We remember Miklós Kocsár

Miklós Kocsár, the composer who was a key figure in the life of the Cantemus Choir family, would have celebrated his 90th birthday this year.

To quote choirmaster Dénes Szabó: “Since Kodály, he was the composer who was able to keep a choral culture alive with his works.” But he was also one of the first to renew the world of choral singing in Hungary, one of the first to prove that a capella choirs can also sensitively convey a modern expression of composer’s thinking. For Cantemus, the personal dimension of the relationship with Uncle Miklós is very strong. The choir’s outstanding successes and many premieres are largely due to his compositions, but he was also present in the Cantemus-Japanese relationship, which has flourished for decades, and it is also a fact that there was no contemporary composer more beloved and loved by the choir members. We would venture to say that this relationship was so strong that, after a while, Kocsár and Cantemus were perfectly able to think together, which inevitably led to the fact that today, if you search for the composer’s choral works, you will find mostly recordings of the Nyíregyháza Cantemus Choir ensembles. For us, this is the greatest tribute, for which we are grateful, and also because his personal presence has always inspired the choir and the choirmaster to perform better. The many kind and soul-stirring moments we shared with Uncle Miklós gave faith, joy and left an indelible mark on the souls of generations of choir members. The spiritual connection between him and the Cantemus Choir of Nyíregyháza, which was woven for decades, will not be broken even after his death, and lives on in us and in his moving and wonderful compositions.

(Szilárd Szilágyi)

“The first time I heard the choir was at a choir competition in Debrecen, but I also have a cute story about them. One summer there was a choir meeting in Kecskemét, to which I was invited. I was walking down the street with my wife when a group of children surrounded us in a great cheer. Their teacher in black glasses, Dénes Szabó, came along and told the youngsters that I had written the pieces they were singing. I was touched as they caressed me. The next question the conductor had was when I would write new works for them. However, a few years later, around 1990, while working at Hungarian Radio, I heard a mass that I did not like very much. So at home I started to write a complete mass myself. While composing, I noticed that I kept hearing their voices. I decided to dedicate the work to them. The piece – the Missa in A – was a great success.  (Kocsár interview, Kelet-Magyarország, László M.Magyar, 2013)

“The 1991 premiere of ‘Missa in A’ in Nyíregyháza can indeed be interpreted as the starting point of a close collaboration of which one can find only very few examples in music history. The real significance of the relationship outlined by Uncle Miklós, however, lies not merely in the sequence of commissions or recommendations. In this case, the choir has become part of the creative process as a means of control to a degree that is quite exceptional. The final form of many of the works was created during the choir rehearsals, after more than 30 versions had been tried out. I remember how, at the beginning, we used to reproduce the altered pages of the score, but later the changes were only made orally, and the singers would insert or omit bars according to the composer’s instructions, or they would have to sing the harmony in question in a different key, or sometimes they would have to improvise a sequential step or two in a particular developmental area. At one time it was a joke that the Pro Musica Girls’ Choir could now improvise a new Kocsár piece at any time.”

(Soma Szabó (2011). Investigation in the labyrinth of a creative mind. In Bárdos Symposia)