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© London Bulgarian Choir 2019
Big 21 (and a half) Birthday Bash – Sat 18 + Sun 19 June
London – locations and concerts to be announced
Calling all former singers and all friends to pencil in the dates: Watch this space!
Leigh-On-Sea Folk Festival, Sunday 26th June
St Clement’s Church
We are hopping over to Essex to perform in this lovely (and mostly free) folk festival. Our gig will be part of their ticketed programme in St Clement’s Church. We have good memories of singing there 11 years ago.
Ticket details to follow.
Voices Unwrapped Festival, Friday 23rd September, 7:30
King’s Place, London
We promise a very special evening with harvest songs of fruitfulness, and songs of independence to celebrate Bulgaria’s independence day.
Tickets from Kings' Place – Early-booking tickets are £16.50.
Find our concerts on Songkick
In 2020/21, we cancelled our gigs, and turned to rehearsals as far as we were able. We met met in small groups under a bridge in the Barbican and in parks in Kensington, Bermondsey, Camberwell and the City - and struggled choir-fully with Zoom and Jamulus.
Pavillion Hall, Falmouth, 9 April 2022
We had a fine time at WanderFal, singing outside each venue before our big gig on Saturday evening. The crammed and enthusiastic crowd at the Pavillion Theatre lifted us for an emotional and delightful gig.
Tickets via WanderFal's EventBrite page
Norwich with Music WorldWide's Connecting Cultures Project
Norwich Cathedral, 4 March 2022
We were joined by music scholars from Norwich School for this fine spring concert in glorious Norwich Cathedral. Music Worldwide organised the event as part of their Connecting Cultures project..
Big Winter Gig
St Peter's Church, Notting Hill, 27 NOvember 2021
We returned to the glorious setting of St Peter's Notting Hill for our Big Winter Gig – and did two concerts, back-to-back, for a (half-) capcacity and very appreciative audience.
Smuggler's Festival 2021
Deal, September 2021
We love Smuggler's, and were delighted to return to the woods for a glorious late-summer weekend.
Culpepper Gardens, June 2021
Some of us have been trying to re-find this gorgeous Islington garden for years...
King's Place Festival 2021
London, May 2021
We returned to the stage, just a day or two after the end of lockdown, with a full concert. Immediately followed by another, which was streamed to the world. It was the first time we'd all been together in the same room for 14 months. It was emotional.
United Refored Church, Redland, 18 January 2020
An evening concert for the choir, and an afternoon workshop for Dessi. Organised by HeadFirst Bristol.
Together in Brent Winter Festival
Brent Civic Center, 25 January 2020
We sang at this free event to celebrate Brent's diversity, on a bill including our friends from London's oldest Balkan band Dunav and our close collaborators A Spell In Time, and performers from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Poland and the Balkans.
Songs of Forbidden Love
St. John's Smith Square, London, 9 November 2019
Our lovely audience filled St John's Smith Square to the brim for an evening of new, re-imagined, and classic folk songs from heartbreaking Kalimanku Denku to the cross-species Dimyaninka and the Dragon. And, of course, we launched the new album!
The Missing Crytoqueen
BBC World Service Podcast, from 19 Sept 2019
We've written and recorded new music to help tell this extraordinay real-life true-crime story. Available through your usual podcast sources, and through your browser.
near Deal, Kent, 31 August 2019
Smuggler's gave us the main stage at sunset – what a crowd! We loved singing at Smuggler's! Watch out for next year's on their facebook page.
North-West Poland, 21-26 August 2019
Four performances, wrapped round with beaches and forests, evenings on coaches and mornings in kayaks, an abbey, a palace, a church full of antlers, a fountain full of (our) children, and the extraordinary Dresdenko Seniors Club (for the over-40s). We loved Poland and are so grateful for our hosts' hosptiality and enthusiasm!
Sounds of the World, Woolwich Tramshed
Woolwich, 29 June 2019
Sounds of the World brings critically acclaimed global musicians to Woolwich, creating a platform to share live music with local audiences. We enjoyed our concert, and in a first for us, took questions from the audience!
Commemorating Narendra Kotiyan
Serbian Orthodox Church and community centre, 25 May 2019
Naren was a close friend. He sang and played with the choir from the day it began until just a couple of years ago, and died earlier this year. We sang, remembered, and discovered parts of his long and remarkable life that even he hadn't mentioned.
The Fire of Orpheus
Cadogan Hall, 26th January 2019
A charity concert to raise funds and support for the Fire of Orpheus Foundation, which organises music therapies for disadvantaged and disabled children in Bulgaria. It featured traditional and classical music performed by some of Bulgaria’s most celebrated musicians, including:
French Weekend with Le Chant du Voisin
Avignon and Marseille, France, 8-9 February 2019
We travelled to France to sing with Le Chant du Voisin, led by Cati Delolme. Dessi has worked with Le Chant du Voisin in France and Bulgaria. We had a great time partying, walking and singing with Le Chant do Voisin, performing three concerts back-to-back at Temple Saint-Martial in Avignon on the 8th, and finishing with a big gig in Temple Grignan in Marseille on the 9th.
Big Winter Concert
St. Peter's Notting Hill, 3 Novemmber 2018
St Mark’s Church, Dalston 24 November 2018
Unamplifire don't put anything but air between the musicians and the audience. So no amplifiers, no speaker stacks, no sound checks, no earplugs, and a direct and very human connection to the performers. We're at our best when singing directly into your ears, and we were delighted to be invited back to this wonderful festival.
Friends of Bulgaria Party
Bulgarian Embassy, 6 November 2018
We were pleased to sing at FoB's annual fundraiser for worthy causes in Bulgaria.
National Theatre, South Bank, London 26-28 August 2018
It was a privilege to be part of this huge production of Pericles at the National. Dessi sang a solo from Pilentse, Postro Slaveiche as Pericles gave up his newborn daughter Marina, and we segued into Pilentse Pee to mark the death of Thaisa, Pericles' wife and Marina's mother.
The ensemble production got wonderful reviews from many sources, and we were delighted that our part caught the ears of many reviwers, who described us as "heartrending" (Radio Times), "haunting" (Guardian) "superb" (The Stage), "electrifying" (Exeunt) and more.
We loved working with such a wide variety of talents from all over London, and are grateful to director Emily Lim and composer James Fortune for their help and trust.
Bethnal Green, 20 July 2018
Bulgarian choirs are best unamplified, and it's always a pleasure to sing outdoors on a summer evening. Details from the Nest Collective.
Walthamstow Folk Festival
Mirth, Marvel and Maud, Walthamstow, 26 May 2018
The second-ever Walthamstow Folk Festival was hosted by our friend Tim Chipping. Line-up included Ye Vagabonds, Bonnie Dobson, Anna Roberts-Gevalt, Lisa Knapp, Cormac Begley, WHɎTE, Nick Hart and Jali Bakary Konteh.
Children's Ensemble Zagorche
Regent High School Theatre, 23 May 2018
Zagorche returned to London for the first visit since 2011, and we were delighted to support them in their only public gig in the capital.
Narberth A Cappella Voice Festival
Queen's Hall, Narberth, 5 May 2018
The Turbans Album Launch
Islington Assembly Hall, 21 April 2018
Celebrating Bulgarian Language, Thursday 15th March
Europe House, Smith Square, London
We performed a short set at this event to celebrate (and teach!) the Bulgarian language.
Recording, Weekend 24-25 March
We recorded 10 songs for our new album...
Celebrating Bulgarian Culture, Tuesday 9th January
St John Smith Square, London
An evening to highlight Bulgarian musical culture, and to celebrate Bulgaria's turn as President of the Council of the EU. We'll sing with the Wladigeroff twins (piano/trumpet), with a reception over the road in the European Commission.
Concert starts 7:15. Free entry – please send an email to [email protected] to let them know numbers.
Celebrating Bulgarian Culture, Tuesday 9th January
St John Smith Square, London
An evening to highlight Bulgarian musical culture, and to celebrate Bulgaria's turn as President of the Council of the EU. We'll sing with the Wladigeroff twins (piano/trumpet), with a reception over the road in the European Commission.
Concert starts 7:15. Free entry – please send an email to [email protected] to let them know numbers.
Victoria and Albert Museum "Sounds Like Christmas"
South Kensington, 17 December 2017
We enjoyed a lovely pre-Christmas gig, standing high above the foyer for an hour long free concert.
Friends of Bulgaria Christmas Party
Bulgarian Embassy, Queen's Gate, London, 6 December 2017
We're always delighted to give our time to the good causes suported by the Embassy Ball. The years' event proceeds support the physical and psychological welfare of Children in Care in Bulgaria, the 2017 Christmas Appeal: ZOV Vratsa Project.
Our Big Winter Gig
Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, 25 November 2017
Our first concert at Holy Trinity Sloane Square sold out. We filled the space with Bulgarian Christmas blessings and songs old and new.
Turn The Tide festival, Dymchurch
Kent, 22 October 2017
We had a wonderful autumn day on the south coast at Dymchurch's excellent, all-free Turn The Tide festival. Our gig in St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church was full of local people hearing Bulgarian folk music for the first time; they loved it!
Good Life Festival
Hawarden, Flintshire, 16 September 2017
We were delighted to return to one of our favourite festivals. The Good Life Experience has a funfair, axe throwing, fine beer, excellent talks, illuminating workshops and, of course, great music.
Jaminaround Festival, Saturday 3 June
Cranborne Earthouse, Dorset
We were excited to be singing in the amazing EarthHouse in Cranbourne's Ancient Technology Centre – and carried on singing in their viking longhouse before retiring to an iron age-style roundhouse. Organisers JamInARound put together a fine lineup for the evening, including our friends A Spell In Time.
Rochester, Kent, 29 April 2017
Rochester Sweep's Festival is "an extravaganza of traditional Britain", mixing music, dancing and entertainment with more than 60 Morris sides and entertainers celebrating throughout the three-day festival. You'll find us on the Castle Garden Stage around 2:15 and the Gordon House Hotel at around 6pm. Here's our event facebook page.
Bulgarian Song, with Chubrica choir from Amsterdam
St Peter's, Notting Hill, 21 January 2017
We visited Amsterdam in 2016 to sing with the wonderful Chubica choir – and welcomed them to London in early 2017. We were delighted to be in St Peter's for the first time, and filled the glorious church to capacity.
Crisis At Christmas
Crisis hostel near King's Cross, 28 December 2016
Friends of Bulgaria Christmas Ball
Bulgarian Embassy, 7 December 2016
To raise funds for Bulgarian orphans – and always an excellent party. This year, the 25th anniversary, will have us, dancing, a "silent auction" and a star preformance from Poli Genova and trio LaDiDas.
Party from 7-11, £50 for one, £90 for two, further details and tickets here.
Unamplifire festival, 26 November
St Marks, Dalston, E8
We were delighted to sing in this festival of raw, unamplified music. What a line-up!
London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, 25 October
The opening concert of the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture sees us at the Barbican on a Balkan adventure with acclaimed violinist Nigel Kennedy, the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Rossen Milanov, soprano Vania Vatralova-Stankov and gadoulka maestro Georgi Andreev. This fiery brew of Balkan passions is an unmissible one-off musical collaboration.
Vivaldi: The New Four Seasons with Nigel Kennedy, 17 September
Hall 1, NDK, Sofia, 17 September
The Ancient Amphitheatre, Plovdiv, 18 September
We're travelling to Sofia and Plovdiv, as a prelude to October's London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, Nigel Kennedy will perform a new and innovtive reading of the Four Seasons with "Sofia Simfoniks" conducted by Lyubka Biagioli. The first half of the program features jazz, classical and folk music – and we'll perform a 20-minute set.
Freedom Festival, Hull
Sunday 4 September
Freedom Festival celebrates, through artistic and cultural expression, Hull’s independent spirit and historic contribution to the cause of freedom. We're looking forward to travelling to Hul to experience this excellent festival, and will perform our songs of love and freedom just after midday on the main stage.
Details here. Free performance!
Zürich, 26, 27, 28 August
We're visting the Swiss Bulgarian Choir! Gigs around Zürich as follows...
Midsummer gig with Slavonic Tractor
St Mary's Church, Rotherhithe, Saturday 18 June
Knockengorroch World Ceilidh
Dumfries & Galloway, Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May 2016
Knockengorroch is a fabulous small fesitval in the Galloway Hills. We camped under the mountains, beside the glittering Water of Deugh, and vibrated to the bass until after dawn. We performed on the main stage on Saturday, unamplified and in the open air on Sunday, then returned to the main stage for an impromptu collaboration with the Turbans. Amazing photos and videos to follow.
Bulgarian Cultural Institute Gala
Cadogan Hall, London, Friay 20 May 2016
We were delighted to open this sold-out gala, and to end the concert performing alongside Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, Theodosii Spasov, four grand pianos, an orchestra and jazz rhythm section. Organised by the Bulgarian Cultural Institute.
Joint concerts with Ensemble Chubrica
Amsterdam, Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 March 2016
A two-concert weekend in the Netherlands for us, hosted by the wonderful Ensemble Chubrica.
St Luke's Chelsea, 27 February 2016
We didn't do a big Christmas gig on 2015, but returned wth two full gigs in one day. We banished winter with storming songs from The London Bulgarian Choir, rituals and shining tales from A Spell In Time and earth-stirring dances (and Kukeri) from Ensemble Bulgaria. St Lukes was packed for our family-friendly afternoon concert, and for our big evening gig!
Styx Christmas market
Tottenham Hale, 12 December 2015
Bulgarian City Club: Charity Christmas Ball
Bulgarian Embassy, 8 December 2015
Equator Festival: Women of the World
King's Place, 17 October 2015
A full-length concert in King's Place's Women of the World festival.
Secret Campfire Club Location - Bow, 11 September 2015
The Nest Collective has a series of autumn concerts in a garden, around a camp fire at dusk...
Bulgaria, 3-11 August 2015
Summer 2015 saw us on tour in Bulgaria, with gigs in Primorsko (4th) Sozopol (5th), Stara Zagora (6th), Koprivshtitsa (8th) and Oreshak (10th). We were joined by theSwiss Bulgarian Choir for concerts in Stara Zagora, Koprivshtitsa and Oreshak.
Amphitheatre Primorsko, Primorsko
4th August, 7pm.
Apolonia Amphitheatre, Sozopol
5th August, 9pm.
State Opera House, Stara Zagora
6th August, 7pm
8th August, evening, Town Stage (time and location to be confirmed)
НИХЗИ Oreshak, Troyan
10th August, 7pm
Global Beats with Max Reinhardt
BBC World Service, 16 May 2015
Max Reinhardt poppped in to record us for May's Gloabal Beats, which is dedicated to thie human voice and a capella around the world.
Program website here.
Fundraiser for Nepal
TestBed1 / Doodle Bar, Clapham/Battersea, 18 May 2015
We were delighted to add our voices to this glorious fundraiser to support the people of Nepal as they try to rebuild after the earthquakes. We shared the bill with the excelent Kitty, Daisy and Lewis and L.A. Salami.
Concert for Hope and Homes for Children, Saturday 9 May
St.Barnabas Church, Jericho, Oxford
WaterAid presents Catrin Finch, Paprika and the London Bulgarian Choir
Nell's Jazz and Blues, West Ken, 24 March 2015
BBC recording, 7 February 2015
A boat on the Thames, London
We're always up for a boat trip. This time, everyone got up early and wore thermal versions of our poshest traditional costume to record something in the background of a BBC news article on immigration. We sang Sednalo E Jore Dos, a lot, with varous London landmarks in shot behind us. Watch out for Dominic Casciani's report in March. For now, though, here's his video of us, and Cate's pictures from the boat.
Kellaway Series concert, 6 February 2015
St Catherine's College Chapel, Cambridge
A trip to Cambridge for an early-evening Kellaway Series concert in St Cats' beautiful chapel. Details here.
Big Christmas Gig / London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, 7 December 2014
Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, Kensington, London
We packed out the RCM's glorious Amaryllis Fleming concert hall for our Big Christmas Gig. In this concert for the LFBC, we matched the glorious sound of the massed choir with more inimtate songs performed by smaller groups, bought out the band and danced!
Magma group event, 15 October 2014
Griffin Gallery, Holland Park, London
Union Chapel, Islington, 27 September 2014
It's always a joy to sing in the Union Chapel! We're delighted that Daylight Music asked us back to their excellent Saturday afternoon series, and we loved hearing the fabulous folk from Kate in the Kettle and the deep soul from Jamie Joseph.
Good Life Festival
Hawarden Estate, Flintshire, 20 September 2014
We had a fantastic time singing at Cerys Matthews & Co.'s late summer / early autumn Good Life Festival – and that wasn't the half of it. We loved the roaring fires, the Helter Skelter, axe throwing, and of course all the of music, poetry and dancing (especially to Paprika's closing set). A wonderful celebration of culture, food and the grerat outdoors: read more here.
More London Music Festival
The Scoop at More London, 23 July 2014
We had a great crowd for both performances at our return gig in London's big public open-air amphiteatre.
Brunel Tunnel Shaft
Brunel Tunnel Muesum, Rotherhithe, 16 July 2014
The shaft is an astonishing venue, intimate yet monumental, a decayed masterpeice of victorian engineering. It is a great circular, brick-lined pit that was once the entrance to London's first tunnel under the river. We loved singing there with Widerthorn in 2013, and were delighted to return for a sold-out gig with our friends A Spell In Time for a one-off performance of songs and stories inspired by the space. This was the last concert for the Shaft in its current form.
St John's Smith Square, 9 July 2014
The Albuquerque Festival Singers and The Mixolydian London Ensemble performed Star Song, a new interpretation of cosmic music composed and conducted by Bradley Ellingboe. We were the warm-up, and enjoyed the singers' and ensemble's performance.
Tickets £15/£12 from the venue. Book here.
Midsummer in Somerset
All Saint's Church, Martock, 21 June 2014
The choir has plently of connections with Ash and Martock, and the local community has hosted Zagorche on two recent tours. We loved singing in Martock's wonderful church on Midsummer's Eve, and had a glorious weekend.
Big Summer Gig, with the Swiss Bulgarian Choir
St Luke's, South Kensington, 7 June 2014
The Zurich-based Swiss Bulgarian Choir formed a few years ago after one of Dessi's Alpine workshops (with VTI - details of the 2014 workshop here). We were delighted to host their first visit to London, and loved singing with them and their band Sedjanka. The audience got to hear new songs from us and them, and together we filled St Luke's with sound!
Purcel Room, South Bank, 6 April 2014
The South Bank Centre's Chorus Festival is a huge celebration of all things choral. We had a lovely time singing in the Purcel room once more, and enjoyed hearing the other choirs across the South Bank site.
Secret Cinema presents The Grand Budapest Hotel
Undisclosed venue on St John Street, 28 Feb / 1 March 2014
We had a fine time singing all over the hotel for Secret Cinema's marvellous extravaganza. Note that we only took part on the dates above; a Georgian men's trio from our friends Maspindzeli entertained your ears on other evenings.
Salvation Army Regent's Hall, Oxford Street, 14 December 2013
Seasonal thrills for weary shoppers! As winter dusk settles over the Christmas lights of Oxford Street, join us for festive spirit, cracking new songs and our favourite stocking-fillers.
We experimented with an early start, and filled the hall for a warm and glittering concert.
With A Spell In Time
Bulgarian Cultural Institute, Bulgarian Embassy, 13 December 2013
Our friends in A Spell In Time invited us to be part of this outing of their new show THE GOLDEN KEYS: Winter Tales of Hidden Bulgaria: In a magical winter world, two golden keys are forged to unlock the secrets of heaven and earth. Wolves howl and evil spirits prowl but gold shines bright in the darkest of nights.
Friends of Bulgaria Charity Christmas Ball, 5 December 2013
Bulgarian Embassy, Kensington
This is always a great party – there's food, wine, a charity auction and this year, you'll be entertained by us, wonderful dance troupe Tanec, and Bulgarian star Dessi Dobreva. With the Embassy's great support, this charity event is a key fundraiser for Friends of Bulgaria’s work on care for disabled and abandoned children, for the provision of music and art classes for disadvantaged children in Bulgaria, and YouHelp.BG’s project (in conjunction with Karin Dom, Varna) for the rehabilitation of disadvantaged children from the Mogilino orphanage. Organised jointly by Friends of Bulgaria, YouHelp.BG and the Bulgarian City Club.
Bermondsey Festival, 3 October 2013
Vibe Gallery, Bermondsey
Wilderthorn, 18 September 2013
Brunel Tunnel Shaft, Rotherhithe
A magical (and sold-out) gig, deep underground supporting and singing with Wilderthorn.
Salisbury Arts Centre, Saturday 3 August
Salisbury Arts Centre, Salisbury
Gig postponed until March. We're so sorry not to be singing in August.
We're looking forward to singing in Salisbury. Tickets £12/£10, concert start 8pm, in association with The Trussell Trust. More details to follow.
Big Summer Gig, Saturday 20 July
St Luke's, Sydney Street, Chelsea SW3
It's been a few years since we organised our own summer concert, so it's excellent to return to St Luke's for a warm evening gig. We're planning a lovely event of new songs, old favourites, and (celebrating all those new choir babies) lullabies from around the world. We hope you'll join us afterwards in the courtyard with wine, nibbles and more singing. Here's a poster to send to your friends.
supporting Tanec Dance Ensemble
Cecil Sharp House, London, 1 June 2013
Our friends in the London-based Bulgarian dance group Tanec took over Cecil Sharp House for a glorous summer evening. Their ambitous program included dances in styles from many regions of Bulgaria, all performed to live music and singing. We were delighted to be asked to sing for some of their dances, including the opening and closing numbers. The hall was packed to bursting, and the dancing was enthusiastic and accomplished. We had an excellent evening!
Day of the Salvonic Alphabet
Bulgarian Cultural Centre, 25 May 2013
The Bulgarian Cultural Centre organised a varied evening celebrating Bulgarian culture in London. We sang half a dozen songs as part of this fine evening.
with Sophie Ellis-Bextor
14 May 2013
Ed Harcourt and Sophie turned up with recording kit, a track, and a bunch of ideas. It all sounded great, so hopefully you can listen out for us making it up as we go along (with plenty of guidance from Dessi, Ed and Sophie) on Sophie's new album...
The Why Factor
BBC World Service, 19 April 2013
Mike Williams from The Why Factor came to a rehearsal earlier in the year to record us practicing, and to ask us why we sing. The fascinatingprogram was transmitted on the 19 April, but you can still hear it here.
Halo 4, volume 2
11 April 2013
The second collection of music from Halo 4 was released on 11 April. We're on it – and indeed we kick off the opening track "Atonement".
British Sea Power
The Thames / The 100 Club, London, 3 April 2013
A few of us joined our friends British Sea Power to help launch their brilliant new album Machineries of Joy with a boat along the thames, a pub quiz, a mystery bus ride and a sweaty gig at the 100 Club. We sang our stuff on the boat, and joined in with BSP's glorious Waving Flags at the gig. Didn't quite win the pub quiz.
National Gallery Friday Late
Room 36, National Gallery, London, 14 December 2012
We were thrilled to finish off 2012 with a wonderful concert in the National Gallery's extraordinary Room 36. We're told that the event drew their bigest-ever audience, which was a bit of a surpirse on one of the year's big office party nights. Thankyou to all who came, especially if you ended up standing on the sidelines!
Friends of Bulgaria's Charity Christmas Party
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 12 December 2012
We're always happy to support this Christmas charity ball, as proceeds go to children's orphanages and projects in Bulgaria via Friends of Bulgaria and youhelp.bg. There was food, wine, an auction (including signed football shirts and more), and performances from us, the wonderful dance group Tanec and the Bulgarian star singer Dessi Dobreva. You might find photos here.
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 29th November 2012
ReachOut is an international voluntary organisation working towards radical and long-term improvement of the living conditions of children deprived of parental care in Bulgaria. We enjoyed supporting their wine and bantiza event at the Embassy with a few songs, ending in a circle dance.
A Forest of Sound
St John's Smith Square, 9th November 2012
We returned to St John's for our biggest gig for 2012, part of the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture. In this one-off collaboration with story-telling company A Spell In Time, we filled the hall with with songs of magic and darkness, love and flirtation woven around three traditional Bulgarian tales, performed in English for the first time. We were (we think) a dozen or so seats short of sold-out in this 500-person venue, but more importantly we managed to catch the spirit of the stories and the music, for one of our most magical large-scale gigs. The concert also saw the full-stage debut of the new intake of choir members, swelling us to 60 people for some songs and for the "Wedding", and was the debut for Dessi's 5-week old daughter...
Dessi produces a daughter...
The choir gave Dessi and James' baby an album of lullabies to celebrate her arrival. Not simply a CD, but a one-off, specially recorded, 90-minute surprise album of music. So that's the choir's third album, with traditional songs from singers' childhoods in Bulgaria, Japan, Greece, Germany and France, new compositions, poems and much more.
With Dessi on maternity leave, we'll have fewer rehearsals. In the expert hands of A Spell in Time, the learning and performing choirs joined from mid October to rehearse intensely for the Nov 9 gig. After the big gig, the learning group knuckle down to the rest of the repertoire, and the performing group have a well-earned rest.
The Little Big Peace Event
Streatham, London, 19th September 2012
We performed a short but very rewarding set in the wonderful acoustic of St Leonard's Church. Catch the St. Leonard's Choir if you can – we were bowled over by the beautiful anthems that they sang in the first half of the joint concert. This free gig was part of Streatham's Little Big Peace event.
Bignor Park, West Sussex, 15-16 Spetember 2012
We loved singing at this magical outdoor event, set at dusk in the beautiful gardens of Bignor Park. About a dozen of us travelled down to Pulborough and stayed – managing to get away for the last warm and sunny weekend of the summer. The event was run by West Sussex Ahead of the Game as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and was recheduled from the rained-off event in West Dean in July.
BT London Live
Victoria Park, London, 2 August 2012
We performed a 45 minute evening set at one of London's free 2012 Games celebrations, with a rainbow in the sky and the sound of a Chris Hoy gold medal on the air. BT London Live is a series of free events presented by the Mayor of London, The Royal Parks and (in Victoria Park) the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to celebrate London 2012. Find out more information here. We were part of a programme put together by the excellent people at Spitalfields Music.
Whispering Woods (postponed due to rain)
West Dean Arboretum, Sussex, weekend of 14-15 July 2012
2011's pilot was an utterly magical evening, wandering through the woods at dusk to discover beautiful music, ethereal lanters and remarkable moments. Nobody expected quite so much rain for this outdoor Cultural Olympiad project in 2012. Unfortunately, with just a few hours to go, the organisers, venue and council jointly decided to cancel the event. Given the deep and slippery mud onsite - not to mention the incoming storm that crashed over the sheltering pub at eight - it was the right decision, although disappointing. Everybody hopes that this will be a postponment, not a permanent cancellation, and are working hard to find another worthwhile date. You may find details here, or from the Chichester Festival Theatre. Part of the Cultural Olympiad.
The Print Room's Summer Concert series
The Print Room, 34 Hereford Road, Notting Hill, London, 1 July 2012
The Print Room is a wonderful, intimate venue hidden away near Bayswater and Notting Hill. We sang to a packed and enthusiastic audience, and continued singing after the concert in the venue's lovely garden. The Print Room's Summer Concert series ran from 1-15 July. Venue location and map here.
New Voices Festival
Gardens of the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London, 30 June 2012
A free lunchtime gig at this delightful summer festival , with musicians from all over the world. We launched into our set with a sparse and slightly bemused audience, and left a packed and happy crowd shouting for more! Drop into The Museum of Childhood if you have a chance – it's lovely.
Rich Mix, Shoreditch, 23 June 2012
We had the opportunity to work with Cerys Matthews for a couple of songs in run up to this free full-length afternoon gig. We adapted Kaval Sviri and Sharena Gaida so that they could wrap into into two traditional Welsh songs, A Ei Di'r Deryn Du? and Bachgen Bach o Dincar. You can see video of the resulting songs here: Kaval Sviri + A Ei Di'r Deryn Du? (poignant) and Sharena Gaida + A Ei Di'r Deryn Du? (mayhem). We had a lovely gig!
Presented by Celebrating Sanctuary as a finale to Refugee Week 2012, part of the East in East: Euro 2012 Festival. Here's the Rich Mix event page, and Refugee Week's Round the Block page. Facebook page here.
Bulgarian Cultural Day
Kensington Gardens, London, 26 May 2012
The 24th May, Cyrillic Alphabet Day, is always a highlight in the Bulgarian calendar. On this beautiful sunny saturday, more than 2000 people came to Kensington Gardens to celebrate Bulgarian culture. The event kicked off with a dedication of a new water fountain near the Serpentine Gallery, followed by four hours of music and dance with iconic performers from Bulgaria's jazz, pop and folk worlds alongside new talents from the Bulgarian community in London. You can read more on the event website.
St George's Church, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, 20 May 2012
We had a wonderful sing in St. George's - one of the very best-sounding churches we've sung in. The audience for this Nailsworth Festival gig were welcoming and lovely, and the sun filled the nave for a specially-requested Orthodox song.
Hackney Picturehouse, 14 April 2012
The Other Seder, 1-2 April 2012
Jackson's Lane Theatre, Highate
Details from Jackson's Lane.
Celebration of the National Day of the Republic of Bulgaria
Salvation Army Regent Hall, London, 2 March 2012
The National Day is on the 3rd, but London-based Bulgarians packed the hall full for this annual celebration. The performing choir were joined on stage for the first time by Dessi's learning group, swelling the choir to over sixty voices. We also enjoyed performances by the excellent dance group Tanec, singer Annabela Vesela Ellis, pianist Gabriela Georgieva, and the students from the Bulgarian School.
This free event was organised and sponsored by the Bulgarian Embassy in London (event details).
Narberth Acapella Festival
Queen's Hall, Narberth, Wales, 25 February 2012
We started 2012's gigs with this return visit to Narberth's brilliant Acapella Festival, organised by lovely Span Arts. Narberth again welcomed us with a packed house and a very enthusiastic audience at the Queen's Hall. We were supported (and generously hosted) by Narberth's own One Voice Choir, directed by Molara. Dessi ran a workshop on the Sunday while the rest of us wandered by the sea. Smashing weekend!
Koleda Songs with the English Chamber Orchestra
Cadogan Hall, Knightsbrige, 18 December 2011
We joined forces with the English Chamber Orchestra and Bulgarian conductor Yordan Kamdjalov to sing Kiril Todorov's new arrangements of traditional Bulgarian Christmas blessings and Orthodox chants. Organised by the London Festival of Bulgarian Culture to raise awareness and funds for the 2012 Festival.
The concert featured two further premieres: Pancho Vladigerov’s Second Suite for strings (UK Premiere), and Dobrinka Tabakova’s work for soprano, violin and strings, dedicated to and performed by the Stankov Ensemble (world premiere).
Goro Le Goro album launch
Royal College of Music, and the Bulgarian Embassy, Kensington, 26 November 2011
We welcomed our new album, Goro Le Goro, with a sell-out gig in the Royal College of Music and a packed party at the Embassy. Recorded with the full choir in early summer 2011, the album has classics from Philip Koutev, full-throated traditional songs, and plenty of newly-commissioned work from our favourite composer, Kiril Todorov. Kiril joined us for the concert, as did Haydn Bendall who has lent his extraordinary support throughout the project. The band joined us on stage and played for all the dances at the Embassy party. You can see Diana Jarvis's wonderful photos from the gig here on flickr. Loads of thanks to the Bulgarian Embassy in London for giving us room (and topping-up the wine) and to the Bulgarian Cultural Institute for their support.
Union Chapel, Highbury, 8 October 2011
We were very pleased to return to the wonderful acoustic of the Union Chapel - our previous cameo appearance with the LGMC was delightful, but all too short. Ben and his colleagues at Arctic Circle have made Daylight Music a regular, free, Saturday-lunchtime event and drew an audience of something over 250 people for ourselves and Heidi Elva.
Cherry Potts wrote about the concert, and Diana Jarvis posted fabulous photos. Ben from Daylight Music presents the Arctic Circle Radio show on Resonance FM (Thursdays, 7pm), and will be broadcasting excepts from the concerts in a few weeks time.
Wellcome Collection, London NW1 2BE, 30 September 2011
This marvellous free event was all about 'nature's most important orifice, the mouth'. We kicked off the fascinating and inspiring evening with a flash choir in the foyer, then retreated to the Library for three short workshop concerts, focussing on how we sing the way we do. Details are at http://www.wellcomecollection.org/getmouthy. Earlier, the Wellcome Collection interviewed Dessi about how Bulgarians sing - you can see Dessi's explanations here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o31Yg936Ac
Opening of the Bulgarian Cultural Institute
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 28 September 2011
We're delighted that the Embassy has opened its Bulgarian Cultural Institute, which will be our new home. Our rehearsal space has been transformed, and a full program of concerts, films and talks starts in early October. Attended by the Bulgarian Minister of Culture, this packed event was a party, a concert, and an introduction to the new facilites at the Embassy.
King's Place, London, 11 September 2011
King's Place put on a hundred artists over their annual four-day festival. We were the closing act in the Foyer space on the last day, and drew a happy and appreciative crowd. Kings Place and Ikon Arts run the wonderful London Acappella Festival in February.
Embroidered Harmonies, 3 September 2011
Great Court, British Museum, London
We sang in the Great Court to celebrate the museum's collection of Balkan and Bulgarian costumes. The temporary exhibition has been extended until 18 September, so get to it while you still can!
Recordings, Spring/Summer 2011
It's time to re-capture what we do on CD, especially the new work from Kiril Todorov. Working with Haydn Bendall, we recorded for four days in March and June. Dessi and Haydn edited and mixed the tracks over June and July - and Kiril gave it his seal of approval in August. We look forward to bringing you our new album later this year!
Voices across the World
Royal Opera House, London, 31 July 2011
Every summer, the Royal Opera House celebrates traditional and contemporary music with their Voices across the World festival. This year's event, curated by Orlando Gough, focused on different singing traditions and the uniqueness of the human voice, and featured ten remarkable singers performing unamplified in the Paul Hamlyn Hall. Dessi was one of the soloists. Full details on the event page.
Extraordinary Voices / Barbican Weekender
Barbican Centre, London, 24 July 2011
We performed twice at the Barbican Weekender, in this event organised by Home Live Art, and enjoyed performances from Maspindzeli, The London Gay Men’s Chorus, the LSO community Choir, The Kaos signing choir, Orlando Gough's Swarm, Phil Minton's Feral Choir, Anda Union and many more.
West Dean Arboretum, West Sussex, 23 July 2011
A mysterious twilight walk in the woods accompanied by musicians and West Sussex choirs with traditional songs and commissioned pices by Kiril Todorov and Lynn Plowman. We performed short sets at the start and end of this remarkable event. Part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad - event page here. Organised by West Sussex Ahead of the Game - event page here. Fabulous lighting by Same Sky. Choreographer Damien Delaney, Musical Director Dessi Stefanova, Artistic Director Karen Howard, Production Manager Sue Martin, Producer Paul Ackerley. Choirs from from Chichester College, Westergate, Lavant Valley, Crawley, Horsham and Shoreham, musicians including Tigran Aleksanyan and Juliet Russell.
SOUND, with the London Gay Men's Chorus
Union Chapel, Highbury, London, 24 June 2011
We hugely enjoyed our cameo appearance in the LGMC's brilliant show at the Union Chapel. We've not done a guest spot before, and it's rare that our choir gets together to see another choir do a full show. We loved the LGMC's power, versatility and supple stage presence – and we're back in the Union Chapel in September...
Leigh Folk Festival
St. Clement's Church, Leigh-on-Sea, 18 June 2011
Leigh Folk Festival is a long-standing friendly event set in gardens and pubs overlooking the Thames estuary. We weren't sure if we were a local or international act, but enjoyed singing to a packed church filled with damp but happy festival-goers. Thanks to lovely Modeste Hugues for allowing us to invade his stage (and for unexpectedly speaking better Bulgarian than many of the choir), and to @Aleatorus for these fine photos.
St Leonard's Shoreditch, London, 11 June 2011
We were delighted to sing a full concert in the Spitalfields Summer Festival this year, following our cameo appearance in 2010 for Max Reinhardt's piece The Calling. We found the stage at the other end from last year, but although St Leonard's was full to bursting, it still had the rich acoustic that we remembered so fondly.
St John’s Church, Goose Green, East Dulwich, 10 May 2011
We were delighted to take part again in this wonderful festival in South-East London. We had an apprecitative and lovely local audience, many of whom were at their first LBC gig. Some of us live within easy walking distance from St. John's, and we ended up in The Gowlett for a sing and a pint (and a couple of choir birthdays) afterwards.
Celebration of the National Day of the Republic of Bulgaria
Salvation Army Regent Hall, London, 2 March 2011
With over three hundred people in the audience, it was great to see the Salvation Army hall packed for this annual celebration of freedom. After the children of the Bulgarian school performed a short except from a Bulgarian play, the audience enjoyed a virtuoso performance of classical Bulgarian music with Yana Burova (violin) and Veselina Tchakarova (piano). Their pieces included work by London-based Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tarbakova. We closed the evening with traditional folk songs, and new pieces by Kiril Todorov.
This event was organised and sponsored by the Bulgarian Embassy in London.
London A Cappella Festival
King's Place, London, 13 January 2011
Curated by the Swingle Singers (Kiril's favourites), the London A Cappella Festival at King's Place is a week-long celebration of the unaccompanied voice. We were excited to take part, and delighted that we would get to sing in the renowned acoustic at this modern venue. After a longer-than-usual Christmas break, we were keen to get back to performing, and brought a selection of old favourites and the newly-commissioned Kiril Todorov work to the appreciative audience. One of us had booked the top room in The Fellow for her birthday party later that evening - the singing carried on until closing time.
Celebrating the new European Commission building
Europa House, London, 10 December 2010
The European Commission invited us to sing at this "European Winter Warmer" alongside the delicate Monooka from Romania and the very excellent Krama Ensemble from Cyprus. Lovely gig and a fine party!
Charity Christmas Ball
Bulgarian Embassy London, London, 9 December 2010
We were pleased to lend our support to this regular Charity Christmas Ball raising money for orphanages in Bulgaria. Organised by the Friends of Bulgaria charity, the Bulgarian City Club and hosted by the Bulgarian Embassy in London. Photos at the Bulgarian City Club and Friends of Bulgaria.
Kiril Todorov premiere, part of the Festival of Bulgarian Culture
St. John's Smith Square, Westminster, London, 12 November 2010
Commission funded by BBC Performing Arts Choral Ambition 2009
We were enormously pleased to be asked to take a central role in the festival's calendar, and it seemed only right to combine it with our tenth birthday celebrations and our big end-of-year gig. The centerpiece of the concert was the commission from Kiril Todorov; with the help of a BBC Performing Arts Fund "Giving Voice" grant, we commissioned six new pieces from Kiril, and have enjoyed working with him in the UK and in Bulgaria. Kiril's music is a vital and favourite part of our repertoire; from the tender Proshtavai Mamo, the gripping Muri Yano to the comedic Chompilcheto, his work is traditional yet modern, unmistakable yet enormously varied. The new pieces have taken months of work, and range from an eight-minute epic to a dance with improvisation and instruments. Each will be a core part of our repertoire from this point onwards.
fRoots Looking For A New England (2) CD launch
Cecil Sharp House, London, 6 November 2010
fRoots magazine followed up 2009's excellent Looking For A New England CD with one concentrating on UK-based artists from non-UK traditions - we were delighted to contribute our recording of Pilentce Pee from Alyana Galyana. The launch concert at Cecil Sharp House was a wonderfully diverse event, featuring us, Adriano Adewale (Brazil), Khyam Allami (Iraq), Andrew Cronshaw & Tigran Aleksanyan (UK/ Armenia), Mor Karbasi (Israel) and the Krar Collective (Ethiopia). Details here.
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares at the Festival of Bulgarian Culture
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 2 November 2010
London's own Festival of Bulgarian Culture kicked off with Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, performing an awesome (and sold-out) concert at the QEH. Although all of us were there, the highlight of our day (and a remarkable moment for us as a choir) came earlier in the day, when we were privileged to meet the choir at the Embassy for lunch and singing. The Mystère choir, led by musical director Dora Hristova, sang us a fascinating selection of regional songs ending with an impromptu joint-choir version of Petar Lyondev's Ergen Deda. It was magical to experience the choir in close-up, and astonishing to hear voices live that some of us first heard on vinyl 25 years ago.
The Scoop, South Bank, London, 11 September 2010
As part of London's fabulous end-of-summer Thames Festival, we performed a 45-minute set at The Scoop - the recessed amphitheatre next to City Hall. A lovely appreciative crowd filled the space for the last of the summer sunshine.
Bulgaria, 4-14 August 2010
We had an extraordinary and wonderful time on tour in Bulgaria. We topped and tailed the tour with festivals; as the late-night closing act for the international stage at the Koprivshtitsa folk festival, and opening the last night of the Bansko Jazz Festival. In between, we travelled and listened and walked and sang, got onto the telly, into the papers and performed in the open air (and the pouring rain) in the centre of Plovdiv. Our highlight concert was a packed, sweltering gig in Dessi's home town Stara Zagora, premiering five new pieces by Kiril Todorov. Concert details below.
През август Лондонският Български Хор ще се отправи към България за втори път през десетгодишната си история. През 2005 г. 40 певци и приятели на хора пътуваха до София, Триград и Гела в Родопите, Стара Загора, Пловив и Русе – много публика, емоции и срещи с български състави като Бистишките баби, Ансамбъл «Тракия» и Ансамбъл «Загорче».
Тази година, хорът ще пътува в още по-голям състав. Началото на турнето е в Копривщица, където на 7ми август хорът ще пее на сцената за чуждестранни състави на фолклорното надпяване. На 8ми август в 8 часа предстои концерт на централния площад в Пловдив, а на 10ти, също в 8 часа, пълен концерт в театъра в град Стара Загора. От 11ти до 13ти август хорът ще гостува на Джаз фестивала в Банско, където ще изнесе пограма на 12ти август в 7.
Голяма част от репертоара, който хорът изпълнява па това турне е написан от композитора Кирил Тодоров (добил популярност с вокалните ансамбли “Траяна“ и “Фолк Скат“). Песните са написани по поръчка и с финансовата подкрепа на Би Би Си. Много от творбите на Кирил Тодоров са с джазов привкус, който се нрави на певците в хора и на британската публика. По време на турнето, хорът ще репетира с Кирил Тодоров и за първи път ще изпълни тези песни, преди да ги занесе в Англия, където британците отдавна очакват новия албум на своя любим български ансамбъл.
7ми август, вечер. Точният час и сцена не са потвърдени
8ми август, 8 часа
10ти август, 7 часа
12ти август, 7 часа
Bansko Jazz Festival
The Calling, Spitalfields festival
Shoreditch Church, 13 June 2010
We sang Proshtavai, Mamo at the conclusion of Max Reinhardt's wonderful event in Shoreditch Church, and felt privileged to be involved with the other fine artists performing. Details here.
Welcoming the Pax Christi icon to St Ethelburga's
St Ethelburga's Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, 11 June 2010
It was wonderful to be invited back to St Ethelburga's intimate and atmospheric space. The centre had organised a week of events around the Pax Christi peace icon, painted at the Monastery of St John in the Desert, and had just finished a 24-hour vigil with the Clerk's sound installation "The Hours". We brought the week - and the vigil - to a close with a contemplative set including ancient songs from the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
Ashmolean Museum and St John's College Auditorium
Oxford, 5 June 2010
A full day in Oxford saw two short sets in the Ashmolean to celebrate their new exhibition, The Lost World of Old Europe - The Danube Valley 5000-3500 BC. The exhibition includes ancient artefacts from Bulgaria, as well as a score of other European countries. In the evening, we had a full-length concert at St John's, organised once again by Katherine LaFrance. Trying hard not to disturb the exam-bound, we kept most of the singing and dancing indoors this time...
Rehearsing with Kiril Todorov
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 15-16 May 2010
A BBC Choral Ambition Fund grant has allowed us to commission new music from Kiril, and the choir got together for a full weekend of rehearsing while he is in the country. The Bulgarian Embassy generously allowed us to use their spaces.
Bulgarian City Club's Charity Ethno Ball
HMS President, London, 13 May 2010
A select group sang at this charity ball. Organised by The Bulgarian City Club and the Ukrainian-British City Club. Details here.
Europe Day service at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London, 9 May 2010
We felt very privileged to be invited to sing at Westminster Abbey's Service for Europe Day. We sang two songs chosen both for the Abbey's wonderful acoustic, and for the theme of the service; the ancient Orthodox prayer Tebe Poem, and Kaval Sviri - a folk song about the attractions of people from far away. Late leavers may have heard us sing Mnogaya Leta from our dressing tomb... it's a blessing, and was sung for Europe (and other birthdays). You can read an article about the event here.
With Orlando Gough for the Ondaatje Wing 10th Anniversary
National Portrait Gallery, London, 7 May 2010
Orlando Gough reworked 'Shouting Gallery', which was one of the NPG's opening events for the NPG's tenth birthday. The evening was filled with marvellous surprises and unexpected moments, and featured new music for The Shout and the massed voices of the other choirs. You could hear songs in every gallery from some of London's best and most engaging choirs, including Maspindzeli, the London Gay Men's Chorus, Velvet Fist and Raise the Roof. Details here.
SOAS Concert Series
Brunei Gallery Theatre, SOAS, Bloomsbury, London, 23 March 2010
SOAS generously sponsored this concert as part of their ongoing world music concert series. SOAS page here.
Celebration of Bulgaria's Liberation
Salvation Army Regent's Hall, London, 3 March 2010
The third of March marks Bulgaria's Liberation from the Ottoman Empire. To celebrate, the Bulgarian Embassy in London arranged and sponsored an event featuring us, a performance by pupils from the Bulgarian School in London, and the marvellous London-based Bulgarian dance troupe Tanec.
Joan Armatrading's Favourite Choirs
BBC Radio 4, 20 December 2009
Manchester Central, 18 December 2009
We loved working with Doves for the BBC Electric Proms in October, and were very excited to be travelling to Manchester to sing at their biggest-ever homecoming gig. With snow settling over the country, more than 6000 people filled Manchester Central (the cavernous trainshed that is the old GMEX) for performances that included support from the excellent Delphic and Super Furry Animals. We did our thing on Firesuite, Kingdom of Rust, 10:03, The Cedar Room, The Last Broadcast and There Goes the Fear - and sang Pilentce Pée and Mitro Le Mitro at half time. The man from Health and Safety with the decibel meter said we just had the edge over Doves in loudness stakes. An amazing end to our singing year.
Giving Voice Award
15 December 2009
Aside from huge direct help from choir members, and from the Bulgarian Embassy, we've always been self-funded. However, we recently applied to the BBC's Choral Ambition fund, and are very pleased to announce that our project has won full funding. You can see a full list of choirs here.
The award will allow us to commission six new pieces from the wonderful Bulgarian composer Kiril Todorov. Some will be for us, some for teaching at workshops and performing with audiences. It will be a privilege working with Kiril in the UK and on our tour to Bulgaria in 2010. Everybody is very excited - Kiril's songs are already audience favourites; from the tender Proshtavai Mamo, the gripping Muri Yano to the comedic Chompilcheto, his music is challenging, novel, entertaining and above all wonderful to sing. We hope the new songs will be sung and enjoyed for years to come.
The Bulgarian School's Christmas Event
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 11 December 2009
Back at the Embassy - this time with Dessi - for a lovely evening with the children of the Bulgarian School in London. Excellent breads!
Bulgarian City Club's Charity Christmas Ball
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 10 December 2009
With our leader away at a long-standing booking with the Dessibelles in Manchester, the choir sang Dessi-less at the Bulgarian City Club's annual Charity Ball in aid of orphanages and children's care homes in Bulgaria.
Salvation Army Regent's Hall, Oxford Street, 9 December 2009
After a year of festivals around the UK and rocking at the Roundhouse, we returned to Oxford Street's best choral venue for a lights-down, packed-out, all-acoustic seasonal blast of Bulgarian harmonies and festive discordance. Our special guests, Bulgarian story-telling company A Spell In Time, performed a winter dragon tale full of magic and surprise.
Late at the Tate
Tate Britain, 4 December 2009
A wonderful evening of Extraordinary Voices at Tate Britain to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Home Live Art! We loved singing in the reverberant spaces of the Clore galleries, popped into the Turner prize, and enjoyed performances by (amongst others) Mikhail Karikis, The Shout, the Feral Choir, Afrogroov, the Funk Chorus and of course lovely Maspindzeli.
Electric Proms with Doves
Roundhouse, London, 22 October 2009
Earlier in 2009, the BBC asked us if we would be interested in a collaboration with Doves. We leapt at the opportunity - and composer Avshalom Caspi was brought on board to see if it was possible to bring our two very different styles together. We rehearsed with Avshalom through July and September as he wrote a series of choral arrangements incorporating elements from the repertoire of both groups, working towards a final set of six Doves' songs.
In the days running up to the gig, we went into the Angel Studios to work with Doves directly, and added impromptu arrangements to another three songs. On our last day, Baluji and Linda Shrivastav came in and we put together a combination using Baluji's wonderful improvisations on the Diruba around our haunting Zalibih Si, melting into Doves' Birds Flew Backward. Then we took Doves to the pub, sang loads more songs, and had a day's break.
The concert was broadcast live on October 22nd on BBC 2, BBC HD and 6 Music. You can use the iPlayer to replay these for a week or so - and you can find links and all sorts of background on the BBC's Doves/LBC at the Electric Proms page.
There's a vast amount of work and commitment required for a performance of new music on this scale. So many people were involved in so many ways that it's hard to thank everybody, but we were given great support by Doves' tour crew, the sound crew from Britannia Row, the staff at the Roundhouse and Angel, Chris White's calm assurance, a great variety of fine BBC people but especially Stephanie McWhinnie and Lorna Clarke, and - of course - Avshalom and Doves.
Dessibelles at the Horniman
Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London, 27th September 2009
Dessi's trio perfomed in the conservatory at the wonderful Horniman Museum. They were accompanied by guest musicians Angel Karaivanov on kaval (flute), Galin Nikolov on gaida (bagpipe), and Narendra Kotiyan on tupan and darabouka (bass drum and hand drum). The Dessibelles are Dessi Stefanova, Wendy March and Lucy Gibson.
with Zagorche Children's Ensemble
Regent Hall (Salvation Army), London, 5th September 2009
As a child, Dessi toured all over Europe with Zagorche (named for her home town of Stara Zagora). The choir met Zagorche when we toured Bulgaria, and fell in love with their energy and enthusiasm, so we were very pleased to welcome them to London. Indeed, as Dessi organised this UK tour for the ensemble, choir members gave solid support throughout the first half of September, in ways too numerous to list. We had a wonderful concert in one of our favourite London venues, and were - let's face it - entirely upstaged! Kiril Todorov, who wrote some of our favourite songs (Chompilcheto, Proshtavai and Muri Yano) composes for Zagorche and was travelling with them; it was wonderful to sing for him, and we now have two more Todorov songs to sing. Zagorche's tour details here
Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of the sinking on Lake Ohrid, which happened earlier the same day.
with British Sea Power
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London, 16 August 2009
We were very excited to be working with BSP, especially in the wonderful open-air theatre in Regent's Park. We performed a support slot, and joined BSP on stage for Waving Flags, All in it, No Lucifer, Men Together Today and other songs. BSP are a truly extraordinay live band, and their shows (and supporters) are second to none - it was a privilege and a pleasure to be part of their gig. More details to follow.
Sidmouth Folk Festival
Sidmouth, Devon, 1-2 August 2009
With two concerts (an evening one in the Methodist Church, and an afternoon slot in the Ham Marquee), Dessi's overflowing workshop, not to mention the wonderful Tanec dance group seemingly everywhere, there were plenty of Bulgarians around over the weekend. We all had a fine time watching the bands, the street acts, and of course the morris men on the prom. We wished we could have stayed longer. Many thanks to Sidmouth Folk Festival for their welcome.
Larmer Tree Festival
Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset, 18-19 July 2009
Thirty singers (and a similar number of guests) turned a good chunk of the Larmer Tree campsite into LondonBulgarianChoirTown. First thing on Saturday morning, we had a packed tent for the Arc stage, and later that afternoon hundreds of people ducked out of the rain and into Dessi's workshop in the Big Top. On Sunday, we opened the main stage at noon, the wind blew away the clouds, and we found we had another wonderfully appreciative audience. A fine festival! Many thanks to the organisers, crew and engineers.
Fundraiser for ZOV UK
Bulgarian Embassy, Queen's Gate, London 19 June 2009
ZOV are a small and admirable charity who support children's homes in Bulgaria with fundraising in the UK and direct involvement in Bulgaria. We were very pleased to be able to support them for this, their 5th birthday event.
St Ethelburga's World Music Series 2009
St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, London 29 May 2009
Helpful and friendly staff at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace managed to find space for a capacity audience. To suit the venue, we had a set of more contemplative songs, including a re-arranged Pusta Mladost (with didgeridoo drone) and our first performance of Mitro Le Mitro.
Kendrew Bequest Concert
St John's, Oxford, 23 May 2009
Our first trip to Oxford took us to the lovely auditorium in St John's, but not before we'd taken our rehearsal out into town. Bemused tourists heard us singing in Trinity Chapel, outside Hertford College and the Radcliffe Camera, and even in the Turf. Many thanks to Katherine LeFrance for organising a wonderful event with an enthusiastic, capacity audience. Concert generously sponsored by the Kendrew Bequest.
All Saints' Church, West Dulwich, London 14 May 2009
Dulwich Festival invited us to the magnificent All Saints' Church - across the river for some of us, but (finally) close to home for others. We were warmly welcomed by a full house, and sang Kalimanku Denku and Chereshchitsa in public for the first time.
Various Voices Festival
Purcell Room, QEH, London 3 May 2009
We were delighted to be one of this fabulous festival's guest choirs. Revelling in the Purcell Room's beautiful acoustic, we managed to fit 26 singers on stage. A wonderful, warm audience greeted us, and gave us a standing ovation. Congratulations and thanks to the glamourous Die Fetten Koketten Soubretten and the marvellous Dames 3 who shared the bill.
St Mary‘s Church, Ashford
Ashford, Kent, 25 April 2009
We had a wonderful spring evening, singing in Ashford's central church to a lovely audience. Many thanks to Shivanova, who organised the event as part of their Equator series.
Prema Arts Centre, Uley
Gloucestershire, 18 April 2009
Hidden in Uley is the Prema Arts Centre; a fine venue, with a great acoustic and a lovely audience. A full house turned out for this Orthodox Easter gig. We celebrated with painted eggs, and carried on singing in pubs and on hilltops for the rest of the weekend. Many thanks to the organisers and our hosts.
Folkestone's Month of Music
Quarterhouse, Folkestone, Kent, 5 April 2009
A Sunday morning concert for us on the south coast, with an audience of enthusiastic children and their parents. In for the afternoon, a sea fog rolled in to transform Felixtowe beach. Many thanks to the venue (Quarterhouse) and the organisers (Music For Change).
Rehearsal with musicians
Winchester Project, London, 28 March 2009
We're working with a great artist in a wonderful and exciting new project - we hope you'll hear more later...
Narberth Acapella Festival
Queen's Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire, 28 February 2009
Our first gig in 2009 took us as far west as we've been, to a packed audience and a wonderful welcome. Dessi ran a capacity workshop on the Sunday morning, and the rest of us took up temporary residence in the bandstand above sunny Tenby beach. Many thanks to Span Arts and our lovely hosts for our all-too-brief stay.
Balkanthreads Christmas Party
Div Petel restaurant, Willesden, London, 21 December 2008
Our final gig of the year took us, for the first time, to the Crazy Cock, Willesden's finest Bulgarian restaurant. Proceeds from this charity event went to the very worthy BalkanThreads, who organised a fine evening of singing, dancing, eating - and awareness raising.
Rook Lane Arts
Rook Lane Chapel, Frome, 14 December 2008
We arrived to cake and tea at Frome's tranquil Rook Lane Arts Centre. The wonderful acoustic and intimate setting made for a memorable concert for the capacity adience, and for the choir. Many thanks to Duncan (and Brenda!) for their generosity as hosts and their invaluable help.
Nadder Music Café
Tisbury, Wiltshire, 13 December 2008
Bulgarian City Club Christmas Party
Bulgarian Embassy, London, 9 December 2008
We sang in the Embassy for the BCC's annual charity Christmas party with Friends of Bulgaria, in support of Bulgarian children's and disabled charities including Zov and Zornica (via the lovely BalkanThreads).
St Luke's Church, Sydney Street, London, 6 December 2008
Over 300 people joined us for our only full-size London gig this year. We sang new songs and old favourites in the church's wonderful acoustic, and marvelled at the wonderful Dessibelles. Part of our proceeds went to BalkanThreads who support the Zornica Disability project in Bulgaria, and who displayed a selection of Zornica's craft gifts at the gig.
Minerva Theatre, November 29th
Chichester Festival Theatre, Saturday 29 November 2008
Notting Hill Arts Club, London, 23 November 2008
We had a wonderful time singing at Radio Gagarin's excellent Klezmer/Gypsy/Balkan/Soviet club night.
A high point for us was singing with Finn Peters and Oren Marshall, who improvised over Zalibih Si and More Sokol Pie. The evening was part of the London Jazz Festival. Many thanks to Max Reinhardt for a fantastic evening.
The Dessibelles and the Northern Harmony Choir
St Pancras Old Church, London, 31 Octeber 2008
A full house for this wonderful evening of world music.
Northern Harmony, led by the extraordinary Larry Gordon, sang traditional and spirtual songs from Africa, Georgia and North America. Dessi's sublime trio The Dessibelles (with Lucy Gibson and Wendy March) added their beautiful Bulgarian folk songs.
The Spa, Bridlington, 19 October 2008
We kicked off the last day at Musicport, Britain's largest indoor World Music festival.
Most of us sprinted up from London the morning after the BSP gig so that we could be part of the audience for the weekend. With artists like Toumani Diabaté and Bob Brozman on the bill, we had a fantastic time - and where else could we share chat and sandwiches in the green room with Ivo Papasov and Martin Carthy?
As the first group on stage on Sunday morning, we weren't sure what to expect, but were more than pleased with such a large and appreciative audience. Someone described us as vigorous, spine-tingling, and slightly raunchy, which isn't bad for a 10 a.m. gig. Dessi ran a packed-to-overflowing workshop, and we were surprised and honoured to be asked to sing a blessing at a Musicport wedding later in the day. Congratulations to David and Christine!
Supporting British Sea Power
The Roundhouse, Camden, 17 October 2008
We joined British Sea Power for this packed gig at Camden's huge Roundhouse, the last night of their UK tour.
At the start of the evening, we took the stage for a 30-minute support slot, but retreated to the balcony for BSP's stunning set. We lent a hand with All in it, Men Together Today, Waving Flags, Great Skua, Down on the Ground, No Lucifer and (possibly) Rock in A. We also sang Izgreyala Yasna Zvezda, just before Waving Flags.
Brighton Festival of World Sacred Music
St Bartholomew's Church, Brighton, 12 October 2008
Thirty of us took the stage in Brighton for our first concert after the summer break. We loved the vast spaces and remarkable acoustic of St Bartholemew's. This was the first day of an inspring international festival - find out more at http://www.worldsacredmusic.org/.
With British Sea Power at the Mercurys
Nationwide Mercury Music Awards, 9 September 2008
Broadcast on BBC2 at 10pm Tuesday and 11:35pm Friday.
Cheltenham Music Festival + supporting Taraf de Haidouks
Cheltenham, 19 July 2008
We brought our season to a close in style with three concerts in Cheltenham.
This very active day started with another sold-out public workshop from Dessi, and included two outdoor concerts - a short one in the Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens and a longer one in the Imperial Gardens. In the evening, we were indoors in Cheltenham's Town Hall, taking the support slot for the world's most exciting gipsy band, Taraf de Haidouks. The hall has a wonderful acoustic, and we loved singing for such an appreciative audience. See the festival website for more.
Singing with British Sea Power at Latitude Festival
Southwold, Suffolk, 18 July 2008
Short gig review in Uncut here.
Small Nations Festival
Llandovery, 12 July 2008
This small and extraordinary festival drew artists from all over the world - and the rain held off for the whole weekend!
For an hour after sunset, twenty or so of the choir made the Oak Tree stage their home. A capacity crowd roared their approval, and impromptu dancing and singing carried on into the night. Festival website: http://www.smallnations.co.uk/.
Hebden Bridge Festival
Heptonstall Parish Church, 5 July, St. George's Square 6 July 2008
We continued our summer adventures at the excellent Hebden Bridge Arts Festival.
Apparently, Dessi's workshop and our concert sold out weeks in advance. However, with St George's Square filled to bursting for an open-air gig in the centre of town on the Sunday - and plenty of post-concert singing in the White Lion on Saturday night - we hope we managed to sing for anyone who missed getting into the church! Many thanks to the organisers, who found places for all of us to stay in this lovely town.
Singing with British Sea Power at Glastonbury Festival
Glastonbury, 28-29 June 2008
British Sea Power asked us to sing with them at Glastonbury - we were delighted to take part!
British Sea Power played on the John Peel Stage (broadcast by the BBC), the Guardian Lounge and the Left Field stage. We sang with them on Waving Flags and improvised contributions to Ohbedobedoo and Rock in A. BSP were kind enough to give us space to sing some Bulgarian songs - across the weekend, we squeezed in Izgreyala Yasna Zvezda, Izgryala E Mesechinka and Trendafilchitu (and plenty more backstage). A fine way to start a series of fesivals over the summer!
Exhibition Road Festival
Exhibition Road, London, 21 June 2008
Exhibition Road was closed for this annual midsummer festival, and institutions along its length hosted musicians and performances.
We found ourselves on the big outdoor stage inbetween the V&A and the Science Museum, singing to a packed crowd under the plane trees and across the road. Further details from the festival website. Thanks to the Bulgarian Embassy for their help in this event.
Celebrating Sanctuary / Coin Street Festival
South Bank, London, 15 June 2008
We were privileged to participate in this unique event celebrating the work of refugee artists in the UK.
BBC Radio 3, 24 May 2008
To celebrate Bulgaria's Day of National Culture (known to all as the day of the Cyrillic alphabet), we were studio guests on Lucy Duran's excellent World Music show.
Dessi and Lucy Duran talked about the choir and Bulgarian music and we sang four of our favourite songs: Tukala Li Si, Kaval Sviri, Ergen Deda and the haunting Pilence Postro Slaveche. More details on the program page and at the World Routes website.
Joan Armatrading's Favourite Choirs
BBC Radio 4, 21 May 2008
Joan and the Just Radio production team came to one of our rehearsals, to talk to the choir members and record us on home ground. The program was one of five striped across a week of mid-afternoon Radio 4. You can find out more at Radio 4's page.
Extravagant Acts for Mature People
The Peel Centre, Islington, 11 April 2008
We had a fine time singing, and hope we brought a bit of Bulgarian brighness to an otherwise drizzly day. Concert as part of the Clod Ensemble's series of events for the over 60s at Islington's Peel Centre.
Performance with British Sea Power
Later... with Jools Holland, BBC 2, 8 February 2008