The International Belgrade Singers (IBS) recently staged a successful charity concert, entitled “The sound of spring”, in the new Donka Spicek Hall of the Childen’s Culture Centre in Belgrade. As the goal and philosophy of the Choir is “to give back to the community in which we live”, all of their performances are of a humanitarian nature and donations are always earmarked for children. The funds raised during this concert will be given to the Care Centre for High School Pupils and University Students. CorD took advantage of an opportunity to attened one of the choir’s open rehearsals at the Embassy of Canada, just a few days prior to the concert.
In conversation with Frederic Leseur, president of the choir, we discovered that the IBS choir was founded in February 2012, under the patronage of the Embassy of Canada in Serbia. Then Ambassador H.E. Roman Waschuk and his wife, both excellent choral singers, actively sang in the choir until the end of 2014.
“The choir was founded on the initiative of Betty Ann German, a Canadian Embassy diplomat, and she led the choir for four years. She invited members of the diplomatic corps and international organisations in Belgrade, as well as people from the international community and other choirs, and lovers of choral singing, to join the IBS choir. From the very beginning the members of the choir came from more than ten countries, while the number of members varies from 30 to 50.”
The choir was founded on the initiative of Betty Ann German, a Canadian Embassy diplomat who invited members of international community and other choirs and lovers of choral singing to join the IBS choir
Since September 2016 the Choir Conductor has been Katarina Milošević, who is the choir’s veritable “Spiritus Movens”. A professional conductor who studied in Serbia and Austria, she says that “all choir members are connected with foreign countries in some way. We have pensioners, but also students. Love towards music connects them”. Though it seems that the choir is open to everyone, there is some kind of audition, she adds.
The International Belgrade Singers usually only formally perform around twice a year, while the programme is versatile. For the concert at the Childen’s Culture Centre of Belgrade they sang in seven languages – English, Latin, old Norwegian, French, Hebrew, Macedonian and Serbian. “We had five or six premiere performances, including the song “Zlatni dan”, arranged by Ilija Rajković, who also arranged the song “Zemlja” by Ekaterina velika (EKV) especially for our choir.”
Slađana Pavlović, who works at the EU Delegation to Serbia, has sang in the choir since its first day, when she was asked to join by Betty Ann German. She recalls that the choir’s first ever public performance was at Kolarac Endowment Hall in 2012, in a concert dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, while Pavlović states that the choir’s biggest achievement was the concert marking the centenary of World War I. “This choir has a repertoire like no other choir in Belgrade. I like working with the conductor and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere at rehearsals”, says Pavlović.
The International Belgrade Singers usually only formally perform around twice a year, while the programme is versatile. For the concert at the Childen’s Culture Centre of Belgrade they sang in seven languages – English, Latin, old Norwegian, French, Hebrew, Macedonian and Serbian
LEARNING NEW LANGUAGES THROUGH MUSIC
Dunja Savić joined the choir as pianist rehearsal coach in December 2016 and instantly fell in love with the atmosphere. “At the moment, the Hebrew song “Kala, kala” represents a challenge for me, as well as the French song “Ditrait on”, Savić says.
The choir’s youngest member, Teodora Putnik, lived in Norway, Vietnam and Canada before moving to Serbia. She joined after her mother saw information about the choir on Facebook. “I’ve learned many new songs singing in IBS. For instance, I didn’t know about the song “Zemlja” by EKV and my experience with the choir inspired me to listen to the original“.
Teodora points out that the choir’s members always receive explanations in English and Serbian about the songs they are going to perform. They also practise pronunciation for every new song. That’s how foreigners can easily sing in Serbian and, truly, it’s not difficult to learn new languages through music.