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Music For ITU

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Ceremonies are made more memorable when music is part of the proceedings. Three original pieces of music were specially composed for important occasions at ITU, beginning with its centenary.

Hymne de l'UIT - Bernard Schulé (1965)

A bright and compelling fanfare opened the ITU Anthem (Hymne de l’UIT) on 17 May 1965 – the one-hundredth anniversary of the Union’s foundation. The piece for brass instruments was played for the first time at a ceremony in Berne to unveil a bronze plate bearing the names of all 127 member countries on that date. The plate was attached to the monument erected in honour of the Union’s fiftieth anniversary.
A section of Schulé's score for the Hymne de l'UIT
(Click on image to see full-page)
The stately, upbeat march had been written by Swiss composer Bernard Schulé. He was born in Zurich in 1909, but as a young man left for Paris, where he worked as a teacher of music, organist and choirmaster. During his twenty-nine years in the city he met many famous composers, including Arthur Honegger, Aaron Copland, Serge Prokofiev and Igor Stravinski. He returned to Switzerland in 1960 and concentrated on his own compositions, especially film music. Based in Geneva, he died there aged eighty-seven in 1996.
His son, Adrian Schulé, later recalled that his father had felt “very honoured” to be commissioned to write the ITU Anthem. All his compositions were lodged with the Cantonal Library of the University of Lausanne in 1983. However, only the anthem’s piano score was among them. At the request of ITU, an orchestral arrangement of the piece was created by a group of brass players, the Lyre paroissiale de Courtion, based in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. They went on to make a recording in 2013.
Schulé was once described as “a happy composer whose music invites you to the party.”[1] The anthem he wrote for ITU expressed a joy at its success, and the promise of a bright future.

Refren - Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1965)

Another piece of music composed in 1965 for ITU’s centenary celebrations was quite different. In it, ethereal chords, like radio waves gradually being tuned, erupt into an urgent confusion of sounds evoking a busy hive of bees, overlaid with pulses that resemble Morse code. This ends with a clash of cymbals introducing a quiet and steady rhythm like the breathing of a powerful animal.
Mr. Henryk Baczko (centre), Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of the People's Republic of Poland and Mr. Jerzy Ziolkowski (right), Vice-Chairman of the IFRB, watch while Mr. Gerald Gross, ITU Secretary-General, examines the musical work composed by Górecki
Entitled Refren (or Refrain), it was Opus 21 of the avant-garde Polish composer Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, then aged thirty-one and not yet well known outside his homeland. It was the first international commission he had received since graduating from the Academy of Music in Katowice, in the Silesia region of Poland where Górecki had been born.
The piece had its premier on 27 October 1965 in Geneva, performed by the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, conducted by Pierre Colombo. The audience might have been a little shocked by the lack of melody, and the daring and radical departure from tradition. According to the composer himself, it was a reflection of an imagined ''experience of flying at high altitude between the sea and the stratosphere.'' In this contemplative work, Górecki had expressed a modern vision of harmony that reflected ITU’s coming of age in the world of global communications.
According to the musicologist Adrian Thomas, Opus 21 is one of Górecki’s most important and fundamental compositions: “In retrospect, Refren appears to be a pivotal work, drawing from its predecessors and anticipating later compositions, sometimes at a remove of many years.” [2]  The composer returned to a similar technique in the work for which he later became internationally famous: Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, written in 1976 and often associated with memorial ceremonies at Auschwitz, not far from Górecki’s birthplace in southern Poland.  
Click here to listen to a recording of Górecki's Refren

Hymne des télécommunications - Jean-Pierre Canel (1973)


Jean-Pierre Canel
In 1973, it was a Swiss member of ITU staff, Jean-Pierre Canel, who composed a new piece of music. He was a keen harmonica player and a versatile amateur composer influenced by the melodies of Chopin and Tchaikovsky. Knowing that he was a talented musician, ITU Secretary-General Mohamed Mili had asked Canel for something to be played on World Telecommunication Day on 17 May, when a new building (the Tower) was to be formally opened at ITU headquarters in Geneva. The result was the Telecommunications Anthem (Hymne des télécommunications).
On that occasion, the anthem was performed as a simple instrumental. However, an impressive orchestral version with full choir premiered at another opening ceremony in September: that of the 1973 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Malaga-Torremolinos, Spain. The orchestration had been carried out by Joe Stupin, a friend of Canel, with lyrics by José María Ramos in Spanish. These were based on the original French text by Vladimir Rédalié, who was also an ITU staff member. Among the dignitaries at the event was Spain’s Prince Juan Carlos. He heard the anthem played by the Malaga Symphony Orchestra and the Santa Maria de la Victoria Choir, conducted by Perfecto Artola Prats.
The Telecommunications Anthem perfomed by the Malaga Symphony Orchestra and Santa Maria de la Victoria Choir, conducted by Perfecto Artola Prat, at the 1973 Plenipotentiary Conference at Malaga-Toremolinos
[1] Jean-François Vaney: Bernard Schulé, 75 ans: un compositeur heureux dont la musique invite à la fête, in: Cahiers suisses de pédagogie musicale (juin 1984), 64-65.
[2] Adrian Thomas, recki, Kraków 1998, PWM
[3] Tribune de Genève, Un Genevois… a composé l’Hymne des télécommunications, Geneva, 6 December 1973