Interview with Anna Lenkova
Anna Lenkova - is the organizer of classical music concerts in Belarus, including such as "Yellow Stars" and "Until the captions go". The dadalog team went to the "Yellow Stars" concert dedicated to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and interviewed Anna about how classical music is doing in Belarus today.
Yury: As I know you work in philharmonic. What exactly are you doing there?
Anna: Nothing. I’m private organizer, I create concerts on their platform.
Y: Do you invite foreign musicians or you make events with Belarussian ones?
A: Both. Most of the musicians are from Belarus but sometimes we invite some Russian ones. This year we have soloists from Russia, and a conductor from Austria (about the concert on January 26)
Y: What concerts are planned for the near future?
A: January 26, a concert dedicated to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day - “Yellow Stars”, in the Great Hall. Before that, January 24th was a solo concert by the cellist, Alexander Ramm, on January 27th we’re gonna have a concert in Brest with A. Ramm, together with the chamber orchestra on February 23-25 there will be a festival “Until the captions go.”
Y: Such concerts have been held for several years. What is the idea of organizing them?
A: “Yellow Stars” was appeared from a personal story - my great-grandmother saved the Jewish family during the war, she is the righteous of the peoples of the world. So it has developed into one idea - I found the work “Yellow Stars” by Isaac Schwartz. I liked it, and this work became the core, the name of the project. So it happened 2 years ago. And then it began to take place regularly. And “Until the captions go” is being organized for the sixth time.
Y: So there is no such an institution, plus there is an opportunity to earn money?
A: Yes, but some projects are non-profit: the festival “Until the credits go” is a charity. We help children with oncology, last year we were gathering for a harp for a girl with an oncology. We didn’t make enough money, but there were people who bought the harp in the end.
Y: What kind of audience are you counting on, and how do you plan to attract it? It is not always high occupancy rate at classical music concerts.
A: We have almost always full rooms. I use my information network - music schools, colleges, social networks, we use paid advertising, banners in transitions. Trying on all sides.
Y: You lived in Italy for two years. How different are classical music concerts in Italy (and Europe in general) and ours, what are the differences in the audiences?
A: It’s hard to say, they are probably more used for these concerts. For them it’s like a whole ritual, they go as planned - to baroque music, for example.
Our people... to attract them not with the ease of programs, but with some interesting content, so we have room to grow, we have a prospect.
Y: Can classical music become if not a mainstream, but at least be heard by people, be in demand?
A: I think all concert organizers in Belarus should unite. It wouldn’t be attracted if we put only Shostakovich’s program, it will be hard for people to listen to. We need a “change of picture” - a symphony, chamber orchestra, solo, make a mosaic from the program, hold meetings of musicians, for example, lectures, concerts. Right now, baroque music is gaining momentum. Last year I organized a concert “Baroque Music. Authentic. ” And this year a lecture-concert was also organized. And people are interested - they can come to “feel” these instruments, to feel how it all works. Baroque music is the most understandable for us, people respond well to baroque music. But then again - we do not have a faculty at the Academy of Music - we have a harpsichord, and we don’t have an organ or strings, so we have to invite musicians from abroad.
Y: Are there any particular difficulties in organizing classical music concerts in Belarus?
A: The first is work with the audience. We have already established relations with the Philharmonic, although the bureaucracy is still present. The most important point, the stumbling block is the sale of tickets ... I am still working on how to optimize this process which takes a lot of energy. To assemble an orchestra has already become an interesting quest for me, I do it every year, it’s even interesting, so I don’t consider this as a problem for myself.
Y: How popular do you think classical music can be, and how you feel about it’s popularization now (Andre Rieux, 2CELLOS)?
A: I still advocate more for pure genres. All these things are interesting, but people always strive to simplify everything. I’m not saying that everything needs to be complicated, I just wouldn’t want such a mix so that classical music wouldn’t go by the wayside at all, therefore I would like the pure genre to remain.
Y: What is your main motivation for all this?
A: A lot of people have stopped doing this. The bureaucratic machine swallowed them. I love what I do. At the concerts, you get a big return. And when people understand and thank you for how much effort was put into it, you get satisfaction from it. When at least one person who came to the concert retains in his heart a piece of goodness, creativity and music, if at least one person responds - that's a lot. Programming, generating ideas, organizing projects is what I choose every day. That's like a relationship. Got everything, being able to do it yourself or not, but you want to choose this person every day, to share life with him, emotions, joyful. This is my life! I love it and am grateful for every miracle that happens. And wouldn’t change anything that led me to where I am now.