EEB1 Secondary Choir gave their wonderful “Concert for Peace” on the 30th of April, Saturday late afternoon, in the Church of Saint Adrien, Ixelles.
The concert was dedicated to the victims of the war in Ukraine, those grieving lost loved ones, and families displaced and divided.
The choir sang their full program of 14 songs including well-known traditional spirituals and folk songs, sacred music representing different periods of the history of music (renaissance, romantic or Gregorian-inspired modern), as well as pieces by contemporary composers of various traditions and genres from all over the world (Swedish, Norwegian, American, Polish or Philippine)..
The Saint Adrien Church in Ixelles, built in the middle of the twentieth century, provided a truly atmospheric venue, with its wide acoustic and colourful abstract-patterned neo-gothic windows in the background.
The concert was prepared and conducted by Dr Joanna Muśko, music teacher and permanent conductor of EEB1 Secondary Choir since 2015.
It was truly moving to hear “Everybody Sing Freedom” at the beginning of the concert, a spiritual originally sung by African-American slaves, performed by these 90 innocent and hopeful teenage voices, right after we settled down in our seats, having come from the outside world where the terrible news constantly emerge about the situation in Ukraine.
It was also intensely moving to listen to “Tebe Poyem/To Thee We Sing”, a sacred piece by early 20th century Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, in its original language. It reminded us parents of the time when it was learnt by the choir two years ago, when they were preparing to take part in the International Choir Festival in Saint Petersburg, which never took place because of the outbreak of the pandemic.
The majority of the pieces was performed by the full mixed choir and accompanied by Agnieszka Zywert, renowned pianist and music teacher of EEB1. For “Ecce Novum” and “The Rose” by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo the choir was joined by a string quartet with Monika Tomasik-Kowalczyk and Pablo García on violin, Martin O’Sullivan on viola and Gabrielle Arnett-de Burbure on cello. “The Gallant Knight” by US composer Mark Patterson was sung by a male choir. S7 student Mikołaj Muśko also contributed by playing the electric guitar and the traditional medieval instrument the hurdy-gurdy.
Between songs students read the connecting texts aloud using their various mother tongues, thus representing the cultural diversity of our school as a beautiful way to show human solidarity. Apart from English as the common language, we heard words in French, Slovenian, Hungarian, Polish, Italian, Spanish and German. It was very special to hear the presentation in Ukrainian by Olha Kniazhnytska, a guest singer, who also performed some solo parts – for example in “Misericordias Domini” by Henryk Jan Botor, a contemporary Polish composer.
It was with pride and joy that we parents saw our children sing together enthusiastically, at the same time with great seriousness, immersing themselves in this wonderful artistic discipline, music, and sharing it all with us. For all this we thank the wonderful conductor-pedagogue, Dr Joanna Muśko, who, though she makes it seem effortless, invested a lot of time and energy in coaching our children regularly during school time, as well as at study weekends the choir spend in Monschau, Germany.
It was no wonder that, having presented it with such a joy and grace by the choir at the end, “Circle of Life”, the melodical theme song of the Lion King musical by Philippine composer Fidel Calalang Jr., was asked to be sung as an “encore”.
The concert ended by the concluding words of EEB1 Director Brian Goggins who said he was amazed by the performance and emphasized the importance of bringing together the EEB1 community, students, parents and teachers, keeping in mind what was happening in the world.
For us parents it was wonderful to forget the difficulties of the world around us for an hour or so and just embrace our children’s talent and feel part of this community.
Those who missed the concert might have had the consolation to see the choir on 8th of May, at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where they performed in the framework of the Spring Concert of EEB1.
By Eszter Rumbold-Molnár, parent–reporter of EEB1 APEEE NewsFlash, 5.5.2022