Translation from the french version published in the Revue Musicale Suisse 09/2007

Opening concert of the Festival of Sion-Valais


A global artistic concept with young artists

When Shlomo Mintz, the artistic director of the International Festival and Violin Competition of Sion-Valais, entrusted her with the artistic programming and choosing of the musicians for the opening concert last August 15th, Nicole Coppey was thrilled to be given free rein in the creation of an artistic concept.

An account of her approach.

By Nicole Coppey


  Picture: Photo Chab

"Salut d'Amour", interpreted by the young musicians, the background was painted especially for the event.   


The concert was the third of three projects dedicated to youth that I have worked on in collaboration with Shlomo Mintz. It was a follow up to the formation of the Children Jury, a jury made of very young musicians who are called upon to judge the high-level candidates of the Violin competition in conjunction with the International Jury. Tested with success in a world premiere in 2003 and renewed for the fifth consecutive year, the Children Jury now constitutes one of the principal particularities of the annual International Violin Competition of Sion.

The second project was the creation of the Cultural Workshops of Music and Art, which purpose was to create a forum where “the young communicate their own knowledge and pursuits to the public.” These workshops, led by the young musicians themselves, open out into the pre-concert presentations and are a part of the musical programming of the Festival.


Due to the fact that young people were brought together in each one of these 3 projects, it seemed crucial to me that space should be made to speak their hearts … What is more, in every educational activity it is fundamental that the individual brings his or her own self… Such a philosophy requires the developing of an atmosphere that lets individuals express their artistic awareness.


For the opening concert of the Festival, I looked into creating an interdisciplinary concept that combined poetry, dance, art, song and stage props in a manner that would generate a mirror effect among the artists. The communicative character of each of these arts accentuated the festive dimension of the event and invited the audience to partake in a deeper interior reflection appropriate to the location, Sion’s baroque-era Jesuit Church.


A concert conceived along a progressive path



For this special opening concert, I chose 8 local musicians between the ages of 14 and 23: violinists, violists, cellists and pianists. To establish a link between the opening concert of the Festival and the International Violin Competition, I decided to also invite the laureate of the Children Jury, who was also second place winner of the Violin competition 2005, … in a nod towards the universality of music, which goes beyond borders…

The 9 musicians, of different levels, for the most part still students, were brought together for the occasion in a variety of musical ensembles. Duos, trios, quartets and quintets came on stage to perform in progression, until all the musicians played scores that united them all together. Suggestions were given by each one of the young artists and this contributed to the formation of a dynamic global concept for a repertoire that produced interactivity between the varied artistic features of the program.



In deciding upon the repertoire, the idea of the theme was inspired by a piece that was to be interpreted by all the musicians: the “Salut d’Amour” by Elgar, to whom we wanted to pay homage for the 150th anniversary of his birth. The poems came from a variety of cultures and were recited in a variety of languages. They were chosen as an accompaniment to the theme, were written by renowned authors and were meant to inspire the audience to personal reflections. Subtle interactions were exchanged with the international audience made up of the judges of the international jury and candidates of the Violin Competition who had come from all over the world. The recitation of the poems was entrusted to two young persons whose ingenious performance made use of the stage area and scenery. At their side, younger children acted out roles and proved to be a reminder of the bond with the generations yet to come.



With the wish to protect her from the influence of adults, I asked the 12-year-old dancer to create her own choreography on some segments of music which were to be played by musicians having already performed in such interdisciplinary events. The guideline was to integrate a corporal touch of expressiveness without going above or beyond the musical expression.



One color was designated appropriate to each poem. A painting on glass illustrated the theme in all its fragility. During the concert the audience was able to progressively discover the painting according to the colors of the poems. At the end of the concert, the work, finally completely visible, was placed within an illuminated floral setting.



The pure authenticity of a child’s voice underscored the thematic conclusion; a voice coming from the heart of a 10-year-old girl who sang a cappella. She had been helped to learn the text in a foreign language especially for the event.


It needs to be noted that the presentation and the entire artistic project was enthusiastically received by a large audience composed not only of top notch professionals who are of course classical music devotees, but also, and this was the main strength of the project, of people of all ages and proclivities. Some came to support an acquaintance, others came simply to observe, curious - but for each and every one, the formula that was chosen for this opening concert proved to be an involving and uplifting experience. Comments such as “Moments of pure joy moved me to tears when listening to these magnificent young persons” or “an excellent concert” were just a few of the reactions heard after the concert. Joy, sharing, and profound emotions on the faces of those who attended the concert, exemplified by the testimony of one of the experts from the International Jury who came to confide that he also shed tears during the presentation.


Such a project allowed the artists to bring their own personal expressivity to the performance. It was the fruit of an artistic approach and a genuine cultural experience, which let the minds meet and true communication exist. Given how well the project blossomed, I’m indebted to Shlomo Mintz, to whom I extend my gratitude for having allowed me the necessary freedom to realize a global concept that brought twenty musicians and artists together in ways of expression which became complimentary, with the hope that all participants were moved in their heart of hearts.


This text was published in French in September 2007 in the "Revue Musicale Suisse"

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