The Slovenia Times

Stages Change, the Octet Remains



Few musical or singing ensembles can boast of having reached their sixtieth anniversary. Yet for the Slovene Octet, 2011 represents that milestone. Its constituent singers are steadfastly convinced of the quality of Slovenian folk music, as highlighted at a magnificent anniversary concert held in Ljubljana's Križanke open air theatre.

Number one

The Octet has been constantly active over the many decades since it was established. Artistic director Jože Vidic argues the reason is a deep and abiding feeling of belonging to Slovenian vocal music and the Slovenia language, "and also pride in the fact that the ensemble has been chosen for a certain special mission - to spread the Slovenian spirit around the globe - has aided the octet's existence and helped it to upgrade itself." Over the years, the ensemble has become the first name in Slovenian vocal chamber music.
Many generations of singers have sung in the octet. The current cast has performed together for a little more than a year and is a result of the change of generations; the previous one decided to bid farewell to active singing collectively and thus made room for changes and a new era to commence.

Professional amateurs

The Octet has recorded nearly 40 CDs alongside its intensive rehearsal and performance tempo - they give more than 70 concerts a year, more than many professional ensembles. For, yes, despite the professionalism of its members the Octet remains an amateur ensemble. As such they, at least partly, cover their expenses through giving concerts.
"A decade ago we had a chance of becoming financed by the state but our predecessors decided not to opt for this," explains Vidic. "This enabled us to keep our jobs and most importantly - our autonomy and vision. And we have followed this attitude up until this very day."
Even so, Vidic says many see the Octet as cultural ambassadors for Slovenia: "When we go abroad foreign statesmen recognise us as the highest Slovenian vocal authority and this tells a lot about our professionalism. Being a member of the Slovene Octet is a lifestyle, a mission and as long as one feels this way nothing is too difficult to do."

New wave

In the past, the ensemble had more concerts abroad than at home but lately the balance has shifted somewhat. Vidic says that the audience at home is much more demanding, even merciless, in a way not seen among the Slovenian expats who tend to be the audience when travelling abroad.
Even so, the home audience at the gala concert in Križankedid not easily let the singers leave the stage. The ensemble charmed its spectators with both parts of the performance. The first consisted of pieces that represent the Slovene Octet tradition, while in the second one they presented their latest CD Kaktus (Cactus) which is very different from what they have been singing in the past.
"We have recorded this CD to show everybody that the Octet can also be something else than what everybody has been used to," explains Vicic. "This is a kind of excursion to a musical genre we have not dealt with before; it is vivacious and playful."
And so the Slovene Octet remains true to its tradition but expands horizons with new projects such as Kaktus. Vidic sees the variety of the audience as good prospects for their type of music: "The sold-out Križanke, the presence of the president and his honorary sponsorship of the concert, the numerous young people who came - this is great recognition for us and proof that we are walking the right path."


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