Bridging cultures with song

Talented young singers gather in Dresden for the International Children’s Choir Festival. But this very special week is not just about singing - but also about friendship and a living culture of diversity

Does successful communication imply a common language? To some extent, but that does not necessarily have to be German, English or French. If the vocal cords are used for singing instead of speaking, music can take on this mediatory role and people can quickly find themselves on the same wavelength. That has certainly been the experience of the Dresden Philharmonic Children’s Choir. And it is the reason why they invite guests from all over the world to visit them every two years. In the week of 25th April – 2nd May 2018, the seventh such international gathering will take place.

“It’s great that we are able to embrace this wide range of cultures,” says Kathrin Rosner, organiser of the International Children’s Choir Festival. The choir groups with the longest journeys ahead of them are probably Shumayela from Canada and the Tipfuxeni Youth Project from South Africa. Also on the invitation list are the Little Singers of Armenia, the children and teenagers of Tutarchela from Georgia and the Zvezdice children’s choir from Serbia. During festival week, the participants will be performing on stage and rehearsing new pieces.

A special composition for the festival

But the aspect of the festival that is perhaps most important for the youngsters themselves is the opportunity to explore the Saxon capital and to get to know each other. One of the regular features is a workshop in which the choir leaders teach a musical number from their own country to another choir.

The highlight will be the final concert on 1st May in the Frauenkirche, at which a work specially commissioned for the festival will receive its world premiere. This year’s composition is Journey of a Quiet Thought by Christoph Hiller.

When the festival was first staged in 2006, nobody suspected that making music together would become a regular occurrence. It was a year in which the city was celebrating its 800th anniversary, and the concept behind this particular event was an unusual one. “We have taken the Philharmonic Children’s Choir to many festivals run on a competitive basis,” says Kathrin Rosner. “However, we wanted to bring people together, free of pressure and competition.” Everybody involved in the festival makes their contribution on a voluntary basis. They all care deeply about music as a means to international understanding. “I used to be a member of the Philharmonic Choir myself, and I saw for myself just how uplifting it is to sing in other countries and to get to know other cultures,” says Rosner.

And because the International Children’s Choir Festival so clearly embodies the value of music, it is on an even bigger scale this year. A new feature on the programme is the symposium on 27th April at which the importance of musical education will be discussed. The directors of the guest choirs will tell of experiences they have had in projects they have undertaken. Music teachers and other experts will also be in attendance.

This year’s premiere: the student concert

Working with local schools has always been an important aspect of the festival. The participants stay with students and their families in Dresden, and partner schools organise project days.

The student concert is another addition to the programme this year, giving local schools the opportunity to show how well they cater for the musical education of their pupils. For several months now, they have been preparing for a grand performance under the direction of choirmaster Professor Gunter Berger. The rehearsals are taking place in no less a venue than the recently reopened Kulturpalast which now provides a new setting for the Children’s Choir Festival.

The 7th International Children’s Choir Festival Dresden will start on 25th April. Highlights include the opening concert on 27th April at the Kulturpalast and the closing performance in the Frauenkirche. To see the programme and book tickets, click here.

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