Aegis Carminis


As the competition required the prior preparation of demonstration choirs and live performance, a lot of coordination with the choirs, participants and the jury was required. The high level of the competition held in 2019 dictated the selection of both the program and the choirs. The organizer once again invited the top Slovenian choirs of the  Music School Koper Childrens9 Choir, the Vikra-vocal group of the Glasbena Matica of Trieste, Academic Choir Maribor and the KGBL Chamber Choir to participate. The competition was judged by an international jury consisting of established choral experts: Gary Graden (Sweden), president and members of the jury Naomi Faran (Israel), Josep Vila i Casañas (Catalonia), Petra Grassi (Slovenia / Italy) and Stojan Kuret (Slovenia / Italy).

The competition was held in two categories. A - choir conductors (3 rounds) and B - conductors of youth choirs (1 round). Participants from as many as seven countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Italy and Slovenia) tackled the 20th and 21st century programs. This year's selection was exclusively Slovenian, as the organizer wanted to emphasize the importance of Slovenian creativity and promotion at this time. At the competition we could hear a number of pearls from the Slovene choral treasury of Primorska and other Slovene composers (Pavle Markù, Marij Kogoj, Uroš Krek, Marijan Gabrijelčič, Alojz Srebotnjak, Lojze Lebič, Uroš Rojko, Damijan Močnik, Ambrož Čopi, Črt Sojar-Voglar Tadeja Vulc, Nana Forte, Andrej Makor, Tine Bec, Matej Kastelic and Samo Vovk). Special attention was paid to newly composed songs written recently, some during the pandemic.

Only Slovenian conductors performed in the B category. The Childrens' Choir of the Koper Music School, led by Maja Cilenšek, impressed as many as seven compositions with the newly studied program with the vocal-technical and musical flexibility of the prepared program. In addition to the composition Sončnice by Uroš Rojko, which the competitors performed without rehearsal with the choir and thus showed the quality of their suggestiveness and manual technique, we had the opportunity to listen to three pearls by Marij Kogoj (Kaj nebi bila vesela, Cicifuj, Sveti Jurij) and compositions with piano accompaniment. Andrej Makor Ptice, Tine Beca Ekate pekate and the award-winning composition of the composer's competition Aegis carminis 2019 Omniscient neighbor Samo Vovk. The choir was accompanied at the piano by Andrey Ilienko. In the rehearsal with the choir, the participants had to show in 20 minutes how to upgrade individual parts technically, sound and interpretively.

The first prize went to Tom Varl, followed by Neža Križnar, who received a special prize for a good pedagogical approach with the choir, and Meta Praček. Jani Klančič and Tina Hostnik also participated

In the A category, all seven competitors in the 1st round first faced the challenging cycle of Tre canzioncine Triestine by Pavle Merkù. Then, with another song, they showed how to work with the choir. The variant for the female choir of the song Deliver me, o Lord by Tine Bec, which in the mixed version was the first prize-winning song of the composer's competition two years ago, was written just for Vikra. In the composition, the composer uses a wide range of atmospheres, which he conjured up with imaginative melody management and layering, as well as a harmoniously rich chord. The composition also uses a series of effects (body percussion), with which the composer skillfully complements the content of the text and expands the sonority and rhythmic diversity of the choral movement. Both the contestants and the jury watched with admiration the professionalism of this ensemble. The vocal fusion and homogeneity of voices, the exceptional interpretive ability of each singer to, as an independent subject and at the same time a building block of the whole, deal with demanding literature at a high level and at the same time follow the vision of an individual conductor. The vocal group Vikra, led by the exceptional conductor Petra Grassi, is certainly one of the most prominent Slovenian groups, and with its constant growth and selection of literature it makes an important contribution to the promotion of contemporary literature at home and abroad. Vikra offered the competitors not only a perfect line-up with which everyone wants to make music, but also an unforgettable experience and inspiration for further work. Unfortunately, two competitors Kristina Bogataj (Slovenia / Finland) and Huang Yu-Hao (Taiwan) dropped out in this round.

Merku's cycle was best performed by Italian conductor Daniele Pilato and received a special award for its performance.

In the 2nd round, five competitors first presented themselves with the song Čas by Lojze Lebič. Technically and musically, it was best performed by a Japanese conductor who received a special award. APZ Maribor has prepared extremely demanding compositions Križem kraž by Nana Forte, Je pennse, donc je suis by Mateja Kastelic and Otrok s sončnico by Ambrož Čopi. According to the draw, the competitors had to make individual technically, sound and musically demanding sections of compositions for both the choir and the conductor. Here, the candidates had to show a high level of readiness, the ability to upgrade and a vision in each song. 

The performance of Lebič's composition was best achieved by the Japanese conductor Shino Yamasaki, who received the award for the best performance of the obligatory composition. Academic Choir Maribor is certainly one of the most important contractors and promoters of new works. Under the direction of Tadeja Vulc, he has recently performed a number of contemporary works and presented himself with great success at domestic and international competitions. It also has an important impact on the development and growth of the choir in the region and beyond, as it inspires many with its surpluses. Daniele Pilato (Italy) and Jack Apperley (England) also concluded the competition in this stage.

In the 3rd round - Finals, three competitors presented themselves. With the KGBL Chamber Choir, they had time to upgrade the program selected by lot in a one-hour rehearsal, which included the obligatory composition Sine sole nihil sum (Without Sun I am nothing) by Tadeja Vulc and two other compositions.

The winner of the competition Kildisha Anastasija (Latvia), in addition to the performance of the obligatory composition, for which she received a special award, also performed the compositions Saseniye with Damijan Močnik and Izseljenci Alojza Srebotnjak. In addition to the obligatory composition, the second-ranked conductor Shino Yamasaki (Japan) also performed works Bogoroditse Djevo by Črta Sojarja-Voglar, for which she received a special award for the best performance of a Slovenian composition and Vetri v polju by Marijan Gabrijelčič. In third place was Jessica Lee Yeonju (South Korea), who received a special award for her pedagogical approach in the 1st stage. In addition to the obligatory one, she also presented works Pomilui mya by Andrej Makor's and Uroš Krek's Mlini življenja (Mills of Life). The KGBL Chamber Choir, under the direction of Ambrož Čopi, built its visibility by performing compositions of the youngest generation. The concert performance with three different conductors and seven compositions, three of which were composed last year during the pandemic, was a challenge for the choir, which the young singers were up to. The diverse and technically demanding program, which was unknown to the competitors, required a high level of preparation of the choir and competitors. The live performance revealed a series of pitfalls and the ability of an individual conductor to make contact with the choir, as well as her ability to transfer her own vision to the interpretation and suggestiveness of the performance itself. The young singers proved to be an exceptional choir, regardless of the scope of their repertoire, which they had to prepare or renew in a short time. Less than a week later, the choir presented its performances of contemporary works at a concert in the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev dom as part of the Europa Cantat in Ljubljana.

The competition was also monitored by Vito Primožič, publisher of the Astrum Music Publishing. Without his support, Slovenian music would not have received such promotion in the world. Most of the modern choral works were published by him. As a supporter, he has collaborated with the festival since its inception and contributes to awards in both categories.

In addition to recognitions, plaques and cash prizes, the first prize winner of the festival definitely has the opportunity to perform a concert with the Slovenian Philharmonic Choir. The award was presented by the representative of the Slovenian Philharmonic, director of the choir Gregor Klančič, who expressed his enthusiasm for the winner and the joy of working with her in the upcoming subscription season.

 Both the competitors and the jury and demonstration choirs were satisfied with the work done at the end of the competition. The most valuable are, of course, the experience and knowledge, as well as the friendships that have been forged during this time. The competitors expressed their gratitude that the organizers, despite the unstable and unpredictable situation, managed to hold the competition at a high level. They were also grateful for the opportunity to work with top bands and get to know Slovenian literature, which, as they said, they will be happy to perform and take to the world.

In addition to the competitions, the organizer also offered two online concerts, which were broadcast before the competition. Academic Choir Maribor under the direction of Tadeja Vulc presented themselves with a Requiem for the ancestors of the composer Tadeja Vulc and Academic Choir  Tone Tomšič University of Ljubljana with the masterpiece FAUVEL '86 by Lojze Lebič. Wednesday 21.7. The Catalan National Youth Choir sounded live in the Koper Cathedral, and the festival will be sung with another online presentation, the home University of Primorska Academic Choir led by Ambrož Čopi with the new Ethno Jazz project Ta citira for choir, string quartet and percussion by composer Marijan Dović.