Big Bang festival brings musicians and children together

Published on 30-03-2017 at 14:33

A unique festival is touring Europe, which, rather than patronising children, challenges them to sample and participate in the rich diversity of musical experiences from both classical and contemporary genres; and in traditional and experimental forms. Darijana Hahn reports.

Musicians playing the clarinet under water; a duet between a drill and a trombone; and the musicians from ‘Planet Globokar’ bringing life to their name by making a journey to a new planet with experimental sounds.

These were just two of the very special musical experiences to be enjoyed at the the second of this year’s Big Bang Music Festivals, held last weekend in Hamburg. Following a similar event in Enschede, in February, the festival will move from Hamburg to Sevilla, Stavanger and then Athens.

The Big Bang festival includes musicians from ‘Ensemble Resonance’ who invite the audience to join them on a literal journey to find out how it sounds to feel at home, compared to feeling like a stranger. Sounds of chickens, ship sirens and cows are just as audible on this unique sound-trip as the melodies of Vivaldi, or a homesick Dvorak.

Programmed for children

The centre and origin of the Big Bang Festival is the Belgian project ‘Oorsmeer’, founded by Wouter Van Looy in 1995. With ‘Oorsmeer’, Van Loy created a platform for artistic modern music programming aimed specifically at children, in which contemporary music styles have a place alongside the classics and the avant-garde.

The first session of this new synthesis was at the Arts Centre, Vooruit in Ghent, a labyrinthine building filled to capacity with adventurous musicians and sound installations, creating a musical landscape for children. Then, in 2010, the Zonzo Company, the organization behind ‘Oorsmeer’, gathered six European partners and formed ‘Big Bang’ – the European music festival for young and adventurous audiences. With the support of the European Union, the structural cooperation between various cultural centres in different regions of Europe became a reality.

The Big Bang collaborators see themselves as defenders of a joint mission to present the richness of music in an imaginative and adventurous way that is accessible to children. The festival is not just for children and young people in the audience, but also involves them as participants and budding performers. For each session, a professional musician opens a dialogue with young singers and instrumentalists and shares the stage with them. Because of its unique concept, Big Bang was crowned with the prestigious EFFE festival award for best festival in Europe in 2015 – 2016.

Making their own music

Artists from over five countries, 30 shows and many hundred children made the venue, Kampnagel, chime. There were many possibilities for the children to make their own music. There was the ‘MobileMusikMuseum’, the mobile music museum, which offers a machine for composing, a ‘metallaphon’ (whatever this exactly is) or a table with pads to sample sounds and music.

There was the workshop ‘Meltingpop’, which took place beforehand, in the school holidays, bringing youngsters
together who have just arrived in Hamburg and those who have grown up here. The music they created together, was performed as highlight of the festival.

And finally there was the possibility for all children to try a classical instrument, be it the violin, the bassoon or the cello. This offer took place at a very special venue in Hamburg: in the just recently opened Elbphilharmonie, a concert hall at the harbour side, which was built over a ten year period amidst great controversy.

The ‘Elphi’s’ high cost of nearly €900m brought huge pressure that it be accessible not only to the cultural and economic elites, but to all Hamburgers. Last weekend, through the Big Bang festival, this demand became a reality when this prestigious concert hall in Hamburg’s city centre was filled with the wonderfully cacophonous sound of children trying various instruments, exploring different forms and experiencing, up close, the unique, creative joy and vitality of making and hearing music.

Darijana Hahn

Photos of children: Richard Stoehr
Photo of the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall, Hamburg: Darijana Hahn


This year’s Big Bang festival is organized with local partners and musicians in the following cities:

Enschede    2 February
Hamburg     23 March
Sevilla         2 April
Stavanger   6 May
Athens        1821 May

More information about the Big Bang Festival can be found here

Author: Adrian Voce

President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities

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