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Ejcf 2023: Opening with a big spectacle

Actually, it should have taken place in 2020; the big choral spectacle as the opening event of the European Youth Choir Festival in the renovated St. Jakobshalle right across from the FCB stadium in Basel. We all know that Corona thwarted these plans and while hundreds of people were later to catch the virus in après-ski bars in Sölden, choral singing was completely banned in Switzerland in autumn 2020 After all, the Ejcf could still take place in a reduced form in spring 2021, but big concert events were out of the question at the time.

Fortunately, two years later, things are looking a lot better and we have been able to find our way back to normal life, even if the masks have not completely disappeared from everyday life. Last Wednesday evening the time had finally come and the latest edition of the European Youth Choir Festival could finally be opened with the long-planned, first, brilliant choral spectacle in the St. Jakobshalle. The selected choirs have traveled from all corners of Europe and even further; Finland, Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine, the Philippines and many other countries are there. The tonal and visual variety was correspondingly large on the first evening of the major event.

During the concert, all festival choirs were seated on the floor in predetermined areas in the center of the event hall. From here they were able to go directly to the stage individually and present themselves to their colleagues and the large audience. Well over a thousand young singers from all over Europe were present that evening. The excitement and astonishment at the variety and yet quite different singing habits was correspondingly great. There was stamping, screaming, dancing, rocking and of course singing in the choir in a variety of ways.

The high school students of the choirs from the Basel region had their own task for this opening concert. In a huge choir of around 350 young people, they welcomed the guest choirs in the legendary white festival T-shirts. "That big, white wall behind the main stage looked great," a spectator on the tram told me afterwards. Other random passers-by were amazed at the large crowds pouring out of the hall at the end of the concert in St. Jakob. "What was the event here?" a passer-by asked me. "The great choral spectacle of the European Youth Choir Festival," I replied. "Ah yes, I also have a colleague who sings in a choir," he replied, turning back to his friend.

The Swiss Federal Council was also present in person with Ms. Baume-Schneider. In a coherent speech, she pointed out that such an event is peace promotion in the best sense and gives hope for a peaceful future. In the "Song of Hope" this vision was also expressed musically in an impressive way by all choirs.

Today, on the driveway, the festival has already picked up full speed. Church services are organized, gym choirs sing in the Stadtcasino, children's choirs in the Martinskirche and in the Kuspo Pratteln, a choir management meeting takes place at the Music Academy and in the evenings the festival choirs sing at large concerts throughout the region.

In the city on Thursday evening, "red-blue" with beer is suddenly the order of the day and choral chants are mixed up with fan chants in the city centre. They all sing with fervor and devotion. While the FCB fan march is then attacked by opposing fans and water cannons have to be used, the opening concert of the European Youth Choir Festival with the final piece "Circuit" took a different, rather unexpected turn the night before. The piece expressed in an impressive way: everything is in flux, everything repeats itself, develops and yet arises anew; so does the European Youth Choir Festival after the Corona period.

P.S. : The piece «Crowd Sounds» that I wrote for the 2018 edition of the festival begins with the notes F-C-B; I wonder why…?

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