europa cantat festival cankarjev dom gallus hall
Photo credit: Cankarjev dom

Cankarjev dom – CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana was between 17 and 22 July 2021 one of the four venues in Slovenia’s capital that hosted one of the largest international music festivals worldwide. Europa Cantat Festival, or also the ‘flexival’, as organizers called this year’s edition due to the unprecedented programme’s adjustments to the pandemic situation, gathered this year 1200 singers, composers, conductors, and instrumentalists from all over the world.

In six days, the 2021 host country Slovenia shed light on the potential and the genuine cohesive role of choral music, particularly interrelating the arts, social and therapeutic activities, science, sport, tourism and other segments of society. Cankarjev dom, renowned for its beautiful halls among which some pride with the best acoustic in town, was an irreplacable partner of the festival. Approximately 50 of the world’s greatest conductors and mentors attended the event to hold workshops adapted to the participants, who are both choral music enthusiasts and professionals. The choral programme listed around 100 choral events and had a diverse accompanying programme of cultural events in the city that for the whole week lived and breathed with the festival.

europa cantat festival cankarjev dom
Photo credit: Europa Cantat, Tomaž Črnej

Covid has severly affected performing arts, also the Europa Cantat Festival, the signature festival of the European Choral Association. »Among  all  performing  arts,  choral  music  has  been  and  is  still  one  of  the  most  affected  disciplines.  Because  of  the  circumstances,  we  were  forced  to  adapt  several times and re-design our beautiful programme,« says Jean-Claude Wilkens, Chair of the Music Commission of Europe Cantat Ljubljana 2021 and Vice-president of the European Choral Association. Some of the events were held online, via festival’s online television EC TV. Thus, concerts and open singing were accompanied by hybrid and online training and workshops as well as special projects for singers, choirs, conductors, composers and music teachers.

europa cantat festival cankarjev dom
Photo credit: Europa Cantat, Rok Majhenič

Europa Cantat, a central meeting point for the choral world without any competitive elements, was first organised in 1961 in Passau, Germany. It is held every three years, always hosted by a city in a different country. Each time, the festival brings together 4000 participants from all over Europe and the world to share their passion for singing and discover one another’s cultures by attending ateliers and workshops, perform in final concerts, listen to invited choirs, etc.  This year’s edition, that was held also by Cankarjev dom – CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana, was special.

»It is the first time since 1961 that we are not able to gather several thousand people from 40 or 50 countries worldwide in  one  city,  bring  them  together  in  different activities and invite them to join their voices in the daily Open Singings,« point out Carlo Pavese and Sonja Geiner on behalf of the board and team of the European Choral Association. However, despite this unpredictable circumstances, there were 2700 registered participants who attended online sessions.

europa cantat cankarjev dom
Photo credit: Europa Cantat, Janez Eržen

The Europa Cantat 2021 festival, organised by Public Fund for Cultural Activities Republic of Slovenia (JSKD), took place under the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor and was  awarded the patronage of the European Parliament. Dušica Todorovič, Senior Business Development Manager at Cankarjev dom – CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana was specially grateful for the opening ceremony: »As a tribute to the host country, the opening featured Slovene language as a “fil rouge”. What an amazing experience to hear your own language sung by international vocalists. Slovene is very hard to learn (so we hear), so warm congratulations are in order to all participants for this performance!« With such a beautiful gesture the festival also highlighted its honorary status as the leading cultural event during the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the European Union 2021.