The Csíkszerda Choir
For us, the Csíkszerda choir means so much more than just singing: it is also the experience of organizing our own concerts, programmes and festivals together. This is an improvisational community choir, therefore the usual frameworks for choral singing are broadened to inherently include movement and playfulness with the melodies in our performances. We build our repertoire on pieces from all kinds of traditional genres, and we like using the tools of choir improvisation, with which we often link the works of classical and contemporary composers to the folk music of various cultures. In our concerts, musical genres and several centuries are embedded, and an encounter with us means to fundamentally experience a certain united musical freedom.
The History of the Choir
As orchestral and choral conductor students of the Liszt Academy, Árpád Tóth and Dóra Halas founded the Halastó choir with the aim of creating something more innovative than traditional choirs. They welcomed members who simply just enjoyed singing, regardless of a musical background. They led the choir together for five years and had numerous successful performances. In 2009, the choir split in two, when Dóra Halas continued with her new choir, Soharóza, and Árpád Tóth founded the Csíkszerda choir.
The choir’s name refers to that initially the rehearsals were held on Wednesdays (‘szerda’ in Hungarian), and they perform their concerts in striped T-shirts (‘csík’ means stripe in Hungarian). The fundamental principles of Halastó remained: since everyone can sing, there is no audition and anyone can join when the doors are open for new members at the beginning of projects, as long as they can all physically fit into the rehearsal venue. The unique sound and the experience of free, joyful singing attracted an increasing number of people: the concerts quickly became sold-out, and each year more and more singers joined - in 2013 and 2014, more than a hundred people showed up at the beginning of the year.
In the summer of 2015, so many people wanted to join that from these newcomers (along with some older members) in September a new choir was formed: the Csíkhétfő choir (‘hétfő’ means Monday, referring to the day of the rehearsals). In the same year, the Csíkszerda Chamber Choir was also founded from selected members of the big choirs. The chamber choir, unconventionally to Csíkszerda, sang classical pieces from music sheets with less improvisational elements, but these were still songs with exciting, unusual-sounding chords and melodies.
In 2016, from the 150 newly joined, enthusiastic amateur singers, the next formation was founded, the Csíkcsütörtök choir (‘csütörtök’ means Thursday, referring to their rehearsal day). In the same year, a children’s choir was also formed: the kids performed together with the Wednesday-choir in Jonathan Dove’s opera, Tobias and the Angel. Given the success of the concert and the enthusiasm of the children, the Csíkszerda Children’s Choir was born as a result.
Since then, the choirs have changed and are a little bit different every year in the Csíkszerda Choir Family. Several formations and experimental projects have been born; beside the three big choirs, there have been numerous chamber choir formations with different leaders who are, of course, all members of at least one of the big choirs. Furthermore, the children’s choir has also expanded into groups according to the kids’ age group (CsíkKids, CsíkNagyok, and CsíkHolnap).
The artistic director of the choir family is Árpád Tóth, who is an Artisjus award winner conductor. Beside his volunteer conducting work in the Csíkszerda choir, he teaches conducting, music theory, pedagogy and chamber music at the Liszt Academy in Budapest as well as at the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, and teaches music and culture history at the “Kisképző” Secondary School of Visual Arts in Budapest. He is a regular guest lecturer at universities in Europe (Germany, Britain, Romania, Slovakia) and around the globe (Korea, China, Australia, the Philippines).