On the 17th of December I had a very exciting project that I had been waiting to do for over a month. A dear friend of mine was organizing together with other musicians a concert of Bulgarian pieces to perform in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of Den Haag —yes, I also had no idea that this city has its own Bulgarian church.
As you all know, my fiancé —Iliyan— is Bulgarian, so this language and culture is close to my heart, when my friend came to me telling me about this project and invited me to join in I could not say “yes” fast enough. However, I was really nervous, it was my first time singing in Bulgarian.
I doubted whether to confirm to her that I was going to challenge myself with two pieces —one that also seemed very hard— or only with the short and simpler one, I had only one month to learn them, I was not sure if it would be enough to learn the music and lyrics by heart as well as feeling comfortable while singing it; it is always important to take in account that extra nervousness one has when you are on stage.
But guess what? I decided to do both of them.
One of them was an aria from a Bulgarian opera called “Lud Gidiya” by Parashkev Hadjiev and the other one was a folk song written into a score for voice and piano by Dimitar Petkov. The latter one was not that difficult since Bulgarian folk music is close to the Romanian one, so I was not completely lost. But the aria… the aria was another story.
Iliyan helped me a lot to learn these pieces, I read the texts while he was closely listening to me, he corrected my pronunciation, translated both texts word by word while I was writing it into the score and even translated the whole story of the opera for me so I knew the connection of my aria to the whole tale. This last thing he did secretly one night —sleeping quite little because of it— and sent it to me the night before my singing and correpetition lesson so I could explain to my teachers what was going on. We both worked a lot on these pieces, and I will always, always appreciate all the help that Iliyan gave me.
I think, that because of this process, of working so closely together with my fiancé while adding the fact that I love his language, made me connect strongly with the pieces. In less than two weeks I knew the lyrics by heart, word by word knowing at all times what I was saying. The musical part took a bit more of time because the aria is very exact tempo wise, the composer knew very well what he wanted, so every few bars the tempo of the quarter notes changes, I trained it on my own and with my teachers a lot. The week and a half before the concert I was completely comfortable and confident with them. I was actually surprised.
The day of the concert I wished more than once that Iliyan would be there, but I knew that he was close to me, I was in his thoughts, as he was in mine. The church was small and cute, I personally really loved the acoustics, I was looking forward to perform in it.
All the other musicians —apart from me— were Bulgarian, so I was hearing them speak their mother tongue which made me really happy, this language now means home to me. To my pleasure and also excitement most of the public was Bulgarian, yet there was also my dear friend from the conservatoire, rooting for me, really happy she could come to listen to me.
And then the concert started. Full house.
Everybody was playing and singing beautifully while I was feeling my heart aching from the adrenaline and kept thinking of Iliyan, I imagined he was beside me, giving me his hand, that calmed me down a bit as my turn to sing came along.
As the piano started to play I touched my engagement ring, the permanent item that is now part of me and that also connects me to my beloved whom is far away. My heart gained from this all the confidence it needed so I would start singing.
I felt every little part of my body feeling the music as if it was inside of me, I have not felt this while singing in a very long time, specially in the second piece, the aria. I love that aria so much I can not even describe it in words, it is an aria that speaks of love, and funnily enough the male main character is called “Iliya” the name is so close to Iliyan’s that I cannot help but fuse with the female character who sings this aria and sing it for my fiancé. As I finish singing my skin still tingles from it and I bow to the small public that applauds me.
The experience was more than wonderful, I can not wait to do it again and for Iliyan to be in the public.
I got many nice compliments from the public, they came to me after the concert to congratulate me on my singing but also on my Bulgarian. “You do not sound like a foreigner. Your Bulgarian was very natural.” I do not know if they were even aware of how much that means to me. I thank from the bottom of my heart Iliyan, my friend and fellow musicians from the concert as well as the public, I am eternally grateful for this experience.
It was truly a magical evening hour full of Bulgarian mysticism.