Orenda – a small Bulgarian choir in Paris

Photo: private library

Founded in Paris, Orenda performs Bulgarian folk songs arranged by acclaimed Bulgarian composers as well as Eastern Orthodox chants. Orenda’s leader – Stefka Miteva – is a singer, composer and author of arrangements, she also teaches singing and solfeggio to non-professionals. 

But she started out her career very differently – she graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, puppet theatre and radio directing. Before that she sang with the Bulgarian National Radio’s children’s radio choir for 10 years – a fact she invariably puts down in her CV. She also stresses, whenever she can, that one more member of Orenda has sung with the children’s radio choir – Petra Draganova. Stefka Miteva later graduated from Ecole Supérieur de jazzand Formation pour le DE en jazz, Ministère de la Culture, Conservatoire National de Paris in 2000 a s well as Formation de Formateurs en musiques actuelles au Studio des Variétés à Parisin 2001. She has been living in Paris for some 20 years, taking part in various projects as a singer, founding music formations, the latest of which is Orenda.

The group has been in existence since the end of 2018 – Stefka Miteva says. It was founded when famous French rapper Gims said he wanted a Bulgarian group to accompany him in his appearance at The Voice reality show. We did an arrangement of the song Bre, Petrunko and, on 18 May, we sang it with him on channel 1.

That was how this group came about. Half of its members were Bulgarian and half – French. One of our members was Emmanuelle Kalcheva-Djaima whose latest project at the time was called Orenda. She suggested we call the group Orenda and told us what this Old Bulgarian word means – the divine power inside us all, the “breath of life”, “breath of God”, the “source”. It may sound a little pompous for a female choir but we thought it sounded beautiful and inspiring. It took us almost one year to compile the repertoire. Our premiere as a group was in June, 2019. Singers have left since then and others have joined but the percentage of Bulgarian and of French singers has remained practically the same. Our concerts are mostly in churches in Paris and the environs, we have some appearances at festivals coming up.

Stefka Miteva has been working, on a permanent basis, with the choir of a leading international bank based in Paris. The repertoire of the bank employees includes traditional French songs, world music, pop and gospel, as well as Bulgarian folk songs which the singers are very fond of. I have noticed that the Bulgarian language provokes pure and beautiful vocals, even in amateurs. The choir singers take such pleasure in them, they are even ready to give up their lunch break to sing and then go back to work in good spirits, Stefka says.

As to Samodivi the previous vocal formations she founded, and her new play, Stefka Miteva says:

Samodivi survived quite some time. But one of the singers - Caroline Daparo who has such a beautiful voice and is a fascinating artist left for La Réunion for four years and the group is now on standby. Last year I made a comeback to puppet theatre. I wrote and staged a new play for children which we presented at the famous festival in Avignon. The play is called “Hen on the moon”, it is about a little hen who dreams of going to the moon but everyone tells her it is absurd and foolish. The whole story unfolds as she is flying to the moon. We have also presented it at cultural centres, we have sales for next year and are negotiating presentations outside of France. So we are hoping to see our hen fly around the world.

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