Every year during the first weekend of May, thousands of singers from Brussels and beyond gather at BOZAR one of the highlights of the season: the Singing Brussels Celebration, in 2019 supported by Classical Futures Europe. This is a unique opportunity for amateur and professional choir singers to meet, share musical experiences and to learn new skills in dedicated workshops.
Families flocked to the beautiful Art Déco venue on 4 May 2019 to attend special concerts featuring 600 children from local schools who had been rehearsing their creative projects carefully throughout the year during weekly workshops in their classrooms. The next day saw no less than 25 choral concerts spread across vast artistic playground that is BOZAR – including within the exhibition halls, and outside in public spaces, with an invigorating massed choir flashmob moment in Brussels’ central train station. During the afternoon, audiences and members of the public had the opportunity to stroll between concerts, traveling from folk and medieval songs to traditional Chinese compositions and pop tunes performed by Sing Out Brussels, alias “the Fabulous Queer Choir”! A packed house of visitors were also invited to discover new musical influences or to sharpen their vocal skills by taking part in some free close harmony, Gregorian chant or singing & clapping rhythmic games workshops.
In a festival atmosphere, almost 2,000 people attended the closing participatory concert featuring the world-renowned Voces8 ensemble, led by Paul Smith and performing alongside with their young Voces8 Scholars, the highly energetic BE Vocal youth choir composed of selected singers from the three Belgium’s three language communities, and a massed community choir where hundreds of amateur singers joined voices on stage of BOZAR’s stunning main hall. Under the motto “love, lost and found”, singers and listeners were taken on a journey through a rich and varied repertoire, from Monteverdi, Josquin Desprez and traditional 14th century Arabic stanzas to Cole Porter songs, with French interludes exploring choral works by Poulenc and Debussy. The audience was encouraged to sing along for large parts of the concert, following lyrics projected onto a screen and accompanied by supporting choirs dotted around the hall.
Many of the visitors were first time visitors to a classical music concert hall and came to support a relative or friend performing in one of the concerts. With the active participation of several local Brussels based Japanese, Moroccan or Spanish community choirs, the festival was a true embodiment of the European capital’s diversity, inviting different cultural traditions into warm, engaging and fun musical dialogue. The many children and young people’s ensembles involved helped to reach a broader audience that was welcomed through family-friendly concert formats. This was a participatory musical event that will have a long lasting and profound impact on the city and its local communities.