Social choir projects in Brazil
Helma Haller from Brazil, member of the World Choir Council, reports about how choir singing becomes more and more an important tool to awake hope and restore dignity among children and youth living in social risk environment.
„There are many institutions, social projects and church actions with vision that music and art has the power to transform society. Inspired by the well-known and successful program "El Sistema" from Venezuela, choir singing and playing an instrument are really changing lives of numerous children also in Brazil. In some cases it is just a way to keep kids away from the street, but in competent hands, the children have the chance to enlarge their horizons, open their minds, and let beauty, creativity and hope blossom in their hearts. They experience healing and joy, and often discover a hidden talent. Through appreciation in rehearsals and performances they develop their self-esteem. Through the influence of music and art children begin to dream and glimpse a better future. Some children arrive totally repressed, full of fear and scary, and cannot even speak nor sing. But in the course of time they discover their own voice and became bold and joyous. Other kids were rude, loud and undisciplined and now are learning to behave in a kind way and contribute with the group. Through choir singing they are learning about new values, faith and poetry. Performing in choreography they learn to control their movements and emotions.
For the leaders of these projects the great challenge is always to get the resources to engage music teachers, choirmasters and conductors. Often they are volunteers, but to ensure the continuity and a good artistic and pedagogical level, the work has to be made by professionals. These professionals need opportunities to develop and recycle their own knowledge.
Tending to meet this need there have been some workshops in choral conducting at choir festivals, competitions or choir encounters from north to south in Brazil. I just will mention a few:
1. The COREARTE International Festival was held first time in Brazil, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, last September.
2. The AMERIDE Choir Festival and Competition, located at São Lourenço, in the State of Minas Gerais, is a joint initiative from Latin America countries. The festival happens every year in August.
3. Undoubtedly the most comprehensive and impacting festival is THE GRAND FINALE.
Grand Finale - National Festival of Youth and Children's Choir is a musical event, which reunites more than 500 children and youth choirs from all over Brazil, pre-selected, which join to form two large choirs with unique repertoire for a final concert, the GRAN FINALE, conducted by a competent and seasoned guest conductor of international renown. The Festival also serves young people from low-income environment, being a project of social inclusion through music. The event includes a workshop to equip and recycle knowledge for inscribed choirmasters with the approach of new themes and also the observation of the rehearsals led by the main conductor. The last Grand Finale took place in São Paulo, from 24th to 26th September 2014, and the guest conductor was our fellow Henry Leck.
From May 29 – 31, 2015 the Collegium Cantorum hosted the 1st. International Festival of Women's Choirs in Curitiba, Paraná, Brasil. Two female choirs from USA were our guests, and Maria Guinand (Venezuela) was the main conductor. All participants came together in a big choir. There was also a conductor panel for music students, conductors and composers as well asworkshops for people who work with choirs. The choirs had the opportunity to visit children choirs from social projects and they sung with them. It was amazing!“