LUNALIA is the Festival of Flanders Mechelen’s new city festival, the successor to Mechelen hoort Stemmen. The name refers both to the Mechelen legend of the ‘Maneblussers’ (luna), and to the fascinating universe of the human voice (lia). In other words, it is still an international festival of voices, but in times of alleged ‘fake news’, this Festival consciously goes in search of voices that have something genuine, something real, to say. So it is not just about the ‘loveliest songs’ - instead it explores every aspect of speaking, singing, hesitant, strident or very soft human voices.

At the free opening celebration for the whole family, you can hear at least some of these voices at a few of the many unique concert locations that Mechelen has to offer. The opening concert on the same day, in the gorgeous Church of Our Lady Over the Dyle, promises to be just that bit more spectacular than you expected: a genuine full moon concert overflowing with timeless music. Voice-in-residence Sigrid Hausen will also be thinking outside the box. With her ensemble VocaMe, she will be putting Mechelen Cathedral in the spotlight along with the fascinating music of the visionary Hildegard von Bingen and the Byzantine Kassia. What is more, she will be launching the eighth CD by her famous - or infamous - band Qntal in the city on the Dyle. Expect a real Gothic moon party!

The concerts with Sigrid Hausen aka Syrah are presented in partnership with Mechelen Cultural Centre, as is the Xenitia project, an unmissable concert documentary that follows the trail of Greek migrants. In partnership with kunstencentrum nona, the Lunalia XS programme will be sent into the ether: be astonished by an artistic battle between voice and bagpipes, one of Mongolia’s most unusual voices, the adventurous Imaginary Band or J.S. Bach as you have never quite heard him before, in the Goldberg Incantations with the iconic performer David Moss. As if that weren’t enough, Graindelavoix will be singing the entire Tenebrae Responsoria cycle by Carlo Gesualdo in a single marathon concert.

The award-winning German ensemble Amarcord will add to the vocal fireworks with an ode to the composer Pierre de la Rue. And of course the concert on the night of the full moon has to be extra special: look forward to hearing the Canadian ensemble Constantinople and master singer Marco Beasley. They will open the gate to the East, to the land of the crescent moon.

On behalf of the entire festival team, I would like to wish you a happy Lunalia!

Jelle Dierickx
Director of Festival of Flanders Mechelen

The Legend of the Mechelen Maneblussers

On the night of 27-28 January 1687, St. Rumbold’s Tower was wreathed in fog. A reveller came stumbling out of a tavern onto the market square, somewhat the worse for wear. Suddenly he saw that the tower was on fire. He immediately sounded the alarm.

The city was in uproar. The city council, headed by the mayor, organised a bucket chain at breakneck speed. Buckets of water passed from hand to hand up the tower staircase, but before they had even reached the top, the moon came out from behind a bank of fog and the fiery glow disappeared...

The courageous citizens of Mechelen had seen nothing more than a reddish gleam in the fog: they had been trying to extinguish the moon! The news travelled far beyond the country’s borders. And even today, the people of Mechelen are nicknamed ‘Maneblussers’, the people who tried to extinguish the moon.