The Budapest Festival Orchestra’s performance on Saturday afternoon was a real treat for everyone in the Baranya county village of Cserdi.
We arrive early and decide to go for a stroll through the village before the concert starts. We are not the first to get there - as it turns out, the orchestra has beaten us to it. They have already finished their tuning and are happily munching on their food. “The ratatouille is wickedly good,” says a voice next to us, so we give it a try and it takes just a spoonful to confirm that. “Have some strudel too, it’s delicious,” suggests Mayor László Bogdán who, after exchanging a few words, is on the move again to greet everyone in the huge crowd that’s assembled here.
Shouting, clapping, whistling
So while we chat, we have some of the apple, cottage cheese and poppy seed strudels. One of the musicians tells us that he has big expectations, not least because the audience here is so keen to interact; that’s to say, there may be some shouting, clapping and whistling. “But it’s no problem at all,” he adds, “because new situations can bring out new responses, transforming well-known pieces and giving them new meaning”. We nod vigorously, then turn our attention to a little Roma girl of about five who is sitting next to us, devouring some strudel. She turns out to be a music lover, though she also confesses that she can’t play any instruments unless playing piano on the computer counts - it is a form of music-making after all, right? We nod in agreement. With half an hour to go till the concert starts, the first guests start showing up. “We’d like to ask if we can have some strudel” an older couple asks László Bogdán. “We have come a long way, we’re not from here.” The mayor takes a plate, places at least four slices on it and hands it to them. “Enjoy,” he says.
The orchestra is having coffee when the kids’ programme starts: they make rattles from mineral water bottles, paper trumpets and improvised guitars from egg holders. They all make a good sound, but it’s hard to imagine how they will fit in harmonically with the classical pieces. In our defence, we are neither musicians nor kids, who are able to put together the most unlikely of things if the situation calls for it.
Who is Violetta?
Like now. The musicians take a little time to settle down with their instruments, as do the kids, who are right in front of the orchestra. As well as locals, many people have come from the neighbouring villages. The more the merrier! Being open and inclusive is the most important message, says László Bogdán, who after getting a brief introduction to contemporary pop culture with the help of the kids’ phones (“Violetta? Who’s that? Is this a boy or a girl?”) plonks himself into his chair and the concert begins. This is not classical music at its most classical, not by any means, but that’s what makes it easy to grasp. And when the violin is offset by the sounds of so many bottles-turned-rattles, it is clear that everything is as it should be.
Hosting orphans from Déva
Cserdi is unquestionably a vibrant place. Ever since László Bogdán took over as mayor, there has been an impressive event nearly every single week. Recently, for example, children came over from Déva and were treated to a meal at the Kóstolda restaurant in Pécs.
The mayor, meanwhile, tours the country, spreading the word about the ‘Cserdi Miracle’, which he does not consider a miracle at all, just a result of all that work and enthusiasm. More recently, he gave a speech to the inmates of the prison in Balassagyarmat, saying “We need to believe in what we do, no matter the difficulties. We have no right to cross the line that winds other people up; on the other hand, I firmly believe that the right words can open doors”.