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Afternoon at Staromiejski Park

On the afternoon of July 30th 2016, as the sun is shining on Staromieski Park, children are playing, young families are pushing their babies in prams, young ladies are having  a merry picnic.
But something is getting ready…
Some ladies, dressed up as of old, carrying bundles of clothes, are sitting on benches. Tables are brought up, around which people start playing or chatting.
IMG_4023 Some traditional Hungarian or Bosnian songs are heard…
This marks the beginning of the « Stones of Memory » project: for several hours, city residents are going to share these moments symbolizing memory, friendship, music, or simply the pleasure of being together.                             IMG_4009
That way, choristers are able to listen to a lady from Wroclaw bearing witness of the story of her own family. In spite of the language barrier, her participation through words, listening and human exchange is both moving and happy. (to read the story: personalfamilystory)
If they wish, people who are here can also write a testimony of their family memory, or simply leave a trace of their presence in the park, and in this project.

On one side of the lawn, young women from Cluj University Choir(Rumania) lead children and their parents into dancing and singing traditional songs or nursery rhymes. Music and popular traditions show they are just another means of sharing the happiness of family life and celebrating memory.

Further away, you can see some choristers of different nationalities and ages playing an improvised game of frisbee. There are no such things as sport games or intellectual games to meet and share moments of sheer happiness.             IMG_4079

The expression « playing music » is quite meaningful. And singers taking part in the « Stones of Memory » project don’t forget that « playing music » together is their first and primarily hobby.
Another surprise is proposed to visitors in Staromiejski Park: a sound painting performance, a kind of group improvisation based on hand signs. All 130 choristers take part under the leadership of Cyrille Colombier, artistic director to the VoCE project and choirmaster of the French 20.21 Vocal Ensemble. This leads to very personal ways of expressing vocal or acting talents in different sung or spoken languages, which in turn merge with the sounds in the park, water rippling from the fountain, children’s laughter and distant traffic and tramway noises.
-> See the pictures of this event

Address to the audience at Conservatorium Concert Hall, July 31st, 2016

We congratulate our Polish partner Cantilena for reuniting all the “VoCE 14-18”-partners here in Wroclaw. As you will hear in a few moments, they succeeded so well that the spirit of our “voices and ways through Europe” is rushing here among us.
You can see here choirs from six countries, a team of seven conductors, and people from all ages and all walks. In less than one week’s time they managed to mingle a group out of these 120 personalities from Romania, Hungary, Bosnia&Herzegovina, Poland, France and Belgium.

The secret of their performance?
Having thought twice.
Then, proposing a wise program: one about memory , as symbolized by this heavy bundle an artist sculpted in the heart of your town, like the ones that persons carry with them when they must leave home – as soldiers, as refugees, as chased people, as DP’s…loosing their voices and their ways. As it happened in Europe during WW1, the whole of the 20th century, and again today in many places of the world.

During this week in Wroclaw, the singers put their bundles down from their shoulders. They opened them to show and share the contents:  the memory of our life stories, the history of our countries, our grips with the world…
They considered pride and humility, force and forgiving, egoism and brotherhood, all of which featured history of all our countries. They discovered how much each of us strives towards something we all simply call happiness in life.
This week in Wroclaw taught us one lesson only: we must stand together as Europeans against fanatics, fundamentalists and demagogues of all sorts on our continent. We want to live together as the peoples of Europe that share history and their hope for brotherhood in Europe.

Therefore, you will listen to music of memory and of hope.

Mascha Join-Lambert     IMG_4242
Chairwoman Voix et Chemins d’Europe, Chambéry, France
Coordination « VoCE 2014-2018 / Voices from Citizens of Europe » Project

Celebrate peace rather than commemorate wars

2014-2018 VoCe project was born at the time when Europe was about to start commemorating the Centenary of the First World War.
The thought of its proponents, who are citizens from several countries like Germany, France, Poland, soon joined up by members from Bosnia and more recently from Rumania and Hungary, bore essentially on the way to celebrate differently this sad anniversary.
They decided that artistic practice should be the main motive for the actions which were to mark out each meeting, whether already planned or due to be held in the forthcoming months.
European citizen-choristers brought together for the important event that has just taken place in Wrocław (Poland) will mainly remember those moments of musical and festive togetherness they shared with each other.
However, the time for remembrance was not totally out: during our stay, we were honoured to meet three Polish historians who initiated and took part in a debate on peace: Tomasz Pudłocki, a research fellow of the Jagiellonian University, Crakovia – the oldest Polish university, accompanied by Magister Stanisław Szynkowski – PhD student at the University of Opole and Mag. Magda Arsenicz – PhD student at the Jagiellonian University.
IMG_0954IMG_1022          Tomasz Pudłocki – Jagiellonian University, Crakovia  and Mascha Join-Lambert, président and initiator of VoCE project

From the historical point of view, one must bear in mind that Poland didn’t existed previously as a political State, as shown on the map below. The city of Wrocław was under German rule and was then called Breslau.

Nevertheless, there was an awareness of a Polish nation among citizens, especially artists and musicians. This corresponds to what historians called « The awakening of the nations », a movement that began in the middle of the 19th century, and which was echoed in a number of works by European musicians, such as Smetana (Vlatava,my homeland),  or by Albeniz (Spanish Suite). The suite Finlandia (1899) by Sibelius provided Finland its present (unofficial) hymn, and the latter was sung several times under the title A song for Peace by the choristers in Wrocław and Łambinovice

From 1914 to 1918, three armies thus fought on Polish ground. It may seem difficult to know who the « winners » of those battles were. It will be remembered that the State of Poland was born at the end of this conflict, thanks to the notion of the Right of peoples to self-determination and to the support of countries such as France. It is also important to remember that, whatever the country implied in the war, whatever its alliances and beyond the notion of victory, some common points clearly appeared:
– Hatred for fights and for the mass slaughter of a whole generation of young men.
– In most families, at least one member had been killed or had been seriously wounded.
– Sufferings and poverty were endured during and after the conflict by soldiers and civilians alike.
– Emancipation of women
– Setting-up of war memorials to the victims even where there had been no fights (i.e. Budapest). In contrast, those memorials are fairly rare in Poland where the sufferings of the Second World War, which were even worse, are more vivid.

At the end of the lecture, groups of thought were formed to exchange ideas on the theme of commemoration and especially of peace.
Different topics were debated: the issue about minorities in Poland today, the memory of deported people, especially people who were living in the East, this correspond to the current Ukraine, to the West, the identity of people at major events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Balkans War.
This conference led us to the heart of issues concerning European citizens now a day: is it possible to find ourselves while closing our doors?
And can we heal from painful memories without turning to others who feel the same pains?

Here are some testimonies:
« For me, who was only five when war began in my country, the Stones of Memory are the traces of bullets, hand-grenades or shootings one can still see on the walls of houses.  They are also the roses painted on the ground. These traces enable us to remember this must not happen again ». (Dunja, from Bosnia)
 » My grand parents were deported from Ukraine near Wrocław. They thought they could be back home during 40 years… » (Terenia, from France, born in Poland)
« It is difficult to convey memory to children. We often teach from the point of view of our own country. Sometimes it’s too emotional to sing pieces that remind us of such painful experiences ». (Anne-Marie, from France)
« It is a good idea to commemorate in a feeling of brotherhood. We can always say we are sorry, but our generation is not responsible. If we had met a hundred years ago, we might have been enemies ». (Levente, from Hungary)

« We don’t necessarily learn from the past. There is always a war going on somewhere, even if it is not within Europe. Today there is terrorism. Often, the media and politicians play at dividing people ». (Olivier, from France)
« Near where I live, there is a war memorial to the First World War. I walk past it every day but I don’t think about it every time, it is not possible ». (Ildiko, from Hungary)
« We must find something that will keep us together, not just our nation or our religion, as it has been in the past. This is why your VoCe project is original and interesting: rather than commemorating wars, it celebrates peace above all, and this is why I encourage you to keep up in this direction ». (Tomas Pudłocki, Polish historian)

The next day, all the choristers taking part in this event were driven to Łambinovice, 90 kilometres South of Wroclaw: this is the site of former Stalag (camp for war prisoners) and of a war cemetery where thousands of soldiers who fell during the First World War are buried. Most nations are represented: Poland, Russia, Rumania, Serbia, Germany, Great Britain, France…
This is where we sang Sibelius’s Song for Peace again and formed a chain of friendship in the paths between the graves.
See the video of the event: lambinowice