Karmina Šilec, conductor and director - author

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Karmina Šilec, conductor and director - author

Karmina Šilec is a conductor and director - author, artistic director of Carmina Slovenica and new music theatre Choregie

VOGP Music of survival

The emblem of what the music really is about

VOGP idea of hope and beauty echoing from the music of female vocal orchestra in Japanese WW2 internment camp on Sumatra.

VOGP testimony of women’s capacity to survive, of their persistence, solidarity and creativity

VOGP extraordinary legacy of determination and strength in unimaginably terrifying conditions

VOGP the complex relation between music and trauma ─ when music becomes a universal symbol in suffering and the ultimate sanctuary in despair

Photo gallery

VOGP Music of survival
VOGP Music of survival
VOGP Music of survival
VOGP Music of survival
VOGP Music of survival
VOGP Music of survival

About the project

Now available also on iTunes

A village in Sumatra during WW2. Women of various nationalities have been interned without explanation: The Dutch, British, Irish, Portuguese, Chinese, Australian … Twenty nationalities of all social classes are forced to bow to the Japanese flag. The internees are coping with torture, hard work, sickness and expanding death ─ typhoid fever, dysentery, malaria, lice, fleas, scabies, hunger and unbearable heat kill over one third of them.

In the barrack 9, with the purpose of encouraging the internees, musician Norah Chambers and missionary Margaret Dryburgh establish a vocal orchestra. They fear for their lives according to a strict Japanese prohibition of any gatherings, social as well as religious. Every concert implying a risk the orchestra secretly rehearses in four voice groups, and all together in the Dutch kitchen at night. The music brings motivation and hope although the number of women steadily decreases.

The internees get charmed by long loved music bringing out powerful memories. Their thoughts fly away from isolation, hunger, fear, loneliness and smelly dirt, they recollect peace, order, beauty and joy of their "previous" lives. The survivors testify there were three things that helped them survive ─ love of God, sunrises and sunsets, and the transcendent singing of the vocal orchestra.

The VOGP project reflects the moments in lives of women facing suffering and death. It highlights the idea of hope, religion and beauty echoing from the music produced by the female vocal orchestra in times of violence in the middle of an unexpected tropical-forest drama.

Wishing to understand VOGP explores the calming and socially necessary elements in music that gains the power to take over control in the worst possible torture. It tries to catch women’s intimate and collective emotions within those painful moments, reflecting a devotion to preciously supporting music.

VOGP sets music against suffering. Music as a testament. Music as a dehumanisation denial. Music as a symbol of hope.

In a concert hall, the audience comfortably follow the story of women’s suffering ─ yet another mythicized human tragedy, one more WW2 topography of pain, a reflexion of historical memory, spirituality, morals and truth. Recapturing the aestheticized trauma helps to get to understand brutality, volatility and injustice. And music remains in the very core of the general meaning on the edge of disaster.

VOGP expresses the complex relation between music, trauma, mourning and legacy, to discuss the reasons for music to become a universal symbol in suffering and the ultimate sanctuary in despair. It has the power to overwhelm all senses, one’s body and soul, to shift the tormented to some other world. It can possibly rule over death.

VOGP puts music in self-reflecting frame: it presents its own representation, through its impact it illustrates its own exceeding the social and rational structure.

Music stands for the weak, so VOGP leads to consideration and warning: a vocal orchestra in Palembang camp (Indonesia), choirs and an orchestra in Westerbork camp (The Netherlands), internees marching with music in Sachsenhausen camp (Germany), Goldov ensemble in Treblinka camp (Poland), a prison orchestra in Auschwitz camp (Germany), concerts in Drancy camp (France), puppetry performances with women’s a cappella singing in Kaiserwald camp (Latvia) … internees in Bloemfountain camp (South Africa), first prisoners of war in Norman Cross (Great Britain), internees in Guantanamo (Cuba), Ra's al-'Ayn (Turkey), Jasenovac (Croatia), Moor River (Australia), Santiago (Chile), Slocan (Canada), Batangas (Philippines), Perm (Russia), Rosario (Argentina), Bački Jarak (ex Yugoslavia), Manznar, (USA), Busan (South Korea), Krasnoyarsk (Russia), Hoeryong (South Korea), Shark Island (Namibia), nowadays in Argun (Chechen Republic) …

Music: J. S. Bach, J. Brahms, L. van Beethoven, A. Dvořák, F. Chopin, M. Ravel and others in arrangements by internments Margaret Dryburgh in Norah Chambers

Vocal orchestra VOGP
Karmina Šilec

Production: Carmina Slovenica
CHOREGIE Concert Series


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... mature, well-trained voices created a sound and artistic energy that is rarely heard and unforgettable ...
... outstanding musical expression ...
... doubtlessly, in these states of the soul the feelings and the mind of the artists or performers project a spear of redemption in an artistic expression that is most free and most liberating ...
... a magnificent experience, at the same time touching and bitter at the thought of the uncertain future of this outstanding corpus ...

... privilege to experience the sounds of the Slovenian Female choir Carmina Slovenica...
... a touching concert by Vokal Orchester Carmina Slovenica under the inspirational conducting of Karmina Silec...
... the sound quality of the choir impressed to such an extent that one at times could imagine hearing the original instrumentation. Silec showed insight into not only the vocal genre, but also the original works in her choice of tempi and a variety of vocal colours employed to interpret each work individually. Each voice group had its own character and formed part of the vocal tapestry in a very responsible and integral part. With a very well executed vocal legato and flawless and admirable intonation the choir took listeners on an emotional, but also a rich artistic tour through beloved melodies...
... in the same way that the prisoners received spiritual release from singing these arrangements, and helped them to forget about the squalor of the Barracks camp, the rendition of Carmina Slovenica also helped to give some spiritual release from every day life and offered a moment for contemplation... 
Johan van der Sandt

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