United Music of Brussels

What does a nineteenth-century puppet theater have in common with internet streaming?

“In the past, people who couldn’t afford to go and see the plays at La Monnaie would go to the Toone theater and see the same play but with puppets,” said Peter de Caluwe, General director – intendant of La Monnaie Royal Opera House. “These days it’s via internet streaming. People who for some reason can’t go to the theater, they watch the performance on the internet.”

Zwemkunst #unitedmusicofbrussels

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Mr. de Caluwe talked at a press conference to talk in detail about an upcoming event: United Music of Brussels, UMOB. On September 9th, from 14:00 to 20:00, sixteen locations in Brussels will host musical performances with different styles, rhythms from distant places. From the Toone Theater near the Grande Place to the St. Gery Hall, from the Monnaie to Sainte Catherine Square then along the canal, and into Molenbeek, one can take a stroll in the afternoon and enjoy what the program has to offer.

United Music of Brussels is an initiative led by The Belgian National Orchestra, La Monnaie and Bozar.

“At some point, there was a political drive to merge these three federal cultural institutions and each one reacted,” said Mr. de Caluwe. “We of course want to find ways to collaborate more closely but we’d also like to keep our creative independence. I think that’s understandable.”

This will be UMOB’s second edition. “Last year it was amazing,” said Paul Dujardin, CEO and Artistic Director of the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels. “Inside the St. Gery Hall with all those people scattered all around. Lying on the floor, squeezed by the door, everyone was entranced. And you could feel the energy. It left me breathless.”

At two o’clock, the opening will take place at one of the main squares in Molenbeek (Place Communale de Molenbeek): half an hour of rhythmic and ritual sounds from Burundi (performed by Les Tambours du Burundi). Some of the participating artists are: Sonico, La Tangueria, Cocktail Maison, Mostafa Taleb, Classical Argentina, The Jungle Syndrome, Cordes Sensibles, among others. Several performances will be running in parallel throughout the afternoon and in different places.

“This is part of the initiative,” said Mr. Dujardin, “to encourage people to visit different spots in the city, places they hadn’t yet been. We want everyone to be proud of Brussels as a whole.”

This is seen as a critical goal for UMOB, a unifying mission for these three cultural institutions that, though federal in their scope, have decided to channel their energies on this remarkable event in the multicultural city of Brussels.

“When we had to temporarily move to Tour & Taxis due to the renovation of La Monnaie theater, we lost twenty percent of our regular visitors,” said Mr. de Caluwe. “And Tour & Taxis is still Brussels, postal code 1000. It’s just across the canal. But some people cling too tight to their routines. We’d like to change that if we can.”

The closing concert being held at the Beguinage Church, a few meters away from Saint Catherine Square. It’ll be a performance first by the Monnaie Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Alain Altinoglu, followed by the Belgian national Orchestra under the direction of Hugh Wolff.