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A unique perspective on Poland’s culture landscape
2010.06.26 / Teresa Bazarnik
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Marshall Marcus, music director of Southbank Centre in London, on Nigel Kennedy's Polish Weekend. By Teresa Bazarnik

Was the Polish Weekend a success from your perspective, a music director of the biggest art centre in Europe?
– Nigel Kennedy’s Polish Weekend at Southbank was a tremendous success indeed! Over the course of three days more than 10.000
people came to celebrate Polish music with Nigel Kennedy and bands, musicians and friends he brought over especially for this
occasion. And the audience clearly liked the miniature Poland that Nigel and his musicians created for them: People did not only flock to see the UK debut of Nigel’s new young
Orchestra of Life, Polish break dancers, taste original Polish food and take part in a violin making workshop, but also stayed exceptionally late every night, excited about Nigel’s improvised jam sessions in the Front Room.

 Have you ever run a similar project engaging so many musicians from a single foreign country?
– We do have a habit here of doing projects that engage with particular cultures. This year we have run projects with musicians form the Azerbaijan, with the Indian subcontinent (an annual festival), and we are about to begin a massive Brazil Festival over the summer.
What was different about this project however, was that we had one major artist – Nigel – as the curator.

What was the most difficult aspect of the whole project?
 – A festival of this size and intensity involves quite a few logistical challenges. It takes a lot of organizational flexibility having to deal with several high profile concerts a day on different stages and a large number of musicians, some of them appearing in multiple events. So we were very lucky encountering an audience who were incredibly welcoming whenever
slight delays or changes couldn’t be avoided.

Nigel Kennedy is a maverick violinist so how was it to work with him as an artistic director of such a complex project?
 – Nigel is a fantastic musician and a fascinating person with a unique perspective on Poland’s culture landscape. I have actually known him (including as a fellow violinist – though not in his class! – for quite some time now) and we have been playing around with this idea of bringing his Polish experience and expertise to Southbank for a couple of years.
I greatly enjoyed the range and variety of music and culture he assembled for Southbank Centre’s Poland celebration.

I have seen you during most of the Polish Weekend’s events including late night jam sessions. What was your favorite one?
 – Impossible question! I loved Kroke, and thought that the encore of Monte’s Czardas was unique and dazzling, an improvised homage to the Queen Elizabeth Hall’s contemporary music tradition. I also really enjoyed Zakpower’s highlander style, and particularly Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka, who is a phenomenal performer. He reminded me of John Boden from the folk group Bellowhead here in the UK. Anna Maria Jopek is a great artist. And so I could go on…


Marshall Marcus
– head of Music at Southbank Centre. He took up his position after four years as Chief Executive of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, nine years as its Chairman and nineteen years on its Board. Before leading the OAE he enjoed a 25 year career as a soloist and orchestral violinist, as a chamber musician, performing in more than 50 countries with varied groups. He was a member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Concert-Master of the Orquesta Philarmonica de Caracas, leader of the Orchestra of St. Johns and a violinist with and Executive Director of Endymion Ensemble. He graduated in Philosophy and Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, in teaching of English at Cambridge University and in performance at the Royal College of Music.

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