European Music Trails - The Uniting Power of Music in a Fragile Europe

Prof. Dr. Werner Schneider
Vue d'ensemble

“European Music Trails” is a story about the uniting power of music in a Europe, that becomes more and more fragile. A Europe, that has experienced times of coalescence, in which the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity were formative, as well as times of violent conflicts and upheaval of political systems. Today Europe faces great challenges as well. All over Europe countries discuss intensively the question of citizen’s participation in social processes as well as the relation of national identity and collective European values. Currently the Corona-epidemic shows besiegingly how very endangered our coexistence is and punctuates impactful, that we are only able to avert the threat by working together. The European Music Trails concentrade on cultural exchange, enabling young musicians from different countries, exploring the richness of our shared European musical heritge and strenghten civil commitment in the shaping of cultural events.

The “European Music Trails” were given a face through European composers, whose paths of life intersected in Leipzig and who, by including the experiences they gathered in Leipzig into their work, played an important role within the musical developments in their home countries. Two great lines of tradition left an imprint on Leipzig: the European exchange at the crossroads of the two great trade routes via regia and via imperii as well as a musical movement that was and is carried by the citizenry. Both are closely interconnected – without the European exchange Leipzig would never have become one of Europes great musical cities. For centuries the civil city Leipzig as a city of trade, science and publishing has attracted internationally renowned composers. Telemann und Bach, Mendelssohn and Schumann, Wagner and Grieg, Mahler and Janáček lived or worked here. Others like Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Bruckner, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Strauss played concerts in Leipzig, promoted young musicians or had their compositions published here. Many of their living and working sites still exist today, creating a worldwide unique spacial density of original, authentic sites of the musical world heritage – supported not by royalty but by citizens of the trading town. Music unites people and is connected with values such as participation in the commonwealth, social sensitisation, intercultural exchange and emotional education also in milieus far from high culture. Through music we strengthen the identification with and the taking of responsibility for the commonwealth. “European Music Trails” is a contribution of Germany to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 and at the same time part of the successful application for the European Cultural Heritage Label as a European project. The project received the label in 2018 together with nine authentic musical heritage sites in Leipzig and the association “Leipziger Notenspur”, which was initiator of the application and provides a connecting frame and network for the musical heritage sites. “European Music Trails” presents Leipzig today as it has been: as a centre of attraction and driving force within a musical Europe. Within a collective project which is being supported within the programme “Creative Europe” we strengthen the cultural exchange in Europe together with partners from Norway and Lithuania between 2018 and 2020. The national composers of our partnering countries, Edvard Grieg and Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis have studied at the Leipzig conservatory and afterwards influenced the musical developments of their home countries. The project activities within the three countries are manifold: - Festivals: with a collective week of rehearsals and concerts of young musicians of all three countries, including concerts at unusual places as well as workshops in schools - Programmes for multipliers – Culture by citizens: Nights of Music at the homes of people, in flats or houses, support of civil encounters and voluntary work, development of teaching materials and skills - Projects for the next generation: projects in schools with singing, story telling, dancing, usage of modern technology: development of a soundcaching app, musical computer games, audiovisual materials - Musical exploratory paths in public spaces: Music Trail City Path in Leipzig, Čiurlionis-City Path in Vilnius, Grieg-Nature Path in Norway - Touring exhibition “Travelling Musicians” - Cultural Exchange in Europe: presented in railway stations, airports, shopping malls, public buildings - Open Forum “National Anthems”: Panels of experts, workshops, bar talks, podcasts, encounters in schools on the relation of European and national identity Building Bridges of Trenches One of the projects we would like to describe in more detail as an example. “Building Bridges over Trenches” took place in Leipzig between November 21st and 24th 2018. In commemoration of the end of the 1st world war 100 years ago we invited 19 young musicians from several European countries whose ancestors stood on different sides of the trenches: Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Czech Republik, Poland, Ukraine. 1. Remembrence Service in St. Nicolas Church with European Musicians First highlight was a collectively created remembrance service in St. Nicolas Church, which gave a spiritual dimension to the ideas of peace and conciliation. In 1734 Johann Sebastian Bach premiered with his Christmas Oratorio in St. Nicolas Church, delivering a message of peace. The Peaceful Revolution in the German Democratic Republic started with the peace prayers in this church in 1989. It was an impressive experience for the musicians to participate with their music, readings and prayers in their mother tongues at this important place of music and European history. For the visitors of this event it was just as emotionally captivating to hear the descendants of their former enemies play music for them. 2. Visits of the Musicians in Schools in Leipzig To promote encounters between persons of different nationalities and generations the musicians visited several schools in Leipzig. During classes of music, history or languages they played music and told the children what they had learned from their grandparents about Europe during the war, how they experience Europe themselves and what the do for a peaceful coexistence. Especially impressive was a visit in the school “im Rabet”, a school with 80% of children with a migration background. That the music ensembles from Russia and Ukraine played together, even though the relationship between their two countries is very tense, emphasized the extraordinary situation. The musicians presented Russian and Ukrainian folk songs and accompanied the children’s singing of German folk songs on their instruments. Thereby they showed how easy it is to work together to encourage others if you are willing to communicate. 3. Participation in the Music Trail-Night of Home-Music The Music Trail-Night of Home-Music is a special form of civil participation in cultural practice in Leipzig, which was founded in 2015 to show the basis of all social and cultural commitment within the music city of Leipzig. The music city of Leipzig has its roots in the private, civil playing and performing of music. Without music in the houses and families there would be no top level ensembles such as St. Thomas Choir or Gewandhaus Orchestra. During the night of home-music citizens invite guests into their homes to share their love of music with friends and strangers alike. Complementary to the music conversation between all participants – hosts, guests and musicians – is encouraged. In 2018 the Music Trail-Night of Home-Music reached a new dimension of civil societal commitment with more than 80 simultaneous home-music events in private places (mainly flats and houses, but also shops, medical practices or cultural centres), more than 500 voluntaries, 400 of whom were musicians and a few thousand guests. By opening private places to friends and strangers and by music students, amateur and professional musicians who let others participate in their love of music, music connects people. The aspect of participation is a central idea of the Music Trail-Night of Home-Music. All events are open to all, free of charge and free of musician fees. The night of home-music connects the whole city during one night through a trail of music. It is noteworthy that the places of civil music making are spread all over the whole city and don’t spare social hot spots. It is also striking to look at the stylistic spectrum from classical music to klezmer, jazz, songwriter, pop or meditative sounds and to recognise that the night of home-music connects people of different national backgrounds. Private citizens who actively take part in shaping cultural events are the best cultural ambassadors towards the citizenry and international guests. During the 4th Music Trail-Night of Home-Music on November 24th 2018 not only musicians from Leipzig participated but also the 19 guests musicians of Building Bridges over Trenches. When citizens of Leipzig open their homes to them and share their love of music with them and their guests, it is a strong message of reconciliation and the connecting power of music. This experience was also very impressive for our young guest musicians. 18-year-old Russian violinist Arseniya Sibeleva from Moscow came back in 2019 on her own dime for two days just to play music in one of the participating homes.

European Dimension

By living our cultural heritage we are able to convey values that are important for our coexistence in Europe. Especially music shows that we speak and have always spoken one common language – besides all our national characteristics. The “European Music Trails” share this perception with all of its participants. It highlights the uniting power of music and conveys the message, that cultural values impart identification with the commonwealth while being invaluable goods within the intercultural exchange. People don’t loose by sharing but enrich each other. Within the project we pursue those questions in manifold ways. All of the events are planned in coopertion with European partners and focus on the support and exchange of young musicians, ideas and culture.