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What would life without Christmas be like? This was a question posed by the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli who headlines the Nostalgia Festival this year. His response was to compose a cycle of four prayers entitled Life without Christmas.

I met Kancheli in 2004 in Łódź, during the organisation of the concert of this particular work. Since then, I have been waiting for an opportunity to repeat this meeting in circumstances that would be appropriate for the scale of the composition. Finally, it is happening. On 24 November, at the Jesuit Fathers’ Church in Poznań, we will listen to the four prayers at the times of day for which they were written. At 8 in the morning, we will start with Morning Prayers, at noon we will listen to Midday Prayers, in the evening we will slow down to the sounds of Evening Prayers, and at 11 p.m. we will end the day with Night Prayers. Kancheli's music will be performed by Orkiestra Collegium F conducted by Marcin Sompoliński.

I encourage you to leave behind, for a moment, your busy everyday lives, and to partake with others in this contemplation. During the intervals between the pieces, we will sit together around a common table and strengthen ourselves with meals (that will also serve the spirit).

‘I would like the music I love to express compassion,’ says Kancheli in Mariusz Grzegorzek's documentary (to be shown in the afternoon of 24 November during one of the intervals between the concerts). Empathy and openness are also the features that connect all the events of the three Nostalgia days. The festival will begin on 23 November with ‘Pianohooligan’ Piotr Orzechowski’s first ever performance of his 24 Preludes and Improvisations. We will spend Saturday, 24 November, with the music of Kancheli, and on that day, we would also like to invite you to a meeting with the composer, a discussion with Rev. Wacław Oszajca and to listen to Jerzy Trela reading the Bible. In addition, we will show the film The Emigrants directed by Mohammad Abdulaziz, which is a story of two Syrian refugees who come to Europe at Christmas and have to deal with their loneliness.

The event of the last festival day (25 November) will be the premiere concert of two young artists, who the Nostalgia audience knows and appreciates: Marcin Masecki and Barbara Kinga Majewska. In Taratil ‘id al-milad, they will play and sing some Polish and European carols in a dialect from the Aleppo region. The concert will be accompanied by the premiere of their album, which we have coproduced. This is not only a remarkable artistic project, but also an important gesture. At Christmastime, we like to sing together with our loved ones. The familiar carols, which have been known for generations, take on a different dimension when sung in Arabic. They build a bridge between distant realities, bringing people closer and reminding us of the common roots that unite us. This is particularly important at a time of growing xenophobia and hostility.

Nostalgia is a moment of stillness, and also a way to reach out to other people. A year ago, when we proposed the Common Song and reactivated the café-chantant, we were not yet aware of how strong the need for community was within us. This year, for the festival finale, we would like to invite you once again to join the singing café.

We should not be afraid of Life without Christmas. We should listen to what lies behind the title. This could be a need for metaphysics, finding one’s own spirituality or simply being together with others: in music, silence or around a table. Let our autumn festival release in us, to quote Kancheli, ‘an expectation of change, an expectation of joy, of a feast that has not happened yet.’

Traditionally, I dedicate every Nostalgia Festival to my friend who loved art, long discussions and sitting around a table together. To love, Jan!

Michał Merczyński
Director Nostalgia Festival Poznań