Art and peace-building
a

International Choir

The 3-year project International Choir counted on art to contribute to peacebuilding in the South Caucasus. It was geared above all towards young people from regions that are particularly affected by unresolved political conflicts and where nationalist interpretations of culture predominate. The project consisted of a series of workshops on music from all over the world. It was organised by artasfoundation in cooperation with the singer and choir director Franziska Welti, the musician and body percussionist Jean-Daniel Girod and nine music schools in the South Caucasus.

The aim of the project was to take up the rich local traditions with singing workshops and concerts, and to open them up to singing traditions from other parts of the world. In contrast to the artistic forms of education which are more oriented towards formal subordination and technique and which often dominate in post-Soviet countries, freer and more personal creative ways of working were offered. The project also wanted to give new impulses and open up new horizons to young people in peripheral and controversial regions who are subject to an atmosphere of uncertainty and waiting. Supported by experienced artists, they were given the opportunity to experiment freely and stage a public presentation of their skills. In this way, individual and collective experiences were conveyed that strengthened confidence in one’s ability to shape one’s own life and the willingness to take initiative. The inclusion of international artists and a specifically selected group of participants – also across ethnic borders – created new opportunities for encounters in a situation characterised by low mobility. In conjunction with the workshops and performance tours, the project also included further training and networking of the local music teachers that were involved in the project.

 

Merging of choirs 2019

Video: artasfoundation

Photo: Olivia Jaques

Photo: Olivia Jaques

Photo: Olivia Jaques

Photo: Naala Avidzba

Photo: Olivia Jaques

Photo: Fenja Läser

Photo: Olivia Jaques

Photo: Fenja Läser

Photo: Naala Avidzba

Photo: Fenja Läser

Following the choir initiatives in Abkhazia (2017–2018) and Tavush / Armenia (2018–2019) the young people from both projects came together in October 2019. They had learned similar repertoires and, after a few days of rehearsal, they wanted to to give concerts together. Thus, the three-year project would come to a simultaneous high point and conclusion in the concert tour of the We Are One Choir and Rainbow Singers.

And so, We Are One travelled in the direction of Abkhazia. The first stop was the Georgian town of Rustawi, where they met with the singers of the young Tutarchela Choir (director, Tamar Buadze) to rehearse jointly for a performance. The next stop was Ochamchyra via Enguri, where the young people of the two choirs met and harmoniously joined forces. After several days of rehearsing, the now 41-strong youth choir gave concerts in Sukhum/i, Ochamchyra and Gudauta. The settings ranged from an open-air concert on the Black Sea to concerts in a classic Palace of Culture and a boarding school. The participants agreed that they came closer and grew together during the project, and that they learned a great deal from one another (not just in terms of artistic technique or musical repertoire). One of the participants summed up the experience in these words: ‘From strangers to best friends ever. From first meeting to crying at the end. From singing for the first time to having concerts. From Dilijan to Sukhum/i. Thank you all. Love U.’

Place and year
Abkhazia, Tavush, 2019

Participants
The Rainbow Singers: Leya Adleiba, Sofiko Aslaiani, Basima Blabba, Londa Chamagua, Diana Chkadua, Tako Davitadze, Luka Djgerenaia, Khatia Elerjia, Nara Gunba, Anano Gvilava, Aliona Jenia, Madina Jenia, Milana Jenia, Milena Jenia, Aldona Kharazia, Bakuri Kikalishvili, Diana Mamasakhlisi, Kamilla Molosh, Katya Nakopiya, Nastya Nakopiya, Mate Pelangia, Mariam Pelangia, Salome Shonia, Renata Simonia, Shakhan Sirginava, Anna Tsulaia

We Are One: Ashot Aghekyan, Vahagn Amirzyan, Stella Atabekyan, Hamlet Badalyan, Diana Barseghyan, Shushan Chobanyan, Svetlana Darbinyan, Karen Ghazaryan, Angela Hakhverdyan, Erik Harutyunyan, Norayr Hayrapetyan, Gayane Keryan, Julietta Kharatyan, Alisa Manukyan, Angela Matevosyan, Mariam Mkrtchyan, Meri Mosinyan, Meri Musayelyan, Sanasar Revazyan, Anush Sahakyan, Vardan Tumanyan, Arpine Zakharyan, Mara Zalinyan

Artistic direction
Franziska Welti
Jean-Daniel Girod

Project management
Sandra Frimmel (artasfoundation)
Olivia Jaques (artasfoundation)

Local project managers
Lusine Mlke-Galstian, Jerewan
Tsira Schubladze, Gal/i

Interpreters
Angela Adzinba
Davit Aydiyan
Stella Loretsyan

Partner organisations
Kokhb Music School (Bela Bayramyan)
Community Centre Dilijan (Serine Khachatryan)
Ayrum Music School / Bagratashen Music School (Sona Mughdusyan)
Berd Music School (Hermine Palanduzyan)
House of Culture, Gal/i (Irakli Gvilava)
Gudauta Music School (Esma Gunba)
House of Culture, Gal/i (Tsira Shubladze)
Ochamchyra Youth House (Selma Zantarya)

Financial contribution
Stiftung SmartPeace
Schweizerische Interpretenstiftung

International Choir 2018/19

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

After the first part held in Abkhazia¹, the International Choir entered its second round in autumn 2018 in the Armenian region of Tavush, near the border with Azerbaijan. In Tavush, artasfoundation organised three one-week workshops (October 2018 / February 2019 / July 2019) on music from all over the world in collaboration with the singer and choir director Franziska Welti, the musician Jean-Daniel Girod and five local music schools, followed by a concert tour to the different places of origin of the participants (July 2019).

Twenty-five young women and men between the ages of 12 and 17 were invited to sing folk songs from different countries and try out body percussion techniques. The participants came from Dilijan, Berd, Kokhb, Bagratashen and Ayrum. The choir conductors Bela Baghramyan (Kokhb), Serine Kachathryan (Dilijan), Sona Mughdusyan (Ayroum) and Hermine Palanduzyan (Berd) took part in the workshops and worked together with Franziska Welti and Jean-Daniel Girod.

The first workshop took place from 28. October to 3. November 2018 in Dilijan. Dilijan is the capital of the Tavush region and a popular tourist destination. In addition to the workshops in singing and body percussion there were evening film screenings and lectures on the places of origin of the songs learned. With a view to a possible merger of the two choirs from Tavush and Abkhazia, the choir learned the same repertoire as the Abkhaz Rainbow Singers in the previous year: songs from Spain, Brazil, Congo, Israel, Liberia and South Africa. The Armenian choir conductors also sang various Armenian songs with the young people.

From 1. to 7. February 2019 the choir met again in Dilijan for the second workshop. The songs learned last autumn were refreshed and new melodies from Switzerland and compositions by Jean-Daniel Girod were added. Tamara Shanava and Irakli Gvilava, who took part in the project in the previous year as co-leaders of the Rainbow Singers in Abkhazia, accompanied the workshop in February in Dilijan. They sang an Abkhazian song with the choir and made the first connections between the two choirs with a view to bringing them together in October 2019. The band Tiezerk from Yerevan also attended the workshop and sang one of their songs together with the choir. In addition to singing, there was once again a varied programme: further lectures on the places of origin of the songs, acting exercises and painting games, a talent show and a discussion evening to find a name for the choir. After an emotional discussion, the young singers agreed on the name We Are One. On this journey, the Swiss photographer Christoph Läser once again accompanied the group, documented the workshop and also conducted a small photo workshop for young people.

The third workshop, followed by a concert tour through the Tavush region, took place from 2. to 9. July 2019. The starting point was Dilijan. In the first days the members of the We Are One Choir deepened and consolidated the repertoire learned in the two previous workshops and practiced their stage presence. The little free time left beside the rehearsals and concerts was occupied by stories about the countries of origin of the songs, films and above all the self-production of posters for the respective concerts.

From 4. to 8. July, the choir gave concerts in an intensive four-day tour through the Tavush region (Dilijan, Berd, Koghb, Ayroum, Bagratashen) and to Yerevan. The concerts took place at locations that could not have been more different: in the part spartan and part highly modern cultural centres and schools in the places of origin of the participants, and in the Komitas Chamber Music House in Yerevan. The final concert there was also attended by Swiss Ambassador Stefano Lazzarotto. It was striking how the young people grew together more and more as a group on stage during the concert tour, conquering the space with their presence and sweeping the audience away with their joy. The concert halls in their home region of Tavush were full of relatives, teachers and friends of all ages. Especially the newly learned techniques, such as body percussion, inspired the children in the audience and encouraged them to immediately try them out and participate.

Curiosity was particularly great during the concert in Bagratashen when the Cup Song spontaneously served as an introductory lesson. At the Komitas Chamber Music House in Yerevan, all the participants were aware of the unique opportunity of performing at such a venue and visibly enjoyed the opportunity to give a final concert there. Not only the young people were thus strengthened in their self-confidence, the local choir conductors also could acquire new techniques of conducting and body percussion and adapted them for their daily lessons.

Place and year
Tavush, 2018–2019

Participants
We Are One: Ashot Aghekyan, Vahagn Amirzyan, Stella Atabekyan, Hamlet Badalyan, Emma Baghdasaryan, Diana Barseghyan, Shushan Chobanyan, Svetlana Darbinyan, Karen Ghazaryan, Angela Hakhverdyan, Erik Harutyunyan, Narek Harutyunyan, Valeri Harutyunyan, Norayr Hayrapetyan, Gayane Keryan, Julietta Kharatyan, Alisa Manukyan, Angela Matevosyan, Mariam Mkrtchyan, Meri Mosinyan, Meri Musayelyan, Sanasar Revazyan, Anush Sahakyan, Anna Tovmasyan, Vardan Tumanyan, Arpine Zakharyan, Mara Zalinyan

Artistic direction
Franziska Welti
Jean-Daniel Girod

Project management workshops 1 & 2
Fenja Läser (artasfoundation)
Shoghakat Mlke-Galstyan, Jerewan

Project management workshops 3 & concerts
Sandra Frimmel (artasfoundation)
Olivia Jaques (artasfoundation)
Shoghakat Mlke-Galstyan, Jerewan

Interpreters
Davit Aydiyan
Stella Loretsyan

Partner organisations
Kokhb Music School (Bela Baghramyan)
Community Centre Dilijan (Serine Kachathryan)
Ayrum Music School / Bagratashen Music School (Sona Mughdusyan)
Berd Music School (Hermine Palanduzyan)
House of Culture, Gal/i (Irakli Gvilava)
Music School No.1, Sukhum/i (Tamara Shanava)

Financial contribution
Stiftung SmartPeace
Schweizerische Interpretenstiftung

International Choir 2017/18

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

Photo: Christoph Läser

International Choir was realized for the first time in Abkhazia¹ in 2017/2018. In collaboration with the singer and choir conductor Franziska Welti, the musician Jean-Daniel Girod and local cultural institutions, artasfoundation organised two one-week workshops (June and October 2017) on music from all over the world, followed by a concert tour through Abkhazia in spring of 2018. Twenty-six young women and men aged between 10 and 18 from various regions of Abkhazia were invited to sing songs from all over the world and try out body percussion techniques. The participants came from eastern Abkhazia (Gal/i and Ochamyra districts), Sukhum/i and Western Abkhazia (Gudauta). The singing teachers Irakli Gvilava and Nika Shubitidze from the music school Gal/i as well as the choir conductor Esma Gunba from Gudauta and the music teachers Tamara Shanava, Violetta Kapiza and Diana Shanba from Sukhum/i also participated in the workshops and worked together with Franziska Welti, Jean-Daniel Girod and the young people.

The first workshop took place from 3. to 9. June 2017 in Ochamyra (Eastern Abkhazia). Ochamyra is located on the Black Sea and has already been a location for several artasfoundation projects. In addition to the workshops in singing and body percussion, film screenings and lectures on the songs’ countries of origin were held in the evening. The choir sang songs from Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Congo, Italy, Israel and South Africa. The teachers from Gal/i also sang two Mingrelian songs with the young people and two Abkhazian songs were rehearsed with the teachers from Sukhum/i and Gudauta. On the final evening there was an informal concert, to which many of the young people’s parents came.

The second workshop week was held in Pitsunda from 5. to 10. October. Pitsunda is a traditional resort on the Black Sea, west of Sukhum/i. The repertoire that had been already learned was further developed and expanded upon. Songs from Turkey, Armenia, Sweden, Serbia and two new songs with body percussion were added, which aroused great enthusiasm among the young people. At the end of the week there was another rehearsal concert in the hotel grand ballroom, which was full to bursting. The group was accompanied by photographer Christoph Läser, who documented the workshop.

In March 2018 International Choir was rounded off with a short third workshop and a concert tour. Together with Franziska Welti and Jean-Daniel Girod, the participants refreshed their repertoire and learned new songs from Hungary and Brazil. The workshop leaders also introduced improvisational techniques, which were met with great interest. After the rehearsals, the programme included a concert tour to the participants’ hometowns. For the concerts the choir gave itself the name The Rainbow Singers. A public dress rehearsal in Ochamyra was followed by two successful and well-attended concerts in Sukhum/i and Gudauta.

artasfoundation was very happy with the progress of the project. It was greeted with great interest and joy on site and the project goals were met. The long duration of the project and the workshop series that built on one other were able to give a new vitality: the participants increasingly identified with the choir and made friends with each other, even across ethnic boundaries. The newly learnt songs and body percussion techniques are to be integrated into the daily music lessons and will continue to be cultivated after the end of the project. The concert tour to Sukhum/i and Gudauta meant a previously unimaginable opportunity for participants, in particular from Mingrelian-speaking areas, to perform in public and to build their self-confidence.

Place and year
Abkhazia, 2017–2018

Participants
The Rainbow Singers: Leya Adleiba, Sofiko Aslaiani, Basima Blabba, Londa Chamagua, Diana Chkadua, Tako Davitadze, Luka Djgerenaia, Khatia Elerjia, Nara Gunba, Anano Gvilava, Aliona Jenia, Madina Jenia, Milana Jenia, Milena Jenia, Aldona Kharazia, Bakuri Kikalishvili, Diana Mamasakhlisi, Kamilla Molosh, Katya Nakopiya, Nastya Nakopiya, Mate Pelangia, Mariam Pelangia, Salome Shonia, Renata Simonia, Shakhan Sirginava, Anna Tsulaia

Artistic direction
Franziska Welti
Jean-Daniel Girod

Project management
Fenja Läser (artasfoundation)
Angela Adzinba, Suchum/i
Tsira Schubladze, Gal/i

Partner organisations
Gudauta Music School (Esma Gunba)
House of Culture, Gal/i (Irakli Gvilava, Nika Shubitidze)
Music School No. 1, Suchum/i (Violetta Kapiza, Tamara Shanava)
Ochamchira Youth House (Selma Zantarya)
Sukhum Youth House (Diana Shanba)

Financial contribution
Stiftung SmartPeace
Schweizerische Interpretenstiftung

¹artasfoundation would like to underline that its use of names and titles particularly in regards to conflict regions should not be understood as implying any form of recognition or non-recognition by the foundation or as having any other political connotation whatsoever.