When you're dealing a lot with foreign policy and everything that it includes -- such as many events, conferences, travels and most of the time quite urgent deadlines -- you end up in your rare free time not attending many events anymore. Casual dinners and drinks with friends, yes. But cultural events? Not so much.
And when you're living in a place like Berlin you also tend to escape the city over the summer. But this summer is different. For the first time I'm spending the entire season in town and I started to look for a cultural project to include in my summer activities. What I found is called Young Euro Classic, a festival of young musicians I heard first about when I was still a student.
This past Saturday my first Young Euro Classic adventure started, together with a friend visiting Berlin over the weekend. We were prepared to enjoy African Jazz mixed with classical music performed by talented new artists. And I was prepared to escape the sorrows, tragedies and threats of the Middle East just for one night. It didn't work.
One of the pieces performed was dedicated to South Africa's political prisoners during the apartheid regime. Not only was it performed excellently and not only was this piece incredibly moving and had sequences of heartbreak, but most important it was a music of forgiveness. While I was listening to it I was of course thinking of Iran, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries where young, bright generations have been denied their democratic rights for such a long time.
My foreign policy addiction was right back in the middle of a youth orchestra concert. And I couldn't stop thinking about how much these young South African artists have offered a packed concert hall that night about their homeland, about their cultural roots, about their dreams and most movingly about their hearts expressed in those melodies. The youth orchestra performed together with a few young German musicians and the lively conductor, leading through this concert night like a world-class entertainer, said that they have met as strangers and part now as family.
Since my student years I've always been fond of musical and cultural exchanges with countries that left dictatorship behind and embarked into a democratic era. One of many reasons why I admire the work of Young Euro Classic is it builds bridges with countries that have exactly had such an experience. Such projects work fine with countries like South Africa, China -- though by no means on a way to democracy right now -- and a few others. It doesn't work right now -- and hasn't in the past -- with Iran and Syria.
But Saturday's concert demonstrated to me yet again that the power of music, silenced in so many countries taken hostage by so many brutal dictators, can and will break those chains. If not today, surely tomorrow. While I'm writing this piece the melodies of Saturday night are still in my head and I already look forward to the next concerts of this summer. So stay tuned for more about a magnificent youth festival that is always young, always euro, and beautifully classic.