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Students and academics celebrate the richness of European music as the CIVIS Symphonic Orchestra bewitches Madrid

29 May 2023
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Last week, the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) hosted the second edition of the European CIVIS Symphonic Orchestra Academy. This Blended Intensive Programme (BIP) saw more than 60 students from various orchestras or music ensembles based at six different CIVIS member universities take part. After a great success last year in Marseille, this year's event offered two weeks of training and rehearsals before it culminated with a splendid concert in the Auditorio Nacional. The concert was part of UAM's 50th Cycle of Great Composers and Performers of Music.

This educational project aimed to enhance academic and cultural cooperation between the European member universities of CIVIS. One of the hallmarks of the European CIVIS Symphonic Orchestra Academy are the prestigious professionals who teach. This edition has been designed jointly by the orchestra conductors and music ensembles of the Universities of Glasgow, La Sapienza di Romà, Athens, Aix-Marseille and Tübingen, under the coordination of UAM.

During their stay in Madrid, the participants in the program had the chance to alternate theory sessions and rehearsals so as to get prepared for the final climax of this year's edition: a festive concert on 27 May 2023 which took place in the Symphonic Hall of the National Auditorium. That was a great challenge for the students who performed in front of more than 2000 people! They played the suite from the ballet "Sleeping Beauty" by Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, and a very special version of "Carmina Burana" by Carl Off. Both works are an example of the richness and diversity of European music, reflecting the identity and values of our continent.

The concert also featured the participation of the university choirs of UAM, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Choir of the Universidad San Pablo CEU, as well as the children's choir of the Kolbe school. Altogether, more than 300 musical artists from different countries performed on stage! Michael Dan from University of Tübingen and José María Álvarez from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid were the conductors. Aside from the conductors of the concert, there was a big contribution from Sapienza di Romà, with Maestro Francesco Vizioli, conductor of L'Orchestra MuSa Classica and Prof. Daniele Gola, University Professor and member of the MuSa Commission. They both supported rehearsals during the week, as pianist (Maestro Vizioli) and with the string orchestra (Prof. Gola).

It is wonderful to note that the concert was sold out a week in advance, and once the performance was finished, our CIVIS Orchestra together with the 4 accompanying choirs brought the audience in the Auditorium to their feet! This is surely something that will surely remain in the memory of the participating students.

The physical rehearsals and concert in Madrid were only one part of this Blended Intensive Programme. To prepare for this challenge, in the previous weeks the students have been joining guided virtual sessions, where they have been studying the scores to be performed this year, as well as the context and the reasons why they were chosen. These online sessions will continue until 22 June, with a final session to study the legacy of Carl Off and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in contemporary music. This will be the final point of this second edition of the programme.

How did the academics and musicians leading the programme experience this year's CIVIS symphony orchestra? Two shared their impressions..

"This has been a truly unique occasion to gather students from different CIVIS universities and work in a common project, for a week, with a very good outcome. I think this CIVIS Orchestra Academy perfectly embodies the spirit of collaboration between our universities, joining students from different backgrounds and different musical abilities, with a shared idea. Our conductors and orchestra leaders form each country worked with the group with the aim of making the most out of the orchestra, with a very good result. It was also a great opportunity to have three choirs from universities at Madrid, taking part in this all-universities' students concert".

 Germán Labrador, Director of UAM's Higher Centre for Music Promotion and Research, and Coordinator of the CIVIS Orchestra BIP

"As an active witness to the first two editions, I have been able to verify that there are a large number of young people who cultivate music as an important part of their intellectual and spiritual development and that makes them fraternize from the first moment without previously knowing each other. This second edition of this CIVIS reunion is a clear example of the work, enthusiasm and will of Europe in its commitment to culture. I am convinced that this type of meeting is the best tool to promote peace, tolerance and solidarity between countries. Music carries in its essence a healing power that gives us harmony."

— José María Álvarez Múñoz, Conductor of UAM’s Orchestra and Choir (OCUAM), shared their first impressions of this 2nd Academy Edition.

Learn more about CIVIS BIPs