Musicians from I, Culture Orchestra reflect on their Gdansk residency thus far as they prepare for the start of their European tour
"...We are beginning to play like a family, learning each other’s language both in music, and also in words." This is how 19-year-old Uzeyir Makhmudbayli describes his experience thus far with the I, Culture Orchestra. Makhmudbayli is from Azerbaijan and plays the viola. He is one of the 117 members of the youth orchestra that was formed as a special cultural project commemorating the Polish EU Council Presidency for 2011
Makhmudbayli goes on to describe how the group has formed "a unified whole" since the start of the group's residency in Gdansk. Reflecting on the orchestra's ambitious European tour, he explains that: "I have travelled abroad before with an orchestra of Turkish nations to Bayreuth but never to such venues as London’s Festival Hall or the Berlin’s Philharmonie: adding that "there are few opportunities for us to work in youth orchestras in our countries and to get this level of training for tutors who are professionals in the top orchestras from around the world."
18-year old Tatevik Frangulyan agrees: "It gives you an idea of what life is like in a professional orchestra. We are learning [a] completely new repertoire[...] being from so many different countries, we can teach each other new things." Reflecting on the Eastern European make-up of the orchestra, he adds: "Yes, it is unusual to have musicians together from Armenia and Azerbaijan but we are musicians – there are no politics here. Our language is the notes...Our spirits are connected in the pursuit of a common goal."
Radu Buimistru, who is 21 years of age and from Moldova, likewise stresses the initiative's unique nature: "[t]his is a very rare opportunity for me. Coming from Moldova, it was interesting going to the European Centre of Solidarity...It’s fascinating seeing the progress Poland has made since communism fell over 20 years ago. In Moldova, we are still in a transitional period..."
The I, Culture Orchestra consists of musicians from Eastern European nations and is intended to symbolically breach the economic and political borders between East and West via Poland's EU Council Presidency.
It's not only the musicians' stay in Poland, however, that has been an eye-opener. The members of I, Culture Orchestra also enthused about their Gdansk residency training: "the atmosphere has been like a holiday camp – 4 weeks of focusing on the music and the discipline of 6 hours of rehearsals everyday will prepare us for the tour" says Makhmudbayli. Armenian viola-player Suren Kirakosian claims: "This orchestral schooling is very different from our regular instrumental tuition. The tutors have been amazing and Sir Neville Marriner is wonderful...I would love to work in an orchestra one day and this is the perfect place to learn these skills."
For many of the musicians, the European tour will mark a precedent in their musical careers. The opportunity to work with well-known conductors and soloists in popular European venues was one of the main draws for the orchestra's auditionees.
For a full list of I, Culture Orchestra musicians, see: Musicians