“We are convinced that song art is a very rich branch of art. Unfortunately, it is an unknown area for many. The reason for this is that policy makers have been investing less and less in the past 20 years,” begins pianist Aaron Wagenberg (34) . “Until 2004, Opera Ballet Vlaanderen organized a series of concerts as the former director of DeSingel Jerry Aerts took care of them. Unfortunately, song concerts are now almost completely stopped in the halls of Antwerp.”
But what do we mean by “song”? “We are not talking about songs, but about the artistic song that appeared in 1790,” he explains. “Its paid off mainly through Schubert who chose texts by the great poets of the time to set the tone. This is how masterpieces were created with his masterpieces. winter trip As best known. But artistic songs are still composed today, we order at least one song cycle from a Flemish composer every year.”
Every last Sunday of the month, the Pujian nonprofit gives a stage for song, with both newly graduated talents and established singers from home and abroad. It has also entered into partnerships with Amuz or Opera Ballet Vlaanderen. “We are turning it into a true story in Antwerp. There is a lot of talent here, they really deserve more attention,” says Aaron. “Take An De Ridder, the wonderful Antwerp soprano, known worldwide. I sang this summer in the context of Klassiek in de Stad, and I’m the casting director. She told me she had never sung in Antwerp before. Incomprehensible.
As a pianist, Aaron Wagenberg is accompanied by the greatest contemporary singers. He grew up in a musical nest. And he laughs, saying, “My mother is a singer, my sister is a singer, and I am married to a singer.” “My wife Charlotte, who is part of the artistic core of Antwerp Leadfest, was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Competition in 2018. This year I will also accompany a number of winners.” As the singers’ companion, he was introduced to his “partner in crime”, bass baritone Wilfried van den Brandy (58). “I have collaborated with Wilfred many times and in the meantime we have also become neighbors and friends. We share the same ideas and are both passionate cultural entrepreneurs. This is also necessary, because our non-profit organization is not supported (at the moment?).
In Pujian, the duo started on a small scale. The space, with an amphitheater for 120 people, liveliness of piano and great acoustics, is ideal for song parties in an intimate setting. “We want to keep the bottom line very low and allow a wide audience to get a taste of the song,” says Wilfried van den Brandy. “One way to do this is to pay attention to the text. We drafted the original texts – by poets like Goethe, Heine and Baudelaire – as well as translations into book form for visitors. As was the custom in the 19th century, I would read poems before I sang them. This creates a certain magic. I I also put in the composers, and bring people into the story. Poetry really works if I tell it in a more intimate circle, and not at a distance in a large concert hall. The songs of Schubert and Schumann were heard not in a concert hall at first, but in a coffee shop.”
Playground for young talents
Beaujean is more than just a salon-themed concert space and hall that can be rented, for example, for lectures or recordings. Aaron is a teacher at the Antwerp Conservatory and offers his students in Bogian a place to grow. “Our big houses don’t have a developmental vision for young talent,” Wilfred laments. “We want to give them a training track, a lab with advanced lessons, a playground. We have professional live broadcasting facilities and recording equipment at home. This is important for young people. They are being trained now, but in Flanders they don’t get opportunities to play or support. So Beaujean wants to create a community of songs.” This really should be the forte of the song.”
Bojian: real estate
The neoclassical building at Francelei 115 was built in 1870 for a merchant. In 1920, sisters Mary and Jane Bogian purchased the building and moved it to the Carlton Hotel. In the ballroom – the current concert space – the lover celebrates in a very atmospheric environment. Later, the building housed a bank and a logistics company. The property is included in the Immovable Heritage Inventory and the entry is classified.
Now the apartments have been set up on the upper floors and the basement is the open workspace for Pàu, a company that specializes in digital product design. Managing Director Anthony Yudisiello wanted to unlock his unique space. He has a heart for culture, as attested by the work of well-known Antwerp artist Marie-Joe La Fontaine, which adorns the walls in Pujian, according to a concept devised by the artist herself. He had an agora built in the middle of the former ballroom with an amphitheater where the people of Antwerp Ledfest could now do their things.
Beaujean – Frankrijklei 115. First party: Sunday 25 September 3pm (doors 2:30pm) Recital Antwerp Leadfest with Wilfried van den Brandy (bass baritone) and Aaron Wagenberg (piano). www.beaujean-live.be – www.antwerpliedfest.be