The Chamber Orchestra of Bitola – ⋮IWConnect exists for almost four decades, and over the past ten years, its presence in the music scene in Macedonia and the Balkans has become increasingly noticeable. Considering the quality of their festivals and performances, this is hardly surprising. Balkan Gala is a festival that was born from the most popular projects of the Chamber Orchestra and is slowly but surely becoming a traditional event. This year, it broke attendance records for such cultural events in Macedonia. After the successful Balkan Gala, we conducted a brief interview with Vladimir Cvetkovski, a violinist in the Chamber Orchestra of Bitola – ⋮IWConnect and one of the organizers of the Balkan Gala, to learn more about the Chamber Orchestra, the Balkan Gala, and their future projects.

Vladimir, how would you describe yourself, and how long have you been a part of the Chamber Orchestra of Bitola – ⋮IWConnect? 

Well, I would say I am an enthusiast, a lover of music, and someone who believes in the tradition, quality, and potential that Macedonian music possesses. I am a violinist in the orchestra of the National Opera and Ballet, and I have been part of the Chamber Orchestra of Bitola since 2005 as a violinist, and later also as an organizer of the concert events of the Chamber Orchestra, including the Balkan Gala.

How long has the Chamber Orchestra of Bitola – ⋮IWConnect been in existence?

The Chamber Orchestra has been around for more than 4 decades. Initially, it was composed of musicians with little formal musical training, enthusiasts who had entirely different professions but still nurtured a love for music. They managed to form the orchestra, which has gradually developed over the years and is now a well-known brand throughout the Balkans.

The idea to revitalize, popularize, and bring the orchestra closer to a wider audience was conceived in 2013. It was brought to fruition by conductor Vladimir Dimovski and violist and professor at the Secondary Music School in Bitola, Nikola Trajanovski.

The orchestra’s first popular concert titled “For Bitola” featured some of the most beautiful old-town songs, with several Macedonian artists as guests. Following this concert, there was the first Rock Symphony, with which the orchestra captivated the audience. Our desire to continue the tradition of the Chamber Orchestra, supported by the Macedonian people’s interest in quality music, led to the continuation of the founders’ dream. As a result, the orchestra has now been actively present for a decade and has a large number of concerts and performances in Macedonia and the Balkans.

The Chamber Orchestra of Bitola is well-known for its high-quality concerts that leave no one indifferent. How many concerts and performances has the Chamber Orchestra had so far?

Over the past ten years, the orchestra has held more than 100 concerts in its own production and has performed at almost all domestic and larger festivals across the Balkans. Some of the festivals are NISHVILLE (Niš, Serbia), ROCK VILLAGE (Banatski Sokolac, Serbia), BELGRADE BEER FEST (Serbia), KOTOR ART (Kotor, Montenegro), ZIMSKA BAJKA (Tivat, Montenegro), BASCARSIJSKE NOCI (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), Užičko leto (Užice, Serbia), and so on.

The orchestra has numerous projects and collaborations, with some of them becoming annual traditional projects. Among the most popular:

  • The Rock Symphony project captivated the vast festival audiences. Its standalone concert in Kombank Hall (House of the Syndicate) in Belgrade was characterized by Serbian media as one of the best rock concerts in recent years.
  • The New Year’s concert in Bitola, an event made in collaboration with the Cultural Center in Bitola, features soloists and the ballet ensemble of the National Opera and Ballet. It’s eagerly anticipated each year and thrills the audience during the holiday season.
  • “Forever in our hearts” is a concert dedicated to Toše Proeski. The event, where many of our singers perform in the Cultural Center’s hall in Bitola, takes place two consecutive nights. This year, tickets for the concert were sold out in less than an hour.
  • Collaborations with the World Music Festival, where internationally renowned artists perform accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra, and the renowned Interfest festival. Every year, the orchestra finds its role there, both as a guest and accompanying famous artists from the classical music world.

The orchestra cultivates a repertoire from classical to popular music, including projects such as the Rock Symphony, Pop Symphony, James Bond Symphony, and John Williams Symphony. So far, in standalone concerts where classical music was performed, many domestic and foreign conductors and soloists have been featured, including Alessandro D’Agostini (Italy), Ender Sakpinar (Turkey), Anatoly Krastev (Bulgaria), Boris Spasov (Bulgaria), Ivan Kozuharov (Bulgaria), Saša Nikolovski-Đumar, Sašo Tatarchevski, Bisera Chadlovska, Le Fifi, Antal Zalai (violin), Roby Lakatos (violin), Kerem Görsev (piano), and others. The orchestra has also had numerous performances at festivals supporting classical music. 

Balkan Gala is an event that takes place for the second consecutive year. How did Balkan Gala originate?

Balkan Gala is essentially a natural product of the most popular projects of the Chamber Orchestra. It’s a festival with a unique character, the only one of its kind, where the audience has the opportunity to see popular performers accompanied by an orchestra. Balkan Gala essentially represents a two-day festival; the first day is the Rock Symphony for rock music enthusiasts, and the second day is the Pop Symphony for pop music lovers. What sets this event apart from others are the performers who appear, coming from both Macedonia and the Balkans.

However, despite having performers from the Balkans, we don’t exclude the possibility of including international performers as guests in the future. This is because the festival isn’t confined to certain boundaries but rather has an open field for collaborations with artists from all over the world.

Given that events were postponed due to COVID-19, how did the first Balkan Gala go, and how about this one?

Balkan Gala took place for the first time in 2021 at the handball court in Bitola, during the pandemic, when major events were not being held and everything was uncertain. This uncertainty also characterized the preparations for Balkan Gala ’21. Due to the lack of opportunities for performing and sharing emotions with the audience during COVID-19, the idea for the Balkan Gala emerged. The attendance for the first edition was substantial, given the circumstances and the restrictions we all had gotten used to. The reactions were overwhelming, and the audience felt the uniqueness of what we wanted to achieve with the inception of Balkan Gala – raising and pushing the boundaries of musical events. With the second edition, namely Balkan Gala ’22, the direction in which the festival is inevitably moving was defined – unique and glamorous, a festival with a tendency to evolve into a recognizable brand, bringing to the audience a world-class show with a stage graced by the biggest stars from the local, Balkan, and global scene. For more information on how this year’s Balkan Gala went, you can read at the following links: