Logically, the Hosanna Festival in Poland should have been canceled, but organizers of the annual music festival turned a potential coronavirus disaster into an impressive online success.
The vision of the 2020 festival, planned for April 10-11, 2020, changed almost overnight due to new restrictions. With the Easter weekend festival forced to cancel at the prestigious Częstochowa Philharmonic concert hall, organizers decided to invite performers to the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary at Podkowa Leśna and broadcast their live performances via the internet. That idea failed also, as a ban on public gatherings was introduced across the country.
“Rather than give up, organizers recognized the need to experience the joy of worship and a sense of community more than ever before,” emphasized Marek Micyk, festival organizer and youth ministries director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Poland. Micyk shared that the final idea for Hosanna Online was born just a week before it began.
The Warsaw Centrum Adventist church turned out to be the “command center” of this year’s festival. A small group of people appeared on the spot — the main organizers, a technical team, and several contractors. All the performers were asked to record their music at home to be shared during the festival’s online broadcast.
“The response was amazing,” Micyk stated. “We received a lot of recordings.”
God Is, and He Works in Our Lives
The theme for this year’s Hosanna Online festival was the slogan “I AM,” referring to one of God’s names.
“Who am I? Who is God? Who am I for God? What is my identity?” These questions formed part of the reflections shared by various speakers.
Geert Tap from Stanborough Park Adventist church in England was supposed to be one of the festival’s guests. He could not travel but sent a recording that was broadcast during the Friday evening program of words and music.
“What really matters is not who you are, but who is in you ... Christ in you. Christ through you. Christ to all,” Tap stated.
In addition, local hosts shared personal reflections and experiences with festival participants, with Micyk emphasizing the valued promise of friendship with Jesus.
Church of Gifts and Talents
Hosanna is a festival of words and music, and in 2020 around a dozen performers sang from apartments, houses, and even gardens scattered across Poland. These included bands and soloists in the four-part program broadcast via the Adwentyści Warszawa Centrum YouTube channel. The online venue also encouraged some new performers to participate who might not have dared to perform on the big festival stage.
Karolina Harasim has been performing at Hosanna for several years. She shared that the unusual formula of the festival was an exciting experience for her.
“The idea of recording a song at home awakened my creativity,” she said. Video editing turned out to be the most challenging problem for her. “Each of us recorded audio and video separately on equipment of different quality,” she explained. “Perhaps there were no emotions like during a live performance, but you could have presented another form, like a music video that was missing at the festival so far.”
Daniel Kluska is another festival regular. “Hosanna Online was a bigger challenge for me than the previous meetings in Częstochowa,” he said. “In addition to preparing and working on the material I wanted to present, I had to think carefully about how to properly record the sound, the shots of individual cameras, and the final editing of the whole mix, so that it retained the character of a live performance.”
Behind the Scenes
It took the efforts of the whole team to turn a stage festival into an online broadcast, explained Tomasz Dutkowski, head of communication and media for the Warsaw Centrum Adventist church.
“The biggest challenge was to put the whole program together, as well as preparing graphics, films, and recordings with artists’ performances,” he said. Despite intense work under time pressure, “we knew that we were facing something big, but we felt that it was something that people need in the current situation.”
The result exceeded all expectations. The festival not only met with an excellent reception from the viewers but also proved to be a great success in terms of audience, leaders said. With almost 1,000 connecting during peak viewing times, the number reached grew far higher as many people watched the festival with their families and loved ones.
“The key to success was a group of determined and committed young people who were not scared,” Micyk reflected. “The final result is evidence that where some see difficulties, others see the possibilities!”
In 2021, festival planners hope to return to the Częstochowa Philharmonic. Now that the online festival has been born, however, organizers said the project could continue.
“We could have a second, online winter festival,” they said.