Open To The World ’23: VOCES8 & Bel Canto Choir Vilnius

An exceptional Friday night: VOCES8, the Grammy-nominated world’s best British vocal ensemble, and Bel Canto Choir Vilnius, the best choir in Lithuania, reunited in Vilnius for the third time! They presented a new festive program harmoniously combining classical, contemporary, and popular music.

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius presented a special evening in Vilnius – the first vocal music festival Open To The World 2023 concert. On December 1, at the cozy St Catherine’s Church in Vilnius, VOCES8 and the Bel Canto Choir Vilnius performed a unique, stylistically diverse, heart-touching musical program. The concert also featured pianist Motiejus Bazaras, solo roles were performed by the choir’s singers Mindaugas Rumšas (saxophone), Justinas Stanevičius, and Agnė Bagdonavičienė (vocals).

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Voces8 ir Choras Bel Canto

A long-standing friendship with talented VOCES8

Voces8 & Choras Bel Canto

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and VOCES8 have had a long-standing friendship since 2018. Since then, both groups have performed twice in the Open To The World project and given four blockbuster concerts.


VOCES8 is a world-famous octet from the United Kingdom that performs on the world’s most famous stages and is renowned for its highly sensitive, luminous, and elegant sound. The group, hailed by critics as “the Rolls-Royce of British a cappella ensembles,” uses an astonishingly meticulous method that controls and harmonizes the natural vibrato of each of its members and, if necessary, neutralizes it completely. This creates a unique and silky-smooth sound.

The vocal ensemble’s repertoire effortlessly combined music from various styles and eras, from 18th-century polyphonies to original jazz and popular music arrangements.

Choras Bel Canto

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius program included works by the world’s most famous contemporary composers, such as Eric Whitacre, Morten Lauridsen, Ola Gjeilo, and Lithuanian composer Donatas Zakaras. Additionally, the choir performed several popular music arrangements.

This time, the choir surprised the audience with a striking choreography to accompany composer Jake Runestad’s energetic Nyon Nyon and Billy Joel’s famous River Of Dreams. Paulius Šinkūnas created the choreography for the choir.

A one-of-a-kind evening: VOCES8 & Bel Canto Choir Vilnius in the cozy St. Catherine’s Church

The concert featured a spectacular finale, with a special highlight being the treasure of Ukrainian heritage, the song “Shchedryk.” The British and Lithuanians performed this song together as a call to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

“Shchedryk” tells the story of a swallow who flies into a man’s house and, with its song, tells him of a rich and beautiful life when spring comes. Composed of a four-part archaic motif, “Shchedryk” was arranged in 1916 by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. Its melody later found new life in the English Christmas song “Carol of the Bells,” now an integral part of festive repertoire worldwide.

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius first performed “Shchedryk” in 2010. The song’s recording remains the most popular on the choir’s Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube channels and has been used on the soundtracks of several films. One such film is the biographical drama “Sisi & Ich,” which debuted at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Concert Program

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius

Evening Prayer
Ola Gjeilo

O Magnum Mysterium
Morten Lauridsen

Conversion of Saul
Z. Randall Stroope

Laiškai Sofijai
Donatas Zakaras

Trent Reznor, aranžuotė Eric Whitacre

The Seal Lullaby
Eric Whitacre

Labrinth, aranžuotė Owen Ladd

White Winter Hymnal
Fleet Foxes | Pentatonix

Nyon Nyon
Jake Runestad


May It Be
Enya, arr. Matthew Sheeran

Rorate Caeli Desuper
William Byrd

The Unexpected Early Hour
Reena Esmail

The Sleeping Child
Bob Chilcott

Lully, Lulla, Lullay
Philip Stopford

Maria Durch ein Dornwald Ging
Traditional, arr. Stefan Claas

The Oxen
Jonathan Rathbone

All Seems Beautiful to Me
Eric Whitacre

Don McLean, arr. Jim Clements

Silver Bells
Jay Livingston & Ray Evans, arr. Blake Morgan

Let it Snow
Jule Steyn, arr. Jim Clements

Santa Claus is Coming to Town
John Coots & Haven Gillespie, arr. Jim Clements

VOCES8 & Bel Canto Choir Vilnius Together

The Long Road
Ēriks Ešenvalds

This Is My Song
Jean Sibelius, arr. Blake Morgan

Shchedryk (Carol Of The Bells)
Traditional, arr. Mykola Leontovych

Artists & Performers

VOCES8 (artistic director Barnaby Smith)
Bel Canto Choir Vilnius (artistic director & conductor Milda Švelnienė)
Motiejus Bazaras (piano)

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius’ artistic director Milda Švelnienė, choirmasters Raminta Gocentienė and Stasė Žaltauskaitė-Malūnavičienė, vocal coaches Eglė Stundžiaitė and Eimantas Bešėnas. Open To The World producers: Bel Canto Choir Vilnius and Audrius Valatkevičius.

Sponsors & Partners

Open To The World 2023

Bel Canto Choir Vilnius’ Open To The World is a unique choral music project in Lithuania that has become a tradition. This year it will evolve into Vilnius’s first-ever vocal-choral music festival. It aims to introduce modern choral music, the world’s best choirs, vocal ensembles, and composers to Lithuanian audiences, promote Western culture, and create, innovate, and improve. Together.

Open To The World 2023 guests include Grammy-nominated VOCES8, the world’s best and most popular British vocal ensemble; Zero8, Sweden’s best and most popular men’s choir; Sweden’s premier vocal ensemble Ringmasters, Dagilėlis, the best boys choir in Lithuania, and Norwegian vocalist and guitarist Marius Beck.

The festival is sponsored by engineering, prefab, and construction company INHUS, Business Garden Vilnius office park, Newsec, the largest property consultancy in Scandinavia, and the Baltics, Vilnius City Municipality, and the Lithuanian Council for Culture. The project’s media partner is LRT TV, and its advertising partner is Ogilvy advertising agency.

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