Jelle Dierickx has headed the Festival of Flanders Mechelen/Kempen since 2017. It was his idea to transform the spring festival Mechelen hoort stemmen into LUNALIA. The focus on vocal music has remained, but the concept of the voice has been expanded. Looking to the future, LUNALIA is living up to its name more than ever, as an unconventional city festival of many voices.
This will be the sixth edition of LUNALIA, but only the fourth time it can be held in normal circumstances. How do you look back on the period behind us?
The pandemic years were particularly nerve-wracking for everyone in the cultural sector. Despite the Covid crisis, LUNALIA created a strong brand name for itself as a festival in and for Mechelen, one which pays tribute to the city’s specific character and is looking forward to a future full of energy. The festival motto of the first edition in 2018, Timeless Music with the Power of the Full Moon, is still relevant today. I believe it is essential here for a festival to think ‘differently’, for example by extending the historic link the festival has with the human voice to all the ways in which humans use their voices, so not just as a musical instrument but also as a means of communication. After all, music combines the challenges of the heart with those of the mind. For us, as a festival, this comes down to keeping a critical finger on the pulse of society and being part of the solution. The notion of togetherness is strong at LUNALIA. That’s why I like to talk about us as a festival family, a family that keeps its audience and artists close to its heart, a family that embraces its members warmly and gives them a sense of coming home.
And singing is one of the most intense forms of connection.
You really experience that intensity with a cappella ensembles, because that is where the storytelling power of music emerges in its purest form. It is the energy that characterises LUNALIA as a story being written in one festival after another, but one that can be read across the years as well. It is also a festival that contributes actively to the story of Mechelen itself.
What are the main themes of the 2023 edition?
2023 is the year in which Karel Goeyvaerts would have celebrated his 100th birthday. As artists in residence, I SOLISTI will present two programmes of Karel Goeyvaerts’ work, and we commissioned compositions for the occasion from Benjamin Van Esser and Tim Mulleman, inspired by Goeyvaerts’ work. This year, LUNALIA will also be focusing on gender issues, with several concerts and presentations that address the topic directly or indirectly. So the spotlight is on female power as well as the historical significance of a pioneer’s work. LUNALIA stands for mysticism, joy and playfulness, and Hear the Voice!, the new production by Sigrid Hausen that will have its world première at LUNALIA, brings together every facet of the festival’s DNA magnificently. This production has everything: the power of song, dance, myths and musical sounds from all four corners of the world. A project like Hear the Voice! gives our audience an experience that continues to reverberate afterwards: you go home feeling that you have been part of a collective experience. The accessibility of the programme contributes greatly to that. Every year, the festival opens with a free city trail, the Lift Off. That is when audiences can sample short concerts or productions at various locations to give them a foretaste of the festival programme. That gives both curious newcomers and loyal fans a shot of culture as well as enabling them to discover – or rediscover – part of the city. That is also my wish for the future, that the people of Mechelen will fully embrace LUNALIA as their own city festival.