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Christmas nostalgia

With the arrival of autumn in Poznań, people who only a few months ago relished in the carefree atmosphere of summer music festivals, scurry around in scarves and hats. Even the autumn season though has much to offer. The November Nostalgia Festival will provide an opportunity to meet a variety of contemporary artists from various parts of the music scene.

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Gia Kanczeli / fot. Gia Chkhatarashvili

Some of the Malta Foundation's most recent events, including the 2017 Nostalgia Festival Poznań (Pieśń wspólna - The Shared Song) and the 2018 Malta Festival  (Skok w wiarę - A Leap into Faith), explored the themes of spirituality and community. This year's autumn festival will be all about Life Without Christmas. The title has been borrowed from a collection of prayers by Giya Kancheli, written between 1990 and 1992. This Georgian composer poured his experiences of living in the Soviet Union into these songs, confronting it with the world he encountered beyond the iron curtain (he left Georgia for Berlin in 1991 and later settled in Antwerp, Belgium). As the organisers have put it, "Life Without Christmas expresses the composer's yearning, pain, and insecurity, as well as his outcry against the upbringing he received under the oppressive Communist regime." Kancheli himself insists that interpretations of his work should transcend religion. His compositions portray Christmas as a celebration not as much of the birth of Jesus, as of a time for awaiting a joyous transformation. Kancheli notes that, while faith may be a blessing, a great deal of evil results from religion becoming increasingly entangled in fundamentalism.

The composer will be a guest of honour at the festival. He is known for a broad range of works. In his early years, he made his mark as an artist steeped in the avant-garde. For many years he maintained close ties with the theatre community, composing music for plays and motion pictures. In 1971, he became the musical director of the Rustaveli National Theatre in Tbilisi. He combined his work as a composer with an academic career teaching composition at a leading Georgian conservatory. Today, Kancheli is celebrated as the most popular Georgian composer, his work often likened to that of Arvo Pärt and John Tavener. Kancheli's compositions are imbued with Georgian folklore and religiosity. Speaking of his inspirations, Kincheli explains: "I feel a connection to music that captures pain: not the pain of the author but rather that of others. Pain is an appropriate term, but there is also another: compassion." More about Kincheli's work can be learned from a film shot during his visit to Łódź.

The Nostalgia Festival film line-up will additionally include The Emigrants by Mohamad Abdulaziz. The composition Life Without Christmas: Morning Prayers, Midday Prayers, Evening Prayers, Night Prayers will be performed by an orchestra conducted by Marcin Sompoliński. 

Community in the minor key

One of the aims of the 2018 Nostalgia Festival is to confront diverse traditions. As a prelude to the theme of Life Without Christmas, audiences will hear a concert by Pianohooligan, including a premiere performance of his album 24 Preludes & Improvisations. In composing this cycle, Piotr Orzechowski drew inspirations from Latin American and Polish music with abundant allusions to pop. The pianist is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music and a winner of many prestigious awards, including first prize at the Montreux Jazz Solo Piano Competition 2011 in Switzerland, which launched his international career.

This year's line-up also includes Barbara Kinga Majewska and Marcin Masecki, both known for their ability to redefine and reimagine old music. Majewska is a vocalist, a song writer, a feature writer, and the creator of a host of events devoted to contemporary music. She has performed in the world premiere of Sławomir Wojciechowski's Zwycięstwo nad słońcem (Victory Over the Sun) and in Paweł Mykietyn's Czarodziejska góra (The Magic Mountain). Masecki has co-founded a number of musical projects, including Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki and Mitch & Mitch. Majewska and Masecki has previously collaborated on the album Fogg - Pieśniarz Warszawy (The Singer of Warsaw).

The Nostalgia Festival will provide an opportunity to hear them in a unique production featuring traditional Polish Christmas carols translated into Arabic (by Szamani Yacoub). Interestingly, the artists have transcribed the carols from the major into the minor scale (which the audience will perceive as a mood shift from cheerful to melancholy). The artists use moods as a commentary on the state of religion today, as well as that of humanity, which is unable to heed the message of carols about giving shelter and hospitality in the face of the migrant crisis.

The list of events slated for this season does not end there. The organisers will bring the café-chantant tradition back to the Malta Foundation's home. After the concerts, audiences will get to mingle at this "singing café" and experience more intimate encounters with music. Music review workshops, which have become the Festival's staple, will be hosted by the Meakultura Foundation. A new addition to the programme are shared meals that precede concerts and bring the participants closer together, allowing them to form a new musical community.

The programme will also include meetings with guest speakers, including Rev. Wacław Oszajca, and a spoken performance featuring Bible readings by celebrity actors.

Aleksandra Kujawiak

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

  • Nostalgia Festival Poznań 2018
  • 23-25 November
  • free passes available at CIM starting 9 November
  • to learn more, visit nostalgiafestival.pl

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2018