London Festival of Bulgarian Culture? Mission Possible
Try asking foreigners what they think about Bulgaria. The answers you will most probably get will be connected the beautiful beaches and mountains, or maybe about the famous yogurt or good wine.
But it is unlikely that you will hear a foreigner praising the richness of the Bulgarian historic and cultural heritage.
This might have been the case so far, but things are about to change thanks to the first edition of the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture (LFBC) that is held November 2-26, yes, in London.
“The idea of the LFBC came as a result of 10 years of performances in Great Britain,” Ivo Stankov, violinist and artistic director, said.
He explains that the festival will give an opportunity to Bulgarian citizens who live and work in the UK to enjoy the national culture.
“But the festival would also like to present the Bulgarian culture to people in London,” he said, adding that the objectives of the initiative are to present the Bulgarian culture, to create artistic partnerships, to popularize the works of Bulgarian artists and to promote the Bulgarian classical music in particular.
Stankov was the initiator of the idea for the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture. He is an acclaimed musician and has been organizing concerts and other cultural events for the past seven years in London, where he lives for 10 years now. He has collaborated with many artists and ensembles worldwide and has a vast experience in the music business.
Of course, his wife is right beside him, joining his efforts to present Bulgarian culture in the UK. Vania Vatralova-Stankov, a soprano, has been living in London for several years. She has performed at many Bulgarian and international festivals and has collaborated with numerous orchestras.
“We are delighted that the British public has always accepted enthusiastically our performances of Bulgarian music. This really shows a growing interest towards Bulgarian music and culture, in general, which is still widely unknown to the British audience,” Vatralova-Stankov said.
The festival opened on November 2 with a concert of the most successful Bulgarian choir of all times, Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares, in Queen Elizabeth Hall, which is one of the best concert halls in the UK.
Even though they have gained an international fame, the conductor, Dora Hristova, admitted that the existence of the choir was not easy.
“We have to exist, but it is very difficult. Love of art, love of songs, love of the Bulgarian nation, which has created such a rich heritage, this is what gives us strength [to continue],” Hristova said.
Despite the difficulties, however, the Grammy Award-winner choir caused a standing ovation in the audience after their concert.
“I absolutely loved them. They were wonderful. They sounded amazing,” a man from the audience told the Bulgarian National Television after the performance of Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares.
The festival then continues with the concert of The Bridge String Quartet on November 5 at St. James’s Piccadilly.
The Bridge Quartet is celebrating its 20th anniversary as one of the most renowned string quartets in the UK. They have performed in major festivals in the UK, Europe and America. Their diverse educational portfolio includes projects with music students. They hold regular residential courses in England, France, Italy and Switzerland.
A 10th anniversary will be celebrated by the London Bulgarian Choir. Their concert will be November 12 at St. John’s Smith Square.
The choir was chosen the BBC Radio Choir of the Year 2006. It is led by the Bulgarian Dessislava Stefanova, former member of the Philip Koutev Bulgarian Folk Ensemble. The choir consists of over 35 members from all around the world. Only a third of them are Bulgarians.
“For us, the Bulgarian song is an adventure through nature, and woods, and sadness, and happiness,” Steven East, singer at the London Bulgarian Choir, told the Bulgarian National Television.
The first edition of the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture also aims at presenting a number of world and UK premieres, written by a few contemporary composers like Martin Georgiev, John Howard, Gwyn Pritchard and Dobrinka Tabakova.
“I would be delighted to present my newest work at the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture. I myself composed string quartets specifically for this event, that is based on my unique approach to composition that I have developed on the philosophy of the Medieval Bulgarian Orthodox Chant,” Martin Georgiev, said.
Georgiev is a Bulgarian award-winning composer and conductor, who holds a Postgraduate degree in Conducting from the Royal Academy of Music in London. His works have been performed in the UK, USA, France, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Bulgaria, Greece, Israel and Italy.
“I think it’s true to say that the British musical public and the non-musical public know very little about Bulgarian culture in general and Bulgarian music. This festival provides an ideal opportunity to fill that gap. Personally, I am delighted to be a part of it,” Gwyn Pritchard, said.
Pritchard will present his work for soprano, violin, and string orchestra, which made its premiere on September 16 at the “Day of Sofia” at the Bulgarian National Hall in Sofia. The work is dedicated to Sofia Soloists and Stankov Ensemble, which will be performing it together on the last day of the festival.
The Sofia Soloists Chamber Orchestra was established in 1962 by a group of young musicians from the Sofia Opera in Bulgaria. It has performed in over 3000 concerts all over the world. The orchestra has more than 600 works in its repertoire, ranging from baroque to contemporary music.
However, music will not be the only part of Bulgarian culture presented at LFBC. The festival will also include an art exhibition called “Impromptu” that will take place at the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria.
“The aim of the exhibition is to bring together Bulgarian and British sculptors and artists and to represent their works, their visions, associations and the new tendencies in the contemporary art,” Elena Todorova-Stanev from the event organizer, Cerise Arts Agency, said.
The Bulgarian Embassy in London is among the main supporters of the initiative.
“Culture is wealth, but wealth, which increases when shared. The Bulgarian Festival of Culture in London this autumn will give the possibility for Bulgarian culture to present itself, for Bulgarian business to find new contacts,” Lyubomir Kyuchukov, Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria, said.
Other supporters of the festival are Bulgarian Cultural Institute (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Bulgarian Ministry of Culture, British Council in Sofia, British Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, Bulgarian Composers Union, Cerise Arts Agency, BG Ben Newspaper, Carboni Classical Media and Bulgarian Virtuosi Artists.
Patrons of the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture are H.R.H. Prince Kyril of Bulgaria, Sonia Rouve-Uvaliev, Dimitar Berbatov, Vezhdi Rashidov and Yordanka Fandakova.
“We are presented with a wonderful opportunity through the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture to create an important place for Bulgarian art in the cultural agenda of one of world’s leading business and cultural capitals,” Ivo Stankov said.
*This article used quotations from the official website of the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture.
- » Lost in Lack of Translation: Svetlana, Bulgaria and the Conflict in Ukraine
- » Hurghada, El Gouna and Soma Bay, Three Faces of Egypt’s Red Sea
- » Meet Pepi, a Bulgarian Robot for Which Crossing Mazes Is a Piece of Cake
- » Ten Blunders of Bulgarian Politicians Worth Remembering in 2014
- » Top 7 Visual Moments of Bulgaria's 2014 Election Campaign
- » Who Will Take Over from Sergey Stanishev as Socialist Party Chief?
The cultural articulation of Bulgaria has been fully established in the international community which defined form and art.
Time has come through diplomatic missions to market Bulgarian art form through cultural form through bilateral cooperation.
Time has come to get rid of Embassies and Diplomats that do not work for the people of Bulgaria but for personal benefits.
Market our culture and what it means to be a Bulgarian!