Cultural efforts through an interesting portrait
On October 31-rst, ended in Tirana the International Festival “Music Meetings of Two Worlds”. As in the previous ones in this 11th edition was followed with the idea of combining classic music with the traditional one. Music in the 2017 edition joined artists from Greece, France, Albania and Montenegro. The festival is the organization of the Franco-Albanian “Argjiro” association, which aims through music art to promote values, mutual recognition and enclose distances between countries. Behind this initiative lies the idea and the concept of an individual who for years has been adding many supporters around her. Her seriousness, the quality of the projects and the reliability have made Ilda Mara a respected woman among the artists. Opusalb talked to Mrs. Mara to get to know about her future activities and projects.
Opusalb: Ilda, how did this idea come out?
I.Mara: “In 2005, when the city Gjirokastra entered the UNESCO World Heritage list, I used to work as coordinator of a project in the UNESCO communications sector in Paris. I was very happy because my country had 2 sites on the World Heritage list, Butrinti and Gjirokastra, but there was a need to promote the Albanian heritage in France and beyond. So I founded the “Argjiro” association in Paris, a year later, and started working on creating a platform for promoting Albanian culture, artists and cultural heritage. The initial idea was to promote the city and the castle of Gjirokastra, and for this reason we named the organization “Argjiro” as the fortress of Argjir. It was in this castle that in July 2007 in collaboration with Arben Skënderi and his quartet we brought the soprano Inva Mula in a concert called “Albanian melodies”. Inva had recorded an album of Albanian civic song. This combination of folk music with the classic for us was the key to the Festival.
Opusalb: What about the two worlds you wanted to meet?
I.Mara: So the two worlds are the combination of classical music with the traditional one, but not only in this version of the adaptation of traditional music. During these 11 editions of the Festival has had different combinations, very often the concerts were conceived in two parts, one part traditional, polyphonic or folk music, and the other part was a concert of classical music, and thus we had a different audience. Throughout the years we have had different approaches, where classics meet with tradition, has been the main leit motif, but there has been some where the Byzantine music meets with the classic, the baroque and so on. Our other goal was also the connecting bridges between artists, Albanian ones inside and outside the country, and foreign artists. Our music schools produce the best performing instrumentalists in Europe’s biggest stages; why not make them play in their place, in the castle of Gjirokastra, at the fortress of Berat, in Shkodra? An important ally in this ten-year-long enterprise has been foreign embassies in the country, with whom we have brought quality artists, but have supported Albanian artists living abroad to perform in Albania. “The Music Meetings of Two Worlds” carry our identity and give life to monuments, but also to our spirit, not only highlighting our national values, but also the values of other nations.
Opusalb: What were the difficulties you encountered at the beginning of this beautiful idea?
I.Mara: We were the first to create a periodic activity in Gjirokastra’s castle with the concept of revitalizing the monuments. We were the first ten years ago, and our friends often called us “ufo” that we were closed to the Gjirokastra Fortress and every year we organized the Music Meetings of Two Worlds. It took only 8 hours to go to Gjirokastra, infrastructure is not what it is today, and despite the logistical difficulties every year we have tried to bring a quality art from the most elite of the world scenes and combine it with local polyphonic groups or and with rhapsodists or other folk artists. And indeed the big names who agreed to become our supporters from the very beginning have been the key to our success! A wonderful castle like that of Gjirokastra became the stage of Inva Mula, Tedi Papavrami, Eva Golemi, Toni Kitanovski, Elise Chisson, Vangjel Nina, the famous Russian Quartet “Atrium”, the South Eastern European Quartet “Celissimo”, “Camerata dei Laghi “and many others. After six years of experience in the Gjirokastra fortress, we thought to open to other historical centers and other cities, and the Music Meeting tour continued in Berat (another historic center that in 2008 was added to the World Heritage List Unescos “), then in Shkodra and Tirana. Since 2013 the festival has several scenes, not only the castle of Gjirokastra, but also the Onufri Museum of Berat, the wonderful churches of Shkodra to be closed with one or two nights in Tirana at the University of Arts or Cultural Center of the Orthodox Cathedral, where we had artists like: Miriam Tola, Sokol Asllani, Silva Skenderi, Blerta Zhegu, Antonio Miscascin, Frederic Isoletta, etc. Our historic centers and festival scenes have become a venue, where the tradition meets excellence, exchanging experiences there, creating a synergy of values for which our country is in great need.
Opusalb: What this year brought new edition of Fesival this year?
I.Mara: This year we have continued with the historical traditions of the classical genre and tradition, the Greek night and the French night were special, while the other nights were the interplay of traditions with the classics.This year, tradition with the classmate met in Dropull, Shkodra and then in Tirana. In Dropulli we called the event “Musical Sounds from Greece” where performed two wonderful Greek artists Nantia Patera and Dimitris Lappas. The second meeting was in the Migjeni Theater of Shkodra where the tradition of Shkodra met with classical music. The third night was called the French night “Un Air de Paris” where the soprano Blerta Zhegu and the pianist Frederic Isoletta brought a Parisian flavor, to be completed on October 31 with a combination of classical music and Albanian and Montenegrin tradition with pianists Silva Skenderi and Montenegrin violinist Miran Begic.
Asked about the history of the Festivals organized by “Argjiro”, the director Ilda Mara informs us briefly:
1st edition of the International Festival “Music Meetings of Two Worlds”, September 14-16, 2007, Gjirokastra Castle
Edition 2 26-29 September 2008, Castle of Gjirokastra
Edition 3 5-7 June 2009, the Castle of Gjirokastra
Edition 4 4-6 June 2010, Castle of Gjirokastra
Edition 5 24-26 June 2011, Castle of Gjirokastra
Edition 6 30 June-2 July 2012, Castle of Gjirokastra
Edition 7 5-7 October 2013, Berat, Tirana
September 8, 2014, Onufri Berat Museum, Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana, and Franciscan Church in Shkodra
September 9, 2015, Onufri Berat Museum, Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana, and Franciscan Church in Shkodra
October 10, 2016, Orthodox Cathedral in Tirana, and Arka Center in Shkodra, Castle of Gjirokastra.
Edition 11 September-October 2017, Dropull, Gjirokastra, in Shkoder, Tirana.
Of course, this is a picture of the successful “Argjiro” efforts to contribute to the country’s culture with a clear profile, ofspecific objectives and wise move, and we all wish for further success.