The delicate sound of ‘A Little Prayer’ by Serbian composer Dušan Bogdanović signalled the beginning of Serbian Month in Great Britain on the 15th January 2016, in the heart of London, at St Paul’s Actors Church, Covent Garden. We had the great pleasure of welcoming pianist Nada Kolundžija from Belgrade, an internationally renowned artist and Serbia’s most prominent performer and passionate promoter of contemporary music. Although Nada has performed all around the world, this was her first appearance in the UK.
After the calmness of Bogdanović’s piece, Nada raised the tempo with the ‘Etudes’ by Philip Glass before taking us to the colourful world of ‘Piano Suite I – Early One Sunday Morning’, a masterful combination of different moods and impressions, written by Lola Perrin who was present at the concert. Then, she changed tack to waltz beats with the witty ‘Winter Waltz’ by Miloš Raičković and the tango rhythm by William Duckworth’s ‘Tango Voices’ and Scott Pender’s fiery ‘Tango: Ms Jackson Dances for the People’ which provided further evidence of the pianistic brilliance of Nada’s performance. The programme was chosen with great professionalism, a real feast of music that an audience rarely has the opportunity to hear. The event was organised by the Serbian Council of Great Britain and Markson Pianos and brought together a Serbian and British audience.
The day after that the young Serbian pianist Stefan Ćirić, already well known to British audiences, performed Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Adrian Prabava at Brighton’s ‘Dome’, receiving a great review by Phil Dennett.
While lovers of classical music could not ask for better treat from the Serbian pianists, in Brixton Hootananny ‘Op Sa! Balkan Band’ performed traditional Balkan music influenced by the Serbian Kolo and the Turkish cocek. There was a fiery party of 12 performers, a big, bold and brass-heavy sound that kept the audience on its feet the whole night.
What a start for the eighth Serbian Month!
The biggest festival of Serbian culture continued with numerous events in London, Reading, Birmingham, Halifax, Norwich, Forest Row and Leamington Spa. Events included the International Holocaust Remembrance Day at St Sava’s Church and Serbian Embassy and traditional celebrations of St Sava’s Day in London and Halifax. The Church of the Holy Prince Lazar in Birmingham opened their door on Serbian Statehood Day.
The Serbian Council hosted a commemoration of the centenary of the First World War with author Louise Miller at the Serbian Embassy in London on 11th February 2016. The author of ‘A Fine Brother: The Life of Captain Flora Sanders’ presented a story on the Serbian Herioters, the 27 Serbian boys who found refuge at George Heriot’s School during WW1, after having survived the ‘retreat’ over the mountains of Albania and Montenegro during the winter of 1915-1916.
The Serbian City Club hosted events with director Stevan Filipovic. His film ‘Next to Me’ was screened at Parliament as well as Reading and Oxford, while children from Srpskaonica School in Reading saw film ‘Fifth Butterfly’ and unusual Interactive Fairy Tales. In addition children competed at Football Tournament organized by London Sport Society. Lovers of Balkan music enjoyed evenings with She ‘Koyokh and Papriika, while cellist Irena Josifoska and pianist Aleksandar Djermanovic from Novi Sad performed at The Paul Cross Memorial Concert in Norwich. The British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce hosted a reception on the occasion of the investment conference and Serbian Library in London welcomed guests at Mini Book Fair.
A Children’s Day Charity Event was one more event organized by Serbian Council. Children from various schools gave a concert at Llama Park in Ashdown Forest in aid of a 15 years old boy from Serbia who suffers from an inverted intestinal tract. After the performance children enjoyed a well deserved walk around the park as well as a Magic show. £344 was collected at the event.
The twenty one pupils who successfully completed the Serbian GCSE style course in December 2015 received their certificates from Nemanja Matic, the Chelsea footballer, at an Award Ceremony on the 23rd February 2016 hosted at the five star Westbury Mayfair Hotel, thanks to Mr Zeljko Stasevic, General Manager of the hotel. Mr Stasevic not only provided a high class venue for the event but was kind enough to provide refreshments for over sixty invited guests.
The Serbian Council of Great Britain decided to make a night of it on Friday 26th February 2016, with the event ‘A Night in the Museum’. The Museum in question is the Leighton House Museum, the beautiful former home of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton, the famous Victorian painter. It is a remarkable building, where East meets West, with its sumptuous Arab Hall and fascinating collection of paintings by Lord Frederic and his contemporaries. Those attending the event were lucky enough to be able to have their very own private tour of the Museum free from the crowds.
In this glorious setting the SCGB held its Annual General meeting, attended by around 20 members, and took this opportunity to inform the audience about the projects undertaken throughout the year, particularly the SCGB’s role in Serbian Month, The Round Table and promoting and standardizing the way in which Serbian is taught in Britain. The benefits of the work in the Serbian language were ably displayed to the audience by Ivana Zivkovic, a pupil on the Reading Serbian GCSE style course, who read an extract from a book by Uros Petrovic which tested the audience’s ability to solve riddles and which they failed miserably. At the end of the AGM thanks were given to Jelena Krzanicki and Milos Stefanovic, who were standing down after having served ten years on the committee. Both have made a significant contribution to the work of the SCGB and they will be sorely missed.
After the AGM Maya Momcilovic Jordan, SCGB hosted a talk by Lazar Dzamic, Head of Brand Planning at Google Zoo, and also an author, publicist and marketing consultant, about his two books ‘The Florist in the House of Flowers- Homage to Alan Ford’ (Cvjecarnica u kuci cveca) and ‘Damson Tea’ (Caj od sljiva). An audience of thirty five were treated to an amusing and thought provoking talk about why Alan Ford, why only the Croatian translation proved to be so popular in the former Yugoslavia and the differences between the British and Serbs as shown through markets and garden sheds. Maya skilfully created the atmosphere for the talk by playing a medley of pieces on the piano.
We are grateful to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region for supporting Serbian Month in Great Britain 2016.