Folklore opened my eyes for perfection: Elena Bozhkova

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The genes of musicality and the local singing tradition have been dominating Elena Bozhkova’s life ever since her childhood in her native village of Resilovo, near Dupnitsa, Central Western Bulgaria. Her love and loyalty for the original Shoppe folk songs have made her one of the most renowned singers from that folklore region.

Elena Bozhkovagained experience and mastered her vocal skills at the Bulgarian National Radio Folk Song Ensemble which she joined in 1972. Her solo and group performances have contributed to the remarkable achievements of the ensemble that was later renamed to LeMystère desVoixBulgares. This took place after the launch of the second part of the album of the same name. The CD produced by Swiss Marcel Cellier won a Grammy in 1990.

During the concert tours with the celebrated group her voice has echoed in the most prestigious halls of Europe and America: Royal Festival Hall, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Halletc.

Going back in time, I remember the moment I first comprehended the sonority of the choir LeMystère desVoixBulgares”, Elena Bozhkova recalls. “Thousands of rays rushed to me and my soul bathed in burning daylight. We embarked on unknown paths merging the art of the singers and the conductor on their way to triumph. My eyes were opened for perfection. An important step for me to make – based on the talent endowed by God – was to work very hard to be able to sing the way the paragons of folk singing at the BNR Folk Music Ensemble sang – NadezhdaHvoineva, Olga Borisova, KremenaStancheva, KalinkaValcheva. They provided brilliant examples of a timbre combination with incredible sound.”

Elena Bozhkovais holder of a range of national and international prizes: gold medal from the International Folk Music Competition of Radio Bratislava (1981), a distinction from the Danube Music Festival in Novi Sad (1986),a plaque and diploma of the Ministry of Culture(2004), StaraPlanina order (2008)and many others.The experience gained at LeMystère desVoixBulgaresas well as the higher learning degree she received from NeofitRilsky South-West University in Blagoevgrad have been important for her work as pedagogue. For years the singer has been leading amateur folk music groups in Sofia and its suburbs Kurilo, Vrazhdebna and Novi Iskar.

I have diverse quests and interests”, Elena says. “I have used what I was given by the conductors KrassimirKyurkchiiski, Dora Hristova, DimitarDinev, GeorgiGenov and Stefan Mutafchiev. I have applied their experience as conductor of amateur groups – Chubrichanche at DobryChintulov cultural center in Sofia, Chuchuligi (Swallows) inVrazhdebna, the men’s vocal group inKurilo and Omainiglasove (Enchanting Voices) in Novi Iskar. With one of my students PolinaPaunova we joined the project Wild Voices. The books I have written have been inspired by my love for folklore. Six of them have been published so far: Love, Mothers, With the Pulse of LeMystère desVoixBulgares, Between God and Fire, Buttercup and the Wild Music of the Shoppe. I am currently working on a manual for female wingers who work more intensively with their vocal systems.

Elena Bozhkovatells us about a moving experience during a concert of the choir LeMystère desVoixBulgaresin Turin, Italy.

“We had to stand on the third floor of a building in the center of the city. We should stand 6 m from each other. The distance between me and my partner who performed the low pitched part in the Shoppe diaphony was even bigger than that. You can imagine how hard it was to achieve synchronized singing. Still, the concert was unique. Prof. Dora Hristova was conducting from the square. We felt like heavenly angels and the sound fell down like cosmic rain on the audience that gave us a storm of applause. We always sing live. They offered a playback option at the Turin concert but we refused. It was a great trial for us but we did so well. I love my jobso much!”

English Daniela Konstantinova

Photo: library

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