Divna Ljubojević & Melódi Choir at the Festival of Sacred Songs in The Hague

Divna Ljubojević & Melódi Choir, at the Nieuwe Kerk, Den Haag, Saturday, 1st December 2018

We all have an image of the Byzantine era, of the architecture and the awe-inspiring church interiors, but it is rare to come face to face with an artist performing the mysterious music of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Tonight the Sacred Songs Festival was thrilled to feature the world famous, angel-voiced Serbian singer Divna Ljubojević with her Melódi Choir. Not only does Ms Ljubojević sing, she is also a conductor of Orthodox Christian Church music and tonight it showed. With minimal gestures she quietly led the singers accompanying her, frequently consulting her tuning fork.

In years past she perfected her religious singing with the choir of the Vavedenje monastery, where she was trained by the Sisters who taught her the unique Karlovatz singing style.

On tonight’s programme were songs from the Koptik Church, others inspired by the texts of the Old Testament, songs with their origin in Sufism. Her perfect voice seems to come from some magical place and floated effortlessly, like a velvet ribbon over the deep voices of the male singers. The tone is in a much deeper range than the music of Hildegard von Bingen, which gave it a rather melancholic, prayer-like  feel of contemplation rather than exultation.  At one point I wished that someone would sing me to sleep at night with such angelic sounds. I particularly enjoyed the slightly up-pace Hallelujah in the latter part of the concert in which the voices wove and blended beautifully.

Although the Nieuwe Kerk does not resemble the gold and image-encrusted Byzantine churches, the acoustics here were perfect for Divna Ljubojević’s quiet, restrained style in which the crux of the performance was the quality of voice, diction and interpretation of the Eastern Orthodox style of singing.

The venue was full to the brim and the appreciative audience was treated not to one, but to three encores. Altogether a very enriching evening.

Astrid Burchardt    1st December 2018

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