“Music, even the song of a choir, can bring out thoughts in the listener that were previously hidden in his or her mind” – says Dr. habil Sándor Kabdebó DLA, conductor of the newly formed Crescendo Corvinus choir. Tamás Madarasi and Anna Csontos, third-year students at the university and co-founders of the choir, believe that music is a community-building force, and they would like to create a platform for the arts at the university. Rehearsals take place on Fridays from 18:00 to 20:00 in Room 67 of Building E. They plan to get credit recognition and to become a student association. Our interview with the founders took place before one of the first rehearsals.
How did the idea to organise a choir at the Corvinus University of Budapest come about?
Tamás Madarasi: I had an inner impulse that it would be good for Corvinus to have a serious choir again. Together with Anna, we want to create a platform for the arts, bringing together university citizens on campus in the form of a unique organisation. We noticed that many of the students have a wide range of musical interests, many of whom were choir members in secondary school. By the way, I am from Szada, I went to the Ignác Török Secondary School in Gödöllő and I was also a choir member. I simply miss singing, and I see that others need it too.
Anna Csontos: We are both third year students of the English language study programme of International Business Economics, that’s how we know each other. Years ago, the university used to have a choir, first the Chorus Oeconomicus, then the Prelude Mixed Choir. The former ceased to exist around 1990, while the latter continues to operate independently of the university. In order to bring back artistic activity within the university walls, we aim to revive this tradition. It is advertised as open to both academics and international students, and we will be bringing members of the Prelude Mixed Choir to today’s rehearsal, and will be talking to them after the singing during an alumni event.
How do you recruit members?
A. Cs.: We use a variety of marketing techniques, and the challenge is how best to reach students: on Instagram, for example, or directly in person. As we are both members of other student associations, we will also share with everyone there that Crescendo Corvinus is being formed and all enthusiastic singers are welcome. We want foreigners to be part of the choir, so for example our conductor gives all the instructions in English as well during rehearsals. We also invite lecturers, some of them are actually interested.
T.M.: We rehearse English, Latin and Hungarian pieces, and we believe that non-Hungarian-speaking choir members can learn Hungarian songs by ear, just as we used to sing Japanese and French pieces. We are currently doing an online survey to find out who would like to sing which works, and we would like to implement the results on an ongoing basis.
Why did you choose Sándor Kabdebó as your conductor?
A.Cs.: He was also the conductor of the former Corvinus Choir, which achieved great success and won major awards. I also knew him, he plays football with the Corvinus alumni community, as he got his first diploma in Industrial Planning and Management here. I also love football, I met him in this community. When the idea of a possible new Corvinus choir came up, I put him in touch with Tomi, who asked him to be the choirmaster, which role he was happy to take on.
How do you find time for Crescendo Corvinus? You indeed teach conducting at the Eszterházy Károly University in Eger, also at the Faculty of Music of the University of Debrecen, and more recently at ELTE, and you continue to direct the Prelude Mixed Choir.
Sándor Kabdebó: Forty years ago, I first entered the building as a freshman, and at the same time, I joined the choir. I directed the choir between 1991 and 2018. I have a very strong emotional attachment, so I could only say yes to such an invitation. And we can proudly say of the past, as the results show, that we have managed to set up a decent choir at a university that does not have a choral singing profile. This of course took years of work and patience. Between 1991 and 1995, very talented young students joined the choir. It was probably some lucky constellation, a wonderful coincidence. It was possible to work to a very high standard, because they were also very musically skilled, and all the instructions were easily implemented, thanks to the open, receptive and interested mindset of the students. In addition, they were all very enthusiastic and motivated. Why not do it again here at Corvinus?
I understand that acceptance is not subject to an entrance exam?
S.K.: No, there is indeed no admission exam. I think that whoever comes to sing with us honours us. Of course, it’s better if you can read music. It can be difficult if, say, you’ve never sung in a choir before and you are out of sync, but I don’t turn people away. On the one hand, if someone wants to try it out, we give them the opportunity, and on the other hand, I find that there are always choir members who are perhaps less qualified, but who help with their own knowledge and voice. They may also have other skills that can be useful to the community. So, although perhaps in different ways, everyone is an equally valuable member of the choir. The professional goal is naturally to give concerts that capture the audience, that make them feel that they have had a musical experience, perhaps something they hadn’t expected before. I am very happy that Crescendo Corvinus has been established.
What are your plans for the future?
S.K.: The first step is to have a stable choir. This is not easy in a non-art university, because students today have a very wide range of activities. In addition, those who graduate, perhaps may go to work far away, return home, but those who stay in Budapest may slowly start a family, or reach a stage in life when there is simply no time or way to go to choir rehearsals. Once we have a stable team, we can start talking about long-term professional and community goals. We have one rehearsal a week, and we hope that there will be students who can take on this workload. Of course, like all choirs, our aim is to gain experience through concerts and to keep improving.
T.M.: We have suggested that choir membership should be recognised as a subject with credit value from the next semester, so that we can move forward with the development of the choir. We feel that the university is now taking a positive approach to this issue. We also aim to become a student association from December, providing a structure for professional and community development.
A.Cs.: We are also planning community events, after the last rehearsal we had our first get-together, and we aim to continue these, even to go to the opera or concerts together. We will also be happy to perform at university events, and we are already practising Christmas songs.
Finally, why was the name Crescendo Corvinus chosen?
T.M.: Together with Sándor, we made a list of different musical expressions, from which we selected. Crescendo Corvinus appealed to us because it is alliterative, the term crescendo is understood in music by lay people, and its meaning and metaphor is also thought to be the vision of the choir.