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Musica Sacra International. A History

The Beginnings
Dolf Rabus, 2006

Musica Sacra International. A History

Founded in 1992, »Musica Sacra International« has been held in alternation with the »International Chamber Choir Competition« every two years and would therefore have celebrated its 30th anniversary next year. Since the festivals had to be swapped the next  »Musica Sacra International« will take place in 2024. Therefore we would like to look back on the beginnings of the festival on the occasion of this year's 16th edition.

»The festival is an attempt to contribute towards utilizing music to create peace«, said the founder of the festival Dolf Rabus, when looking back on the initial motivation to hold a festival, which would bring together musicians from the five major world religions in the Allgaeu Region. It all came into being in 1992 when there was still an acute impression of violence between Protestants and Catholics in the Northern Ireland conflict. Almost 30 years later and this concern has not lost its topicality: since the end of March 2021 new violent riots have been arising again in Belfast. In light of the current situation in Israel, where violence between Jews, Arabic Israeli and Palestinians is escalating and of the situation in Germany, where Jewish places and institutions are being attacked, the importance of a festival, which is dedicated to nurture the dialogue between religions, becomes very apparent.

What makes »Musica Sacra International« so special?
Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue may be familiar terms today, in 1992, however, the idea of a multi-religious music festival was new and unconventional. From the very beginning, Musica Sacra International has set itself apart by several distinctive characteristics: Dolf Rabus has always made a point of seeking out genuine representatives of their individual tradition – representatives that understand music as believing, thinking and acting out of their religion.

This authentic religious music unfolds a particularly special effect when played in sacred spaces. A Jewish choir in a mosque, a Buddhist flautist in a Catholic Church – unthinkable elsewhere – became a musical symbol of peace in Marktoberdorf.

During the festival, the Bavarian Music Academy Marktoberdorf is not only the location for workshops in which the ensembles provide deeper insights into their work and their religion, but it is also the center of exchange and personal encounters. It is where the musicians live during the festival, where they eat meals together, engage with the audience and finish off the day at »Café Musica«.

This inter-religious warmth brings forth understanding and appreciation. Through music, »Musica Sacra International« enables encounters that promote peaceful and trusting coexistence.

Although this year the corona virus pandemic has led to the event being spread out over several months and therefore not all musicians can meet in person at Whitsun, the MODfestivals e.V. association still is working towards inviting at least some ensembles. Until the pandemic allows concerts with audience all events will be streamed live.

On the opening weekend, two online events will look back on the beginnings of the festival:

On Saturday, May 22, 2021, at 19:00 (UTC+2), Jeroen Schrijner will have a conversation with Volker Hempfling and Thomas Rabbow, who have both been loyal companions and advisers of »Musica Sacra International« since 1992. A concert follows at 20:00 (UTC+2), which uses archive footage to capture musical moments from past festivals.

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