Composing Christmas carols in the Czech Republic and beyond

20-12-2003

Christmas is almost upon us - a time of cosy evenings round the fire and carol singing. The Czech composer, Vaclav Halek, composes and arranges traditional Czech Christmas carols, but also carols from around the world.

"I am very glad when I find somebody who knows a carol or a Christmas song, especially when it is not from the Czech Republic but from abroad."

You've composed your own Christmas carols, you've adapted traditional Czech Christmas carols, you've adapted carols from around the world, including carols from Iraq. Which other countries have you composed carols from?

"I have one Christmas song from Easter Island, and another one from Catalonia in Spain...it's this one - El Cant Dels Aucells. It's in the Catalan language, so it's very difficult to translate. I don't have the exact translation."

How did you compose it?

"I met a Spanish student here in Prague - he was from Catalonia. He brought me this Christmas song, and I asked him if he could sing it to me. So we were working together. This version was instrumented for two oboes, alto and contrabass."

Can you play it for me?

"Yes."

Vaclav Halek plays El Cant Dels Aucells.

What would you say these carols have in common?

"I think they have a common hope, and also something common for everyone in the world, and that is to open their hearts and listen. To each other."