Collaboration with the Montenegro Summer Camp for Chamber Music


Nestled in the heart of Lovcen National Park, a chamber music camp takes place every year, inviting musicians from Montenegro and across Europe to come together and share musical practices and ideas. Over 7 days the musicians rehearse in various chamber groups, performing a variety of styles and composers.

The camp welcomes musicians of all standards and invites professional musicians as mentors for the musicians. Manchester Camerata had the pleasure of taking part in the 2019 edition of the Chamber Music Camp, where we delivered a series of music-making workshops and Naomi Atherton, principal horn in the orchestra, performed in a Trio for piano, violin and horn. Our involvement marked the next stage in a UK-Montenegro collaboration with KICS which began in 2018 and aims to explore approaches to participatory music-making in arts, education and health care settings.

During the Chamber Music Summer Camp, Naomi Atherton led two days music-making workshops with a group of young musicians. The workshops engaged 15-20 young people and their mentors in improvising, participatory practice and musicianship.

The initial session included an introduction to the Camerata in the Community methodology. This included:

  • Singing warm ups (Bella mama and ‘hello’ song) to bring the group together and acknowledge everyone’s presence in the music-making
  • Rhythm and pulse activities, and an ‘attention game’ to encourage the musicians to focus, work instinctively and be aware of each other, whilst taking turns in leading
  • Group improvisation work – creating a piece with just two notes and a ‘surprise’ within a group of 3-4 – to introduce the concept of improvising and creating music with one another.
“two notes & a surprise” for cello and percussion

The second session focused on improvising and leading the musical improvisation, whilst being aware of everyone in the room. Using a drone as the base layer, participants were directed to improvise freely in the Dorian mode – passing along a ‘solo’ section for each musician. Gradually the following was introduced:

  • Hand signals for different sounds
  • melody from Bartok violin duet
  • rhythm from Bartok violin duet

Participants then took turns to use all elements to create an improvised piece of music.

During (and after the session) many participants commented on the freedom they felt whilst improvising, and the change in dynamic was apparent in the high levels of energy. Many found it different from anything they had done previously and found it particularly challenging. Despite this, there was real enjoyment and interest.

Through this initial collaboration, the Montenegro Chamber Music Summer Camp has successfully engaged with young people and opened the dialogue to increasing access to arts and cultural opportunities for children and vulnerable people in Montenegro. The arts largely remain open for a small percentage of Montenegrins, with some engrained misconceptions that the arts aren’t for everyone. The workshops and meetings have provided a much-needed platform for introducing access in the arts.

            The collaboration has successfully brought professionals and amateurs together to develop their skills. The workshops were well received, with participants feeling encouraged to learn more about participatory and improvisation methods. They provided a safe space for expression and social interaction amongst the group, which was reflected in their playing and actions towards each other. Self-expression came out in the workshops in a way that was not seen before in their chamber playing, and there was a sense of freedom to their playing. By the end of the workshops there was a sense of satisfaction and pride in themselves, and a new-found confidence.

            Manchester Camerata’s time in Montenegro enabled us to raise awareness of the benefit of the arts in the education and healthcare sectors. Through demonstrating the value of participatory music-making, we encouraged cultural organizations and professional musicians to consider a new approach to arts and culture in Montenegro. The workshops resulted in discussions and meetings surrounding future collaborations.

Going forwards, we will explore funding avenues that will support a collaborative training programme for musicians from the Western Balkans. This will include engaging with musicians from the Cetinje Music Academy, and developing relationships with local schools, centres and other important organisations such as the British Embassy.