Scots help raise funds for monument to Slovak writer

COMBINING a popular cultural event with a good cause has become a desirable trend. However, one such combination may have seemed slightly odd initially: a Bratislava concert in early July featuring a 100-member Scottish choir performing one famous and one lesser known work to help raise money to erect a monument for Slovak writer Martin Rázus in the Slovak capital. Outgoing British Ambassador to Slovakia Susannah Montgomery supported the project with her personal presence.

Scottish National Youth Orchestra, concert on July 10Scottish National Youth Orchestra, concert on July 10 (Source: Michal Gschwandtner)

COMBINING a popular cultural event with a good cause has become a desirable trend. However, one such combination may have seemed slightly odd initially: a Bratislava concert in early July featuring a 100-member Scottish choir performing one famous and one lesser known work to help raise money to erect a monument for Slovak writer Martin Rázus in the Slovak capital. Outgoing British Ambassador to Slovakia Susannah Montgomery supported the project with her personal presence.

“I would not pretend to be unhappy about the problem we had shortly before the beginning (of the event) to find enough places to sit for the numerous audience members that arrived,” one of the organisers, Ján Juráš, said at the evening’s introduction.

The National Youth Choir of Scotland gave a performance on July 10 in the big Concert Studio of the Slovak radio building. The admission fee was voluntary, with all the proceeds going toward the Rázus monument, planned as a pylon on the embankment bearing his name (Rázusovo nábrežie). There is, of course, a connection between Scotland and this Slovak poet, playwright, Evangelical-Lutheran priest and public figure: Rázus studied at the Free College in Edinburgh between 1911-1912, with the support of R.W. Seton Watson (aka Scotus Viator), “a friend of Slovaks and Slovakia” and a political activist and historian who played an active role in encouraging the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the emergence of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

The association boosting the memory of Rázus, The Martin Rázus Institute, plans to unveil the monument on October 24, 2013, on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of his birth, in the form of granite books with the names of places where he worked. The sixth granite book from the bottom is dedicated to Edinburgh, Juráš said.

The Scottish choir, conducted by Christopher Bell and accompanied by David Hamilton on organ, first sang the Crucifixus by contemporary Welsh composer Paul Mealor, adapting and setting to music Peter Davidson’s powerful poem of the same name with three additional texts. The work was premiered in 2012.

In the second part of the concert the choir performed Mozart’s Requiem. The programme booklet included not only information about the central-European tour of the choir and the musicians, as well as the composers, but also the lyrics of all works performed, in Latin, English and also in the languages of the countries in which they are touring: Czech, Slovak and German. In addition to Bratislava, the tour includes stops in Prague and Kroměříž in the Czech Republic, and Vienna, Austria.

The rapturous applause resulted in an encore, the In Paradisum part of the Requiem by Fauré, which was scheduled to be performed in Kroměříž.

Montgomery gave a brief speech at the beginning of the evening, clad in a stylish Scottish kilt, in which she said a few words in both English and Slovak. She confessed that her family has roots in Scotland and stressed the similarities between Slovakia and Scotland: lovely landscapes, great castles and especially, a love of music.

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