Embarking on the MERITA Journey: A Symphony of Innovation and Collaboration
Training | February 2, 2024
Author: Nemanja Stanković, DMA
Asst. Professor at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade (Chamber Music Department)
Project Manager for MERITA @ Kolarac Foundation
It was a little over two years ago when I first heard about the MERITA project, back when it was still just one of the grand ideas of the Le Dimore del Quartetto leadership. The concept seemed deceptively simple – promote chamber music, string quartets, Europe, cultural heritage, and the potential of art. Little did I know the depth of Ms. Francesca Moncada’s vision and how such a thought would unite 17 partners from 12 countries, including Serbia – my birthplace and home. Having been fortunate enough to collaborate with Le Dimore del Quartetto since its inception as a cellist, I’ve witnessed firsthand the dedication with which they operate, driven by a profound love for chamber music that fuels their pursuit of greatness.
The Kolarac Foundation stands as one of the most significant cultural institutions in Serbia and the most important concert hall in the country. As a cultural pillar in Serbia, Kolarac Foundation was the natural choice for the MERITA platform.
MERITA is a multi-faceted project where numerous professionals are diligently working. What resonates most with me, as an artist, is the connection of like-minded individuals who understand the purpose of art in society. Shared values form the foundation of MERITA, destined to significantly shape the future of classical music in Europe.
Under the umbrella of MERITA, Kolarac Foundation is training six string quartets based on the theme “Turning concert hall into a (multimedia) theater.” Choosing the right theme for chamber ensembles and providing tools for their enhancement posed a significant challenge. These are all accomplished string quartets: Alinde Quartett from Germany, Belinfante Quartet from the Netherlands, Desguin Kwartet from Belgium, Quartetto Goldberg from Italy, Malion Quartett from Germany, and Skazka Kwartet from the Netherlands. As the project manager for Kolarac Foundation, my personal inclination led me to incorporate theatrical elements into the classical music concert setting, shifting away from traditional concert formats. Exploring how theater could intertwine with music, making musicians the main characters in a theatrical production, was fascinating.
MERITA goes beyond organizing concerts and matching string quartets with specific concert halls and festivals. The primary focus is on supporting ensembles and assisting in the development of new concepts. Designing lectures and training sessions that guide musicians toward this new territory while presenting theater in a non-conventional manner was a substantial challenge. There was no doubt in my mind when selecting trainers, and soon, outstanding artists with international careers joined our network: Nikola Zavišić, a theater director, dramatist, writer, and lighting designer, along with Filip Mikić, a visual artist. With the support of Nebojša Babić, a prominent Serbian photographer, they created a mini-series on theater based on their previous experiences, ranging from guerrilla ventures with low budgets to large high-budget projects like the “Arcus Cloud” visual dance concert.
I personally became acquainted with Nikola and Filip during their collaboration with the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra when they staged Igor Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.” Transforming the modest chamber hall of the Belgrade Philharmonic into a true theater scene, they innovatively used light, makeup, costumes, film, stage movement, all while keeping the focus on the music. It was a truly fascinating experience that unequivocally recommended them for collaboration on the MERITA project. I was thrilled when they accepted my invitation to embark on the MERITA adventure, even though the outcome was unclear from the start. They had no prior experience creating online lectures of this kind, especially for musicians, making MERITA a new experience and a “step further” for both of them, which I find absolutely fantastic.
Currently, we are all intensely focused on the final realization of our quartets’ concert projects. Their proposals are all unique, diverse, exciting, innovative, and I believe we are in for a period of very intense activities. The onsite training with Nikola and Filip will take place in various countries (Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, and Serbia), presenting an additional challenge – executing the project abroad. However, MERITA is a network of great professionals and art enthusiasts, and I believe that united, we can all contribute to the development of the European cultural scene.
MERITA is a project with ambitious goals, primarily focused on promoting talent, chamber music, cultural heritage, and especially on young people who make this world better with their music.
MERITA is the best indicator that from idea to realization, the most crucial factors are determination, persistence, and the belief that we are doing something important for society as a whole. This is the main reason why I enthusiastically took on this project, which is truly complex but simultaneously inspiring, pushing all of us to push our boundaries and think about a more beautiful future.