The choir of St Cecilija and the children’s choir “Slavuji” (Jelsa, Croatia)
Feb 22, 2024

The choir of St. Cecilija, led by a professional opera singer Slavko Reljić is a church choir composed of local singers, which performs all over Croatia on a professional level. Their repertoire is composed of a series of traditional chants for liturgical and paraliturgical songs that are sung in Jelsa and the island of Hvar, especially those sung during Lent and Holy Week. It is performed in the centuries-old procession “Za križen”, which takes place on the night from Maundy Thursday to Maundy Friday, and includes six neighboring parishes in the central part of the island of Hvar, including Jelsa. In 2009, the procession was included in the UNESCO list of representative intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The members of the choir, while being accomplished singers, still work in different professions, especially during the summer months (the season). The children’s choir “Slavuji” (Nightingales), composed of a large group of local youth from 7 until 14 years of age, is likewise led by Slavko Reljić, and looks at traditional tunes from the island as well.

“Magic Carpets” project:

Artists: Anja Leko, Andrej Beštak and Paula Płavniece.

Collaborating Artists: Dora Brkarić, Hugo Baranger, Robert Fenrich, Rebecca Merlic

“Imagining Gardens” is a contemporary opera production, curated by Anja Leko, Andrej Beštak from Croatia and Paula Płavniece from Latvia, presented as a moving performative piece spanning the entirety of kala, in collaboration with the local choir of St. Cecilia participating as performers (3 adult soloists and 10 children). The anchor point of the performance is the research by Anatomy of Islands, who explored the lives of locals living in a narrow street in Jelsa called kala, and whose gardens, usually closed off to the public, took the center stage as the setup for the performance. The piece was expanded on and elaborated during a residency in Jelsa, with usage of different practices and tools (AI algorithms, dance, singing, video mapping). Imagining Gardens is a journey through the hidden, shaded part of Jelsa, rediscovering near-forgotten ancient knowledge and perceiving the growth and renewal of animal and plant matter as a portal to an alternate reality.

Number of community members included in the project: 13

Reasons for participating in the “Magic Carpets” project: 

The idea of an operatic piece in the streets of Jelsa gave way to the desire to collaborate with local choir in order to create a truly encompassing piece, rooted in local singing tradition which meets contemporary sounds, lyrics and scenes. While communicating with the choir leader the idea to fully emerge the choir members to the performance (as lobsters, construction developers, mosquitoes and sailors) was developed, as well as the idea to engage children as dancers (and connect them with the collaborating artists).