The State Institute for the Blind in Sofia was once located on “Marin Drinov” Street. From early morning to late evening there were gentle sounds – from a piano, flute, violin or trombone. The blind children were preparing for their next concert. For years they prepared a musical program that they presented to the Sofia public. This institute was the only one in Bulgaria in those years and was housed in two private buildings. One was used for school, and the other – for bedrooms, dining room and workshops. About 94 blind children from different parts of Bulgaria study in the school.
Little girls were sitting on the benches in the small yard, knitting socks, laces, or stringing beads with astonishing dexterity. They are in a hurry for an exhibition that will present their handicrafts. Others read books in Braille.
Nearby are the basket-making workshops, where blind children make slippers or tune a piano. They can even read music, they are familiar with the graphic special cards. In the school, music is studied from the third division, also shorthand and Esperanto. Their teachers go to great lengths to teach the children some skill, and the working conditions are poor.
In 1914-1915, the Institute graduated its first graduating class. For 20 years, 142 boys and 56 girls graduated from the school. Some of the children devote themselves to music and even manage to graduate from a music academy. The famous composer Petko Stainov was one of the first students of the Institute.
Its director is Mihail Shekerdzhiev, who is visually impaired. He empathizes with all the problems of the children and the school. An extremely hardworking man. In the evening, he plays in the Sofia orchestras, participates in the operettas of the Free Theater, the Renaissance Theater, and the Guards Orchestra.
At the Institute for the Blind he taught violin, singing, music theory, Braille for the blind, choir and orchestra. For his long-term and dedicated work as a teacher at the Institute, he was sent by the Ministry of Public Education for a specialization in Munich. This happened in 1925. In the German city, he studied at the conservatory until the end of the following year. Then he returns to school.
It raises a number of issues related to the blind. In one of his speeches on the occasion of the construction of a home and a workshop for them, connected with the company “Patron”, he publicly raises the question of a radical decision in the social legislation of our country. According to him, the care of the blind is a measure of the public conscience of a country. It is necessary to talk about them and their ability to work. The home for the blind is needed as a “patron” and in it is embedded the belief that the blind are able-bodied and complete people. Under its roof should be sheltered all blind workers who wish to spend their lives with honest work and give proof to society of their creative abilities.
According to Shekerjiev, their opportunity to work should not be killed. And he suggests that in this home the blind learn knowledge to gain dexterity. Their work will enable them to have financial independence and earn their own living. A production workshop is needed for the elderly blind people, which will prepare them for the “dance of life”. This workshop will help them get “in touch with life”. Brushes, ropes, baskets, woven market bags, nets, swings, etc. will be made in it. necessary items in everyday life.
He also raises the question of the placement of the manufactured objects and how the blind man’s productivity will be enhanced. “Basketmen will work office bins, trunks or laundry bins. From this their dexterity will gain and the production will be incomparably greater. Brushers will work brushes for the horses in the army, etc. If we ensure a normal production, the most difficult question remains – organization of the placement. How will it be organized? I see no more effective, more efficient way than to monopolize famous objects or articles for the blind.’
It also presents an idea on the question of maintenance of the home and the workshop. “This will be done from Municipal assistance, the municipalities will have to contribute to the Patron Society for each blind person wishing to enter a home at least BGN 12,000 per year, otherwise the maintenance of the home will be problematic.”
The life path of this person began on December 5, 1889 in Gabrovo. He is the son of a scribe in the Gabrovo municipality. He studied in his hometown until the second junior high school grade. His family is large and it is difficult to make a living. That’s why his uncle from Sevlievo, who is a teacher there, takes him. Mikhail graduated from junior high school. There was no money for his education, but he was strongly drawn to music. He is a good violinist. His parents insist that he become a priest.
The boy goes to Sofia. He appeared at a scholarship competition at the Sofia Theological Seminary and was accepted. And music is taught there like nowhere else in our country. His teachers are the best pedagogues and artists. Prof. Petko Naumov and Todor Torchanov, who taught him the violin. Dobri Hristov and Vasil Mirchev in singing, choral singing and music theory. His musical abilities were fully developed and he graduated with honors in 1908.
Shekerdzhiev went to teach in the village of Chervena Voda (Rusensko). In 1912, he joined the Institute for Blind Children as a music teacher. Until his retirement in 1945, he worked at the school for 33 years. He has been a director for the last eight years of his working experience. After his retirement, he did not stop composing children’s songs, which are often heard on the radio. His music is original, with a typical Bulgarian flavor. He also works in the field of music criticism.
His work is extensive. He mainly composed children’s songs for two, three and four voices, for uniform and mixed choirs. Among his songs for a mixed choir are known “Katunari” to the text of P. Slaveikov, “Shepherd songs” to the text of P. Yavorov. But also “Kosachi”, the wristband “Zagortsi”, “Macedonian wedding”, the solo song with a choir “Izrasla e tanka el” and the Gabrovi song “Mari kajolentse monnino”.
Many of his songs have been scattered in magazines and anthologies, others have remained in his archive. Among them can be seen waltzes, marches and concert pieces. He created two children’s operettas – “Kosher” and “The Miracle of Spring”, which were published by “Hr. Danov”.
On the occasion of “Kosher” in February 1930, the “Narod” newspaper wrote: “On Sunday, the junior high school “Graf Ignatiev” performed the operetta “Kosher” by Mikhail Shekerjiev based on the libretto by Chicho Stoyan in the salon of the “Royal” theater. Although a one-act play, “Kosher” is one of the most successful musical children’s operettas by Bulgarian authors.
Shekerdzhiev brought great variety to both the vocal and orchestral parts of the operetta. Richly instrumented, colorfully given, the music fully corresponds to the idea it illustrates, Mr. Shekerjiev has very successfully inserted two ballet scenes Allegretto and Gavotte excellently performed by the ballet school of Mr. Pesho Radoev. The tiny bees danced and caressed the audience’s vision.”
In 1955, a collection of children’s and youth songs was published. Shekerjiev wrote instrumental music as early as 1910. These are four etudes for two violins with guitar accompaniment. Three years later, a serenade for violin and piano, two solo songs with piano accompaniment, was published. They were all printed in Leipzig.
The composer also has orchestral works – “Dance under the Eastern Sky”, the march “Rosova Dolina”, “Legend of the Snow White”, “White Neat House” (by Ran Bosilek) for choir and orchestra, nocturne for singing, violin and piano, “Cavalche ” – solo song for baritone with piano.
But his march “Great is our soldier” remains unforgettable. During the Balkan War, Shekerdzhiev was at the front as a private from the 23rd Infantry Shipchen Regiment from Kazanlak, where other Gabrovi citizens were also serving at the time. During a short break, inspired by the feat of the Bulgarian soldiers and based on the text of Lieutenant Konstantin Georgiev, he composed the famous march. It happens overnight. The very next day the tune was performed by the military band and made a great impression. It turns into a battle march of the 23rd Shipchensky regiment.
In 1957, the authentic text was revised and modernized by Krum Panev and Todor Riznikov. The march sounds at demonstrations, military parades, celebrations and concerts.
In the same year, Mikhail Shekerdzhiev was awarded the Order of Cyril and Methodius II degree. In the summer of 1957, God took his soul to a better world…