The Day of Hungarian Culture has been celebrated on 22 January since 1989, in memory of the fact that – according to the manuscript – Ferenc Kölcsey cleaned and dated the manuscript of the Hymn in Szatmárcseke as part of a larger manuscript package on this day in 1823. The idea of commemorating the day was raised by pianist Árpád Fasang in 1985. In his words, “this day is also a day to remind us that we can draw from a thousand years of heritage and that we have much to be proud of, as this nation has given much to the culture of Europe and the world. It is a heritage that can be sustained and managed, and can also help solve today’s problems”. Composer Sándor Szokolay, who also called for the release of the anthem on record, asked: “Do you know that our anthem is the only illegal national anthem in the world?” Because it has never been registered, there is no document how it became an official anthem (…) The people made it so,” he said. His plan was implemented, but the question of making it official was still not answered until 23 October 1989. The law states that “the national anthem of the Republic of Hungary shall be Ferenc Kölcsey’s poem “The National Anthem” with music by Ferenc Erkel.” Even though this law is not completely accurate, it is still incorrectly stated in the Hungarian Constitution, as only the first stanza of the poem is sung, and this is considered the official anthem.
A cross-section of the diversity of Hungarian culture was presented to all those who attended the next concert of the Cantemus Choir of Nyíregyháza on Saturday evening in the auditorium of the Kodály Zoltán Elementary School. The concert, organised on the occasion of the Hungarian Culture Day, featured poems, piano works and choral pieces mainly from the 20th and 21st centuries. The liveliness and solemn atmosphere of the concert was already set by the first programme, which featured an all-school performance of Péter Tóth’s Cantate Domino, performed by the Debrecen Brass Ensemble.
At the beginning of his speech, Péter Hoppál, State Secretary for Culture, quoted Zoltán Kodály’s 1957 thought, “There is no compromise in art and Hungarianism!” These words still resonate with us today – 75 years later – and now, as we celebrate our 200th anniversary on the Day of Hungarian Culture, they are perhaps even more timely than ever. He pointed out that in its resolution of 7 December 2022, Parliament declared 22 January the Day of Hungarian Culture, now also in public law. In the resolution, the Parliament supports and encourages institutions and communities to organise events on the occasion of this day, which will give a worthy representation of Hungary’s rich cultural life and promote the preservation of national cultural traditions. In his speech, he praised the Cantemus Choir of Nyíregyháza, whose choirs will celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2025 and have continuously proven that their concerts present the highest artistic standards of what Hungarian culture and cultural heritage means to us.
After the celebratory reflections, the audience listened to Ferenc Kölcsey’s poem “The Hymn” performed by Kossuth Prize-winning theatre artist József Szarvas, followed by a performance of the Hungarian national prayer with the audience and piano accompaniment by Dr. Péter Hoppál.
Last year, 500 thousand forints were raised at a charity event of the Cantemus International Choir Festival, which the organisers donated to support talented students in Nyíregyháza. The proceeds were distributed among ten young people, and the money was handed over to the students by Dr. Ferenc Kovács, Mayor of Nyíregyháza, at the concert. Fanni Balogh, Ramóna Czuczor, Rebeka Dzjapko, Viktória Fabu, Zsófia Gulyás, Mikolt Kovács, Anna Nánási, Kornélia Rádai, István Susla Vince, Ákos Szikszai.
The concert also included a premiere, Péter Tóth’s Carpe Diem, performed by the Pro Musica Leánykar. The work was written last year for the 75th birthday of Dénes Szabó, who personally attended the first public performance of his work. The audience also enjoyed the inspired poetry of Kossuth Prize-winning actor József Szarvas and the dazzling playing of Kossuth Prize-winning pianist Gergely Bogányi. The festive concert featured performances by the Cantemus Children’s Choir, the Pro Musica Girls’ Choir and the Cantemus Choir, conducted by István Márkus, Donát Tóth, Soma Szabó, Liszt Prize winner and Dénes Szabó, Kossuth Prize winner.