By Pavel Velikhov
It’s a true holiday for art lovers, boasting its own history and image. Few might have expected that it would undergo such dramatic change in its 11th year but a wonderful new stage and an expanded genre palette have caused a true stir among performers.
Yekaterina Khudinets was awarded first prize among the 21 singers, to her great surprise. She is fond of jazz, singing exclusively in English and, two years ago, took a Grand Prix at the International Jazz Festival in Lithuanian Panevezys. In Molodechno, Yekaterina performed Ballad of Four Hostages — a true experiment. “This year, I graduated from the Arts College, entering the Culture and Arts University’s Pop Vocal Singing Department. My teachers suggested that I take part in the Molodechno contest but, in all honesty, I didn’t believe I was strong enough,” she admits with modesty.
People’s Artiste of Belarus Mikhail Finberg, the artistic leader of the National Academic Concert Orchestra, chaired the event. He’s convinced that such contests support the country’s successful culture of singing. Speaking of why no one was awarded a Grand Prix this year, he notes, “For a single reason: we want to enhance the level of Belarusian song performers in the future. To do this, we need new aesthetic categories. The national song has changed, as has the approach to its assessment. We’re searching for artistes who can combine wonderful vocals with a new interpretation of musical material.”
“I loved this year’s contestants. They were modest and worthy people from all over Belarus, each sincerely interested in our national culture,” he adds. During round table discussions, Mr. Finberg spoke of the revival of our national song heritage. He hopes to see a response from singers and songwriters but admits, “It doesn’t depend on me as there are many components. We need to update the recording of national material in a professional studio, using experienced musicians.”
Mr. Finberg has performed on various stages but, speaking of the Molodechno site, notes, “I was captured by the Summer Amphitheatre’s concert stage. It’s a true European stage, which is ready to host any modern forum. It’s convenient to work and stay here and it perfectly suits the surrounding landscape.”
Molodechno has witnessed great change, with local residents feeling pride and happiness for their native city as they promenade through Pobedy Park, by the Summer Amphitheatre. Families and friends come to take not only fresh air but photos — by the beautiful mini-fountains and by the recently built fountain designed by Vladimir Zhbanov. Called ‘Fern Flower’, it is enchantingly alluring (rather than vulgarly erotic). The city is becoming more European and the festival spirit suits it perfectly — as a suntan suits a face.
The Republican Contest of Young Pop Song Performers has become the major attraction of the festival. Culture Minister Pavel Latushko admits, “It’s extremely important to realise that we should shift to Belarusian songs not only for festivals but in our everyday life. Judging by the number of city residents and guests promenading, it’s clear that such events are in demand.”