From school to stage: the Cantabile Choir

From school to stage: the Cantabile Choir

Children's voices delight in Vienna.

Sat 01 Jun 2024 5:04 PM

On Thursday, May 23, nearly 40 voci bianche from the International School of Florence’s Cantabile Children’s Choir took center stage in the imperial Kapuzinerkirche church in the heart of Vienna. Directed by the charismatic music teacher Tanja Kuśtrin of the Junior School and accompanied by pianist Natalia Van and the Viennese String Quartet, they captivated the audience with their rich program of sacred music. A moving highlight of the performance was when three children from the choir performed a stunning rendition of Vater Unser by Arvo Pãrt and an encore of Ave Verum by Mozart.

The Cantabile Choir had the honour of meeting the Vienna Boys’ Choir, one of the oldest and best-known boys’ choirs in the entire world, at their elegant headquarters in Palais Augarten, where they performed for and with the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Morgan Fiumi, chairman of the board at the International School of Florence, was among those attending the performance. 

The Vienna music project was the culmination of an ambitious and visionary project that started three years ago when the founder of the Cantabile Choir, Tanja Kuśtrin, and the school’s events coordinator, Franco Perotta, crafted a long-term choral itinerary and educational experience.

It all began during the music lessons taught by the choir director herself, focused on the music of the great composer Mozart. The children were curious about Mozart’s era, when people travelled in carriages and wore elaborate wigs. They tried on costumes and wigs from those times and this full immersion resulted in a vibrant and engaging dialogue. These captivating and creative lessons sparked the idea of a three-year itinerant educational experience. 

In the first year, in 2022, the children visited Salzburg, the birthplace of the great composer W.A. Mozart and the setting for the film The Sound of Music. After visiting various places in Salzburg, including Mozart’s birthplace, the trip concluded with a concert in the Basilica of St. Michael in Mondsee. In the same church, General von Trapp and Maria were married in the film. 

In the second year, in 2023, the Cantabile Choir immersed themselves in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute and collaborated with the cultural association EuropaInCanto. They were participants in the amazing project held at the San Carlo Theater in Naples. The children learned ten arias from the opera, created their own costumes based on the various characters, and finally, on April 19, they performed in this breathtaking venue. Despite their young age, they were accompanied by the orchestra and opera singers, and were exposed to the complexities of an opera production.

This was a great achievement for the children’s choir, which already had a rich repertoire even before this three-year project. Previous events include a gala dinner in support of the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence, participation in the Spring Festival in Montecatini, the opening of the TEDxYouth@ISF in the Duomo Auditorium in Florence, a collaboration with singer and composer Sabina Sciubba and recording in the film Dante and Beatrice directed by pianist and director Hershey Felder.

The choir’s founder, Tanja Kuśtrin, in her final speech in Vienna, emphasized how important it is not to underestimate the abilities of young primary school children, and how necessary it is to engage and work to high standards as well as acquiring the fundamentals of music that will stay with them beyond adolescence.

The entire three-year course once again highlighted the great power of music. When taught with passion and knowledge, it succeeds in breaking the boundaries between languages and geographical distances, invoking values such as ethics, sensitivity to the performing arts and aesthetics.

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