CHORALSPACE – rebooting the choral scene?

As the choral world emerges cautiously from the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, can the 'new normal' support and drive innovation in the sector? Gent Lazri, founder of Berlin-based CHORALSPACE, thinks so.

Launching a new international choral academy was already a significant challenge. But for the founder of CHORALSPACE, doing so just before covid-19 struck moved the risks to a new level.

With over 22 years under his belt at the leading festival organiser INTERKULTUR, Gent Lazri is a veteran of the international choral world. But what inspired him to create a new organisation?

‘In the two years before the pandemic, we saw choral singing becoming more popular and the quality of ensembles improving. But at the same time, visibility and public perception were constantly decreasing.

‘Then the pandemic arrived. In the last 18 months we have had to experience painfully what it means to not be visible and to not be relevant.’

Lazri saw an opportunity for his new organisation to support the choral world – and its audiences – both during the difficult pandemic period and into the future, whatever that might hold, with a combination of training opportunities, partnerships and events.

So what exactly is CHORALSPACE?

Academy would be the right description for our structure and for our working process. We have an online university enabling us to learn from some of the leading choral personalities around the world’, Lazri explains.

‘We have a creative process including a series of in-person workshops and conferences to create new programs. And we have excellent collaborations with some of the best concert venues to enabling us to stage the most passionate choirs of the world’.

Projects and events are created and developed collaboratively by the in-house team working with an international advisory board. CHORALSPACE is a non-profit organisation, with income coming from event participation fees and concert tickets. The aim is to bring in sponsorship and other funding to cover 40% of costs as the company’s visibility grows.

Although CHORALSPACE’s headquarters is in Berlin, the organisation is global in outlook, with team members also working from Lisbon, Yerevan and Auckland. CHORALSPACE Academy lecturers are based in 38 countries around the world.

The difference is the variety of our projects

So how does CHORALSPACE stand out from other choral organisations? What is the CHORALSPACE usp?

The difference is probably the variety of our projects’, says Lazri. ‘We are an organisation without any membership structure. This flexibility allows us to concentrate fully on the content of our events and on connecting ensembles with each other and with their audiences’.

CHORALSPACE has an innovative approach to programming and event creation. ‘Individual programming and sophisticated staging are more requested than standardised events’, Lazri explains. ‘Competition for audience visibility could be a real chance for the choral arts to renew and to reach new audiences.

‘Creative formats, artistic innovation and social inclusion are the keywords that can help us regain the status that a hobby with millions of participants deserves.’

Every new ensemble joining us is like a gift box. You can’t wait to open it!

What does Lazri enjoy most about working on CHORALSPACE?

‘The creativity and passion of the ensembles working with us. We have a very individual approach to staging choirs in our festivals and this opens so many new collaboration possibilities. Every new ensemble joining us is like a gift box. You can’t wait to open it!’

Gent Lazri © Peter Adamik
Gent Lazri © Peter Adamik

Gent Lazri is Founder and Project Developer at CHORALSPACE, a dedicated networker and passionate fighter for innovation in choral music.

He was Marketing Director and Director for Choral Networking at INTERKULTUR for over 20 years being involved in the development of the World Choir Games, the ON STAGE festivals and the Sing Along ON TOUR series. Gent’s work at INTERKULTUR was strongly connected to the development and expansion of the INTERKULTUR Choral Network in the years 2010 to 2020.

From 2005 to 2008, Gent was – together with Stefan Simon – editor of Who is who in choral music, a publication connecting around 800 leading personalities of the international choral community.

Gent graduated from the Folkwang University of Music in Essen and the Academy for Business Administration in Cologne.

The inaugural CHORALSPACE concert season ends with a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana at the Philharmonie Berlin on 26 June and the organisation’s team is now finalising a second season which starts in Autumn 2022.

Events will include the second edition of the CHORALSPACE Winter Festival and the premiering of two new festivals, Homelands 2023 and Walking in Beauty, with Eriks Esenvalds as composer-in-residence.

Although CHORALSPACE’s main focus is on in-person events, the organisation remains open to innovative collaborations. Recent work has included a joint project with the Stay At Home Choir and there will be future collaborations with specialised organisations to offer opportunities for virtual and hybrid involvement by singers.

New ideas, groups, networks, projects are emerging everywhere

As he ends our interview to return to preparing for the first CHORALSPACE industry conference, Quo Vadis Choral Music?, an in-person event taking place in Berlin from 21-24 April in partnership with Rundfunkchor Berlin, the CHORALSPACE founder sounds his high hopes for the future.

‘This pandemic can be the turning point for the international choral scene. New ideas, groups, networks, projects are emerging everywhere… an exciting new scene is now gaining momentum and CHORALSPACE is right in the middle. We are part of this change’.