Edited by Anna Popper

Advent, the most beautiful season of the year, a special time marked by expectation, reflection and preparation for the Nativity of Christ and celebration of Christmas.

Adorned and illuminated for the upcoming Christmas, organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Budapest, St. Stephen’s Basilica hosted an exceptional Advent Choir Concert, following a festive Holy Mass, celebrated in both Croatian and Hungarian on the 6th December 2023.

St. Stephen’s Basilica is one of the most iconic landmarks in Budapest, situated in the heart of the city on the Pest side of the Danube river, and is dedicated to Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, whose Holy Right Hand is housed in the reliquary inside the church.

This is one of the prime examples of neoclassical architecture with a 96-meter high dome. The basilica is not only a place of worship, but also a venue for various cultural events, including concerts and festivals.

On the invitation of His Excellency Dr. Mladen Andrlić, Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia, the renowned “Ivan Goran Kovačić” Academic Choir arrived from Zagreb, the capital of neighbouring Croatia, to perform a majestic Advent concert entitled “Sleep, Sleep, Little Child” with songs from their extensive repertoire, works by Croatian and international composers, under the baton of Ivan Šćepanović. 

The concert was attended by distinguished guests, including members of the diplomatic corps, Hungarian officials, nationals from the large Croatian community – some of whom wore their beautiful national costumes – and friends of Croatia.

In his address, Ambassador Dr. Mladen Andrlić welcomed the participating guests, celebrating the Advent season, which is often associated with hope, peace, joy and love. Many individuals appreciate the sense of community, spiritual significance and light that Advent brings. He also introduced the Choir and the program of the Advent Concert. The audience highly appreciated the concert with round of applauses.

About the Academic Choir “Ivan Goran Kovačić”

Founded in 1948, the Croatian Academic Choir “Ivan Goran Kovačić”, named after the Croatian poet and writer who was an anti-fascist fighter in WWII and a moral example for the world (1913-1943), celebrated the 75th anniversary of its establishment in 2023. The Choir has performed under the direction of many respected conductors, collaborated with famous international orchestras, had numerous guest performances abroad and participated in well-known festivals throughout its history. Additionally, the Choir maintains ongoing cooperation with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, the Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Croatian Army Symphony Wind Orchestra, showcasing its commitment to artistic prowess and cultural engagement.

The Ivan Goran Kovačić Academic Choir’s repertoire is truly diverse, encompassing masterpieces of classical composers such as Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. Their musical journey extends beyond the classical realms, as they have had the honour of performing at the inauguration ceremonies of presidents of states, and singing in front of Pope John Paul II. In addition to the classical repertoire, the Choir’s versatility shines through in their renditions of evergreen hits from the Beatles and the most prominent figures in Croatian pop and rock music. This broad spectrum of musical genres demonstrates the Choir’s ability to interpret and perform a wide range of styles, reflecting their commitment to musical excellence and cultural richness.

The 150-member strong Choir performed under the direction of eminent conductors and the greatest internationally renowned musicians, including Lovro von Matačić, Milan Horvat, Zubin Mehta, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Krzysztof Penderecki, Lorin Maazel, Ennio Morricone, Noam Sheriff, Gerd Albrecht, Kazushi Ono, Alun Francis, Hans Graf, Kurt Masur, Dmitri Kitayenko, Valery Gergiev and Sir Neville Marriner, thereby further contributing to its prestigious legacy. Among the soloists who sang with “Goranovci” are singing legends such as Andrea Bocelli, Ruggiero Raimondi, José Carreras, Grace Bumbry, Barbara Hendricks, Thomas Moser, Jan Hendrik Rootering, Inva Mula, Sumi Jo, Nikolai Schukoff, Vladimir Ruždjak, Ruža Pospiš-Baldani and many others. The Ivan Goran Kovačić Academic Choir was awarded with numerous prizes throughout its illustrious 75-year career, underscoring its outstanding artistic accomplishments.

Following the concert, attendees from various countries and continents were graciously invited to a reception on the terrace of the Basilica. However, due to unexpected rain, the function was relocated inside the church, where they could savour the traditional delights of Croatian Christmas in the unique ambiance of the church.

Despite this change in plans announced by Ms. Marina Sikora, Deputy Head of Mission of the Croatian Embassy, the event provided a wonderful opportunity for the guests to explore the annual Christmas market in front of St. Stephen’s Basilica. The festive atmosphere also extended to the Advent Feast at the Basilica in Budapest, which once again ranked first in 2023 by European Best Destinations (EBD).

Sretan Božić i Nova 2024. Godina

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2024!

Source: Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Budapest

Photos by DPA and Neda Maretic