by Louise Soares, feature photo by Giang Pham
How do you get 35 people from 25 different nationalities to speak the same language at once, and still be able to understand each other? In Aarhus, the Pro Pace International Choir found a very simple answer to this: do it through music.
Rhythm and peace
Pro Pace was founded in 2014 by Polish designer Kasia Skowda and a musician friend. Members of the choir are students from Laerdansk Aarhus, the Danish language school, and current members come from 25 different countries including Sri Lanka, Norway and Bulgaria, to name just a few. ‘Pro Pace’ is the Latin expression for ‘For Peace’. But, depending on the speaker’s pronunciation, it can also mean ‘For Rhythm’. “I like that is has a double meaning. That’s our idea, to use rhythm for peace,” says Kasia Skowda.
Skowda and her friend founded the choir after they realised how difficult it was for refugees and foreigners living in Denmark to connect with other internationals. While music is at the heart of Pro Pace, its soul comes from the medley of accents gathered in every rehearsal.
“I was looking for an international environment in Aarhus and realised that many refugees take Danish lessons at Laerdansk. That’s why we went there. For me, it’s a dream come true. I am not a musician and that’s not my goal; the idea was to integrate people, and it’s working great,” enthuses Skowda.
Pro Pace was chosen Choir of the Month for February 2017 by International Community Aarhus, and held a presentation for the public at Dokk1.
The voice of Pro Pace
Since September 2016, Daria Turowska has been conducting the Pro Pace choir. Herself a former member of the choir, Turowska is credited as being the one that helped raise awareness about the initiative for Laerdansk students.
“It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing so well. It’s all about integrating people. I’m maybe not the best musician and I don’t have as much experience as the previous conductor had, but what has really worked is this idea of connecting people through music,” expressed Turowska.
In 2016, Turowska participated in ‘The Voice of Polonia’, an international Polish singing competition. She ranked 4th place in the contest and won a special prize for potential in music creation.
“This gave me confidence for the choir and made me believe that I am more qualified. It also gave me the opportunity to show my own songs. I used to write them, and it had been a long time since I’d shown them to anyone,” says Turowska.
Despite her energetic enthusiasm for Pro Pace, Turowska’s future ahead of the choir is still uncertain. The choir lost its budget for the year and Turowska’s contract as a full-time choir conductor has not been renewed. She wishes to continue, but does not know how she will keep the project going without a budget.
“The future of the choir remains one big question mark. I want to continue, but we won’t receive any money for that. It takes time, and we would like to have a sponsor. I can continue to have a rehearsal once a week at Laerdansk, but it doesn’t work if you don’t have the time,” explained Turowska.
Time for music
For members of the choir, one of the highlights of their experience at Pro Pace is enjoying a sense of community. They organise meetings and get-togethers where everyone cooks a typical dish from their country and shares curiosities about their cultures.
Portuguese student and actress Joana Matias, 27, says the choir gives her not only an opportunity to be artistic, but also to get in touch with different ways of life.
“It gives us a great respect for cultures we thought were so different. The most important message this choir gives us is that we are all equals. Regardless of your nationality, we are human beings and we ought to respect each other as people. It’s a message of integration, tolerance and respect to other cultures,” said Matias.
Brazilian Catarina Fernandes, 26, is doing a work experience exchange programme here in Denmark. She has been a member of Pro Pace since September 2016 and credits the choir for giving her a network of friends beyond the small Danish town she lives in.
“When we first arrive in Denmark, we tend to feel a little lost somehow. Here in the choir, everyone is supportive, looking for people to befriend. My exchange programme is about Danish culture, but, in the end, I’ve met so many people with different cultural backgrounds that it ended up being better for me, overall,” concluded Fernandes.
For more information on how to join or sponsor the choir, contact them through Pro Pace’s Facebook page or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Saturday we attended Pro Pace’s presentation at Dokk1. If you missed it you can catch up with the performance on our Facebook livestream, and get to know the members of the choir in the interview below (videos by Pascale Doris Lo).