Members of South London Chorus (formerly The Dulwich Choral Society), with their musical director Susan Farrow Topolovac and organist Mariyn Harper, travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovinia last October to perform in Sarajevo, the capital and Mostar. This was their most ambitious concert tour so far. Previous trips have included Tallinn, Prague, Venice and Leipzig but never before such an exotic destination. In Sarajevo, a beautiful city surrounded by hills but still bearing the scars of the war of the 1990's, the chorus stayed near the Muslim quarter and were able to enjoy interesting eastern restaurants, as well as shopping and bargaining opportunities.
Concerts in Sarajevo included a joint venture with the Pontanima Choir. This well-known, multi-denominational chorus, which performs works from all the Bosnian faiths, was set up to promote healing and reconciliation in the wake of the war. A large audience at St. Anthony's Franciscan Monastery, including the British and U.S. ambassadors, heard a polished programme. SLC's repertoire included works by Scutz, Purcell, Bach and Elgar. The two groups combined to sing a lively rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah and were treated to a reception and plied with wonderful home-made plum brandy.
The chorus then travelled by train to Mostar, south-west of Sarajevo. This lovely town, nestling among barren hills, also suffered badly in the war. Notably its Old Town Bridge, built by the Turks in 1566, was destroyed. Happily, a replica has been built and was opened last summer. Its graceful single arch spans the fast-flowing, clear green waters of
the River Neretva. All around are mosques, minarets, markets and tiny stalls and although the town appears to be thriving again it is impossible to ignore the ubiquitous skeletal, roofless and pock-marked buildings. The chorus sang in Mostar's Pavarotti Music Centre, a newly completed project funded in part by the great tenor himself, and set up as a War Child venture to promote reconciliation through music, by teaching, concerts and music therapy.
The South London Chorus join the St. Cecilia Chorus from Banstead to perform Elgar's great choral masterpiece, The Dream of Gerontius at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon on St. George' Day, Saturday 23 April. Tickets from Fairfield Hall Box Office or The Art Stationers, Dulwich Village.