victor Williams reading in French and Ana Verdir reading in English, said in between the songs. “We are growing in an international, multilingual and multicultural environment, which enriches us greatly and teaches us respect for others” – they added.
This message could not have been more appropriate in the case of this choir, altogether about 90 students and teachers. As they represent our community of close to 4000 students of 60 nationalities and more than 500 staff members from various EU Member States and beyond in the European School of Brussels I.
Written by Eszter Rumbold-Molnár, parent