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Example 1 International Exchanges

--- This article was published in the "European Choral Magazine" 1/2014 ---


A quite inexpensive and very efficient way to build cooperative habits between organisations is to exchange team members for short periods of work during events. This exchange helps to share experience, promotes mutual trust, and makes communication easier. In the frame of the VOICE project, we try to facilitate circulation of team members between the partner organisations.

For example, Marlene Maier from ECA-EC organised the Youth Choirs in Movement festival in Bonn, but she also worked with Moviment Coral Catala on the Singing Week of Vic this summer. We also welcomed Emanuela Farago from Pécs to work on the Youth Choirs in Movement Festival after having noticed her hard work in Turin in the YEMP programme. Here is what she had to say about this experience.



You were in the YEMP programme and were then invited by the team of the “Youth Choir in Movement” festival to help organise that event. What was your motivation to accept this offer? What were you expecting?


I was really happy that I could be part of the YEMP programme and had the opportunity to be involved in the preparation of such an amazing huge international festival. The experience I gained there is the reason I am now part of the organising team of the next Europa Cantat Festival in Pécs. I was very happy about the Youth Choir in Movement opportunity, because it‘s really helpful for the future. I was a bit afraid, because I thought it would be as stressful and tough as the work in Torino (no sleep). But it was just perfect! The team was amazing, and everybody was patient and nice to me.


What did you learn from the experience? Did it help you with the organisation of the Eurochoir or the Conference in Pécs?


I learned a lot about the background preparations before and during the festival, I learned how to solve problems immediately, and how to make nice name badges. I did everything that was needed, and I was really happy to be able to help.

It was great to meet a lot of people, including local and international musicians, and to see how people work „behind the scenes“ (the ECA office people are just wonderful). Being familiar with these people definitely helped during Eurochoir, the General Assembly, and VOICE conference in Pécs.


What skills did you bring to the team?


I think my Serbian language knowledge, the positive attitude and maybe the smiling. I tried my best with all my skills to fit in and be really useful!


Did this experience change your point of view on Europe?


It brought me closer to Europe; I feel more like a real European citizen.



Example 2 The Tale of a Succesful Failure

I would like to tell the happy story of several sad failures. Usually, we only publicize successful initiatives. But there is much to be learned from what happens when the cooperation between partners does not work out, or at least not as expected.

In 2006, Paris was the site of the first “Coeurs en Choeurs,” a very impressive concert that brought together both disabled and non-disabled singers on stage. Shortly thereafter, the “Coeurs en Choeurs” activities were being replicated throughout France and even in a few other European countries. “Coeurs en Choeurs” thus became known as “Hearts in Harmony.”

In Trondheim, Norway; Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain); Novi Sad, Serbia; and Antwerp, Belgium, international Hearts in Harmony events created an informal network of people and organizations that works for inclusion through choral singing. This string of success put the equal right to sing on the agenda of the Choral Movement in Europe and underlined the great potential of choral singing for promoting inclusion.


Then in 2011, the European Musical Council launched a call for partners for the Pan-European project MUST (Music as Social Tool). Koor & Stem of Belgium and Moviment Coral Català of Catalonia (Spain) subsequently applied to the European CULTURE Programme for funding. Our application was unsuccessful, but despite this initial failure, we decided to implement the Hearts in Harmony activities even without the EU grant, and thus initiated an exchange of lecturers as part of the Hearts in Harmony activities.


In 2012, we applied again for an EU grant, this time for a project called “European Network for Inclusive Choirs” that would bring together partners from Belgium, Catalonia (Spain) and Serbia. We met several times to work on the application, during which time we shared much of our individual knowledge in a truly peer-to-peer working process. We were confident about the application and indeed it obtained a good score—yet still fell two points short of the required minimum (74/100). We thus faced our second failure. And once again, even without the EU grant, we implemented the Hearts in Harmony activities in close collaboration with one another.


In 2013, full of confidence, we tried again to obtain an EU grant. This year’s project had evolved in its concept to become “European Network for Inclusion through Singing” that would unite choral organisations, universities, social institutions, among other groups. Now, you can probably guess the outcome of our application: it was rejected yet again. But, in the meantime, we had organised new Hearts in Harmony activities in our countries and had taken further steps towards inclusion in the process. We thus proved that not only disabled people, but any and all people at risk of social exclusion can benefit from the singing community through the use of singing as a tool for social inclusion.

Throughout these years of successful cooperation and failed European funding applications, Hearts in Harmony has also enjoyed some success.


In 2011, the International Music Council endowed the Hearts in Harmony in Barcelona with the Musical Rights Award. Subsequently, the Europa Cantat Festival in Torino, Italy hosted a presentation of the Hearts in Harmony network; the European Choral Magazine focused one issue on Intergenerational Singing, including several articles about singing with dementia; and finally, the European Choral Association-Europa Cantat has also created a working group on inclusion.


Do you still think that this is the story of a failure? Year after year, the partners in all of these unsuccessful applications have learned a lot from one another, developed the concept of “Hearts in Harmony” and implemented projects for inclusion through singing in our European countries. We have already achieved so much without EU funding. Can you imagine what we could do with the support of the EU grants? Let's try again!


Martí Ferrer

President of the Moviment Coral Català (MCC)

and of the Mediterranean Office for Choral Singing.

Member of the ECA-EC board.




Example 3 TENSO Network Europe

In 2003, two choral conductors who were already well-acquainted with each other met after a concert in Paris and wondered why there was always so little opportunity for professional choirs to develop joint projects and collectively promote new repertoire.

Laurence Equilbey, - artistic leader and conductor of the Paris-based chamber choir Accentus, - and Daniel Reuss, - the leader of Cappella Amsterdam and at the time also head of RIAS Kammerchor in Berlin, - spontaneously decided to create such a network, an idea that was then taken up wholeheartedly by the artistic leaders and managers of Accentus, RIAS, Latvijas Radio Koris and Nederlands Kamerkoor. Thus Tenso was born.


The first Tenso activity took place in 2005, when the inaugural festival for contemporary choral music took place in Paris. In the following years, each partner organized Tenso Days in their own city. With the support of its first European subsidy in 2009, Tenso was able to set up more activities that year, focussing mostly on new repertoire and young composers and performers. The network actively explored the professional choral world in Europe, encouraging emerging choirs to join in activities with a view to future membership, and offering them a platform for international exchange and collaboration. The network now counts 15 members from 11 countries.

The decision to establish an official association (in 2010) was made mostly for administrative reasons;, but it had the benefit of obliging the network to discuss its goals and mission in detail. Formal decision procedures had to be described and agreed on, responsibilities defined and delineated. Of course, this step of formalizing the collaboration also posed challenges. For some choirs, for instance, it was not particularly easy to have their membership approved by the larger organisations of which they are a part.

Fortunately, mutual trust is still the key word in the interaction between Tenso members, both in network activities and in smaller collaborations. Although the individual choirs are competitors on European stages, they all see the benefits of working together, developing projects together, sharing experiences and expertise.

Tenso celebrated its unofficial tenth birthday in 2013 with the news that the network has been awarded a multi-annual grant from the EU Culture programme to fund its activities in the years 2014-2018. In the coming years, the network’s activities will evolve around new choral repertoire from World War I, one of the most turbulent periods in European history - the origin of the Europe that we live in now. For Tenso, the challenge of the coming years will be to maintain this relaxed and frank setting to stimulate optimal exchange, even as the network grows to include 20 or more members.


Babette Greiner






Example 4 "Polifonia", a project of AEC

Building Models for successful cooperation

The Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen (AEC) is a European educational and cultural network for music. Established in 1953, AEC represents 90% of all European institutions that offer high-level specialised training for the music profession.


Cooperation is at the heart of much of the work of AEC. The Association brings together at the European level institutions which can often operate as rivals, as much as partners, in their own countries and regions. It provides a forum in which they can share ideas openly, find common ground and work in a collegial manner for the general advancement of European higher music education.


Student and staff mobility is an especially important area for fostering cooperation. Institutions that operate exchange schemes get to know and trust one another, building a firm platform for other kinds of cooperation. AEC has been encouraging mobility amongst its members for many years, and with considerable success.


One issue that remains a challenge is ensuring that a student’s achievements while on mobility exchange get properly recognised when he or she returns to their main institution. Making this happen tests the level of cooperation and trust between institutions more intensely than any other aspect of mobility.


With this in mind, AEC’s current ‘Polifonia’ project – the third in a sequence begun in 2004 – is looking, among other issues, at the question of recognition in mobility. As part of its work, the group considering this issue is also examining joint degrees. These are becoming increasingly common across Europe and they demand a level of cooperation and mutual recognition that goes far beyond that required for a simple exchange arrangement.


Here is a summary of the work being undertaken:

‘Polifonia’ Working Group 5 - Mobility: Recognition, Monitoring and Joint Degrees


This working group aims to enhance the quality, attractiveness and accessibility of European higher music education through cooperation at the European level by promoting mobility in the higher music education sector through the following activities:

The development of a ‘Code of Good Practice for Recognition of Student Achievement during Mobility’ with the aim to achieve a European-level agreement on how to deal with recognition issues in higher music education institutions. This will make the current exchange arrangements more attractive to students, since their achievement abroad will be properly recognised, and will also make the exchanges themselves more transparent and efficient. The Code will promote the use of the ECTS grading system throughout the sector and will identify issues relating to the benchmarking of standards across European HME. In this area, the group is cooperating with the working group for Work-package 1, which is looking at assessment and standards across European higher music education.


The development and trialling of a methodology for establishing ‘Impartiality Circles’ will facilitate reciprocal external examining arrangements in higher music education. The use of external examiners, who take an overview of assessment procedures and standards operating in institutions so as to align them with broader practice, is deeply rooted in countries such as the UK but only beginning to be established elsewhere in Europe. The diversity of practice across Europe offers a potential added value to selecting external examiners from different countries but arrangements need to be reciprocal in order to be financially sustainable. The work-package is examining how to balance reciprocity with impartiality by creation wider circles of cooperation.


The carrying out of case-studies aims to identify mobility and recognition issues in European joint degrees and propose solutions. Several partners in ‘Polifonia’ are engaged in joint degree projects. The work-package is identifying case-studies which can be used to identify mobility and recognition issues germane to joint programmes.


The outcomes of this working group are being presented in a number of forums, and especially at the AEC Annual Meeting for ERASMUS Coordinators. Through its sector-specific approach with clear target groups (management, teachers and students in higher music education institutions) and customised products relevant for these target groups, it is hoped that the project activities will show an effective contribution to the “Youth on the Move” initiative of the European Commission.


For more information about AEC and its ‘Polifonia’ project, please visit the AEC website at www.aec-music.eu and the dedicated ‘Polifonia’ website at www.aec-music.eu/polifonia.

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