Choral Art Educates

From Duma, December 22, 2015, Tuesday

Interview by Viliana Semerdzhieva with Prof. Dr. Adriana Blagoeva


Prof. Adriana Blagoeva:

"Choral art educates.

It brings moral satisfaction and reflects the overall character of the child"

The famous conductor of the Sofia Boys Choir, the first Bulgarian boys choir, founded in 1968, is convinced of that. Prof. Dr. Adriana Blagoeva has been the conductor of this ensemble, in which boys age 8 to 15 from different schools around the capital participate, since 1989. In 1997, she created a Youth Formation, which consists entirely of former boy singers. The boys and youths perform both jointly and as independent choirs and are an active presence in the concert life of the country, cooperating with other famous choral formations, orchestras, soloists and conductors; participating in opera and musical theater performances; and performing to great acclaim in many countries around the world. The Sofia Boys Choir is the winner of awards from prestigious international choir competitions and has released nine music albums. The Sofia Boys Choir will present its 27th Traditional Christmas Concert on December 25 at 6 pm at Bulgaria Hall in Sofia.

Professor Blagoeva, the choir typically ends its season with a Christmas concert on December 25th. This year, it will take place in Bulgaria Hall with the participation of special guests. Could you tell us what will be in the concert program?
– At this concert we will create music together with soloists from the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, presenting Christmas songs from various countries. We will also perform traditional Bulgarian carols. You will also hear several premieres of songs by Stoyan Babekov and Petar Krumov, which continues our tradition of presenting Bulgarian Christmas music.

This means that there will be surprises even for the regular audience members and fans of your Christmas concerts...
– Yes, this is one of our goals: to always present new works in all parts of the concert program. Special guests will be guitarist Rosen Balkanski and tenor Nikolay Matsov. The piano accompaniment will be to Zornitsa Getova while Prof. Atanas Atanasov will play the organ.

In what configuration will the choir perform?
– This time, the boys and youths will perform mainly as a mixed choir.

You have had a very successful year packed with international triumphs. What are your most memorable moments of this past season?
– The climax of our season was a concert tour in Japan in May and June. It was a busy time, full of performances and presentations of a rich musical program. The first half consisted entirely of Bulgarian music while the second one featured contemporary choral works and music from different styles from the Renaissance through Romanticism. We also prepared several Japanese songs, which we had the opportunity to sing together with Japanese children's and youth choirs. The organizers of the tour, chief of them the Japan-Bulgaria Society, expressed their great satisfaction with the performance of our choir and the audience's interest. Most of the concerts were completely sold out.

In July, the Sofia Boys Choir took part in the Canakkale Choral Festival in Turkey, where occasionally foreign choirs are invited as special guests. This year, we were the lucky ones. In Turkey, they don’t have such a children's choir, and we were welcomed not just with warm hospitality but also with great curiosity. Participating in the festival won us many new friends and admirers.

At the beginning of this concert season, we performed during the Days of Japanese Culture in Bulgaria. This was also among our artistic peaks this year. After the concert, the ambassador of Japan to Bulgaria, His Highness Takashi Koizumi, greeted us warmly. 2015 was a year full of serious artistic challenges, which the choir successfully accomplished.

How do you manage to fund your travels abroad? Do you have sponsors?
– We manage to make it work. It's not easy. Funding art has never been easy. For each individual event, we try to find financial support, but it's doesn’t always work out. We don’t have any permanent sponsors. The assistance parents of choristers provide is invaluable and we rely on them heavily to fund our trips abroad. Their support, both financial and moral, is truly immeasurable.


The choir is based at the Tsar Boris III - 1928 Chitalishte. How does that help you?
– It provides us with a home where we can create without worries.


You work only with boys in the choir. How do you motivate them and manage to control their attention spans and patience, especially given that they come to you at about 8-9 years of age?
– I find ways to pique the interest of the kids. Of course, in order to achieve a good result, a boy needs a lot of persistence, a serious attitude, and discipline that is cultivated gradually from an early age.


Do the children you worked with 27 years ago, when you became the choir’s conductor, differ from the ones you train today?
– Yes, there is a marked difference. Just like the attitude the public to choral art has changed. Until the end of the 20th century, choral music had a wide public recognition and appreciation, especially for the contribution it has to the education of children. The world in which today's children live, however, including the surrounding aural environment, does not stimulate their spiritual growth. That is why parents are pleased that their children come to the choir to engage in an activity that brings them satisfaction, helps them develop their personalities, and contributes to their cultural upbringing and understanding of music.


Years ago, every school had choirs and other artistic ensembles. Today, music, visual art – subjects that build a broader foundation for creative development – are neglected in the curriculum.
– This is a real problem. There are not many opportunities for extracurricular activities at school - something that a long time ago was one of the main pillars of education. The reasons, I think, are complex and varied, but I hope that the interest will eventually re-emerge and people will understand how important it is for a school to foster extracurricular engagment. This will stimulate creative thinking in adolescents and their abilities to work in a team.


Bulgarian choirs perform at various festivals in Bulgaria and around the world and always win prizes. What makes participation in such events necessary?
– Participation in festivals gives the opportunity to perform in front of a wide audience. It also expands your network and makes sure that everyone involved is on the same page. The numerous choral events in Bulgaria (more of them outside the capital than in it) shouldn’t be ignored: competitions, festivals, conferences. It would be nice if they were publicized better to increase public awareness of their existence.


You teach Choral Conducting at the National Academy of Music. Are there many aspiring conductors these days?
– There is some interest. My colleagues at the Academy and I try to foster it in different ways. There are some talented students, perhaps not so many as before, but definitely a few. We hope that they will continue maintaining and developing choral culture in Bulgaria.


Does the Sofia Boys Choir already have plans for the new year?
– We have several challenging concerts coming up. In the spring, we are taking part in the European Music Festival along with singer Ina Kancheva. We will also perform at the Easter Festival, organized by Classic FM Radio and Cantus Firmus. For these two appearances, we are preparing a completely new program, with works from the Classical Period little known in our country.