Over the past 30 years, the Budapest Festival Orchestra has become a regular guest at the world’s most significant and prestigious concert halls. Whether in New York, London or Istanbul, they are always welcomed with open arms.
However, for Iván Fischer and the musicians of the BFO, the priority is to allow Hungarian audiences – of all ages and social strata, living under any circumstance – to enjoy their music.
Because of that, we try to involve those who are not part of our regular audience, and who cannot make it to the concert halls. They include disadvantaged young people, who are neither familiar with nor have access to classical music; disabled children who would have to make great efforts to visit a concert; the elderly, who often find that hearing a violin played live is the best medicine; families who cannot afford to buy tickets; new mothers who don’t have the time and the energy to attend concerts; as well as church communities and inhabitants of small towns and villages. In other words, everyone who might find music important.
To this end, the Festival Orchestra organises three Community Weeks a season. They see our chamber ensembles playing in nursing homes, childcare institutions, schools, churches and synagogues.
In 2015 we decided that we shouldn’t just visit disadvantaged regions, but give the chance to those who live there to come to Budapest and create an important and grand event together. That is why we created the Dancing on the Square project; this year once again, hundreds of disadvantaged young people will become heroes for the day as they dance to the orchestra’s music in Heroes’ Square (Hősök tere).
We believe that music can build special relationships among people, and we work to enable as many as possible to experience the positive effects of music. Let’s share the joy of discovery!
CHILD-CARE INSTITUTIONS, NURSING HOMES
Three times a year, the Budapest Festival Orchestra embarks upon a journey to take classical music to those who, be it for medical, social, physical or financial reasons, would not normally be able to enjoy our concerts. At these homely chamber concerts, the elderly can discover the healing qualities of music while we take children on an adventure to the realm of instruments.
Every social class and age group is equally important to the orchestra, which is why, during Community Weeks, we visit child-care institutions in the farthest-flung corners of the country, just as we do for the elderly living in nursing homes.
On every occasion, we design programmes to give the greatest joy to each specific audience. We prepare our interactive and playful Music Castle programme for the children. While for the elderly, we play healing, reminiscing, melodic classics, with the same attention to quality we give when we perform in Carnegie Hall.
During Community Weeks we visit children who usually live in difficult circumstances and have often never even seen an instrument in real life, meaning they await every such event with excitement and curiosity. Our job is to give them a lasting gift. Previous Community Weeks have seen us perform at venues such as SOS Children’s Villages, the Real Pearl Foundation in Told, the village of Cserdi in Baranya county and the International Pető Institute.
We always find that residents of nursing homes receive our free concerts with heartfelt affection. They treat these occasions as a celebration. They read up on the compositions, dress up in their best clothes, and listen to the performance with unwavering attention.
Through these concerts, we aim to introduce audiences to the miraculous world of music, removing obstacles and allowing young and old alike to enjoy music in a familiar environment. We go wherever we are needed.
Community building is extremely important to the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Over the past thirty-something years the orchestra and their audience have grown into a huge, musicloving family which keeps on growing and sets out every year on a journey of musical exploration.
The aim of our Community Weeks is to help this family grow, to rebuild the ties between existing communities and forge new ones through the power of music. There are many people in this country who are open to music, but distance and a lack of time prevent them from enjoying the BFO’s performances. We help them by bringing our free concerts to local churches.
Our musicians are constantly on the lookout for new challenges, beyond the spectrum of orchestral performances. Five years ago we founded our baroque ensemble, which plays on authentic period instruments. Their performances play a key role in both our regular season and our community work. And what could be more fitting in baroque music than the spirituality, atmosphere and acoustics of a church?
We started our church concert series in the summer of 2014, since when we have visited Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran communities. The first of these concerts was at the Lutheran church in Budapest’s Deák square, and our subsequent nationwide tour has taken us from Pannonhalma to Soltvadkert to Sellye, and evento the tiny Transylvanian village of Kaplony.
We based the first year and a half of our series around Bach’s cantatas, but we’re now broadening our repertoire with other baroque composers and different genres. The Festival Orchestra is glad to be preserving this musical tradition, and would be delighted to share it with anyone open to it.
Each season, the Budapest Festival Orchestra makes every effort to take our music out of the confines of the concert hall. In order to make music at even more unusual places, we have developed unique forms of concerts through which we can forge new relationships between ourselves and our audiences.
Since the summer of 2014, our Community Weeks have seen us perform in provincial synagogues which have been abandoned or no longer serve their original purposes. We found our concerts in Bonyhád, Karcag, and Apostag to be hugely significant experiences. Our goal is to fill synagogues that were laid bare by the Holocaust, with life, music and culture once again. Tunes, stories and flavours can introduce local communities to the one-time diversity and tolerance that used to be so typical of Hungary. Our concerts will be featuring works by composers with Jewish connections, as well as klezmer tunes.
As Iván Fischer summarised the essence of the concert series: “Synagogues still stand in many villages and small towns which have not had Jewish inhabitants for a long time. Some places are in ruins, while others have been turned into furniture stores or a gym. We visit these places, and give free concerts. People are curious, and the music entices them in. The orchestra plays, and afterwards a rabbi speaks about how things used to be, about how cohabitation with the Jewish community looked. With the beauty of our music and those stories we hope to bring the memories of the former Jewish community closer to those who now live near the building.”
The Synagogue Concerts are a joint production by the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation and the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities.