The Romany singer Ida Kelarová and her Chavorenge Children’s Choir together with musicians from the Czech Philharmonic will perform a concert at the Phoenix Concert Hall in Croydon, southern England on Thursday evening. The program will feature the international Romany anthem Gelem, Gelem, and the choir’s best known song Hej Romale!
Ten years ago Romany singer and musician Ida Kelarová founded the most successful Romany children’s choir in the country. Chavorenge not only appears in Prague’s famous Rudolfinum, but increasingly gives concerts abroad. Ida Kelarová says its present day success is beyond her wildest dreams because the original idea behind forming the choir was not artistic success but social needs.
“It all started when I came back from living in Great Britain. I returned to the Czech Republic twenty years ago and I was shocked to see the anti-Roma sentiment, things like “gas the Roma” sprayed on walls and widespread prejudices. I was not used to that. In England I had spoken openly about my Romany roots and spread the Romany culture. I decided to help change things and started out by travelling to all the excluded localities where the Roma lived in poverty. I offered to work with their children, to let them find an outlet for their musical talent. Creating the choir and teaching the children was extremely rewarding because these kids are open, eager to learn and in need of attention.”
Her choir comprises talented children of all ages. The condition is that they go to school and have good grades. Ida Kelarová says she is happy when the choir is invited to perform in different parts of the country as well as abroad, because in addition to it being exciting for the children, the opportunity to see different cultures, a different way of life to what they know, motivates them to work hard for a better future.
One of her biggest successes on the road to establishing Chavorenge as a highly successful children’s choir was the decision to involve musicians from the Czech Philharmonic, whom she approached with a request for cooperation a few years ago. Since then, they have given concerts together around the country with great success.
“The fact that members of the Czech Philharmonic perform with us is a huge honour. I greatly appreciate it, especially in view of the prejudices that still exist. They are such an example for the children and, of course, these professional musicians take the whole performance to a higher level.”
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