Monday, September 05, 2011

Singing Hildegard in Poland

This is really seriously after the fact, and I apologize, but no one ever accused me of being timely, so there you have it!

My good friend and colleague, Allegra Silbiger (a member of my girl-group Elysium), asked me to fill in for a singer in her ensemble for medieval vocal music, "Diadema", for a pair of concerts near Krakow, Poland. I thought about it for about 2 seconds, said yes, and then wondered how I was going to manage with the Boy.

As it turned out, it was even more difficult to find someone to babysit than originally anticipated because the concerts were in the middle of the school summer vacation in Lower Saxony and all my regular girls were away. However, one had a friend who was still in town and we were able to have her babysit on a teaching day before I left, so that Dante could get to know her a bit.

So, at about noon on Thursday I left home first for Berlin to meet up with the other women in the ensemble and fly onward to Krakow. Magnus was traveling until I don't remember when that day. The train and air travel all went off without a hitch and we arrived at the Tyniec Abbey (full of Benedictine Monks), where we were staying and singing on Sunday, 25 July 2011, at dinner time, albeit a bit late.

We were shown our rooms and advised that the doors to the guest house are locked at 9:30pm and that if we were going to leave the building that we should be sure to return closer to 9:00pm. Silence was to be observed after 10pm. Morning bells would ring at 5:45 and breakfast would be from 7:30 to 8:30. Phew! It was going to be a restful weekend! And I wondered if I would be able to spend even a couple of hours visiting Krakow, "Poland's most beautiful city"? More on that later.

The rooms were small but clean and serviceable. I did, in fact, go to sleep around 10:30 every night and slept until 7:30 (with a brief interruption for the bells) so I did come home pretty rested! Woot! We were fed in the refectory, but women were not allowed to eat with the Monks. They were somewhere else. Unfortunately, 2 of 3 meals consisted of bread (pasty white stuff mostly), cheese, cold cuts, tomatoes and cucumbers. Lunches were hot and quite tasty, but it took me merely a day and a half to realize that I wasn't going to see a fresh fruit for 5 days and so I went into the village and bought some. Which was delicious. Fresh and regional peaches! Mmmmmh!

We rehearsed most of the day on Friday, in the concert hall in the beautifully renovated/remodelled building where the guest house was as well. Considering we had only rehearsed together the one time in Berlin, it went very well. To our credit, the others in the group have sung together numerous times, Allegra and I are like a two-headed, Hildegard-singing monster, and I'd done the Benefit concert in Barbara Thornton's honor a couple of years ago with them and other add-ons as well. I guess it shouldn't have been such a surprise. Nevertheless, I did feel a bit like I didn't know a couple of the pieces well enough, but that soon passed.

The weather sucked. Except for Saturday, which was at least sunny, if not exactly warm. After the concert on Saturday we sat out on the patio of the cafe on the premises (closed by that time) and watched the sun set spectacularly.

The Saturday concert was at the Benedictine Convent about a half hour's drive from Tyniec. The tiny church had a very interesting acoustic, which was a bit hard to suss. The place was filled pretty much and the audience included about 10 children under the age of 8, who were unbelievably well-behaved. I guess all that church-going trains them pretty well. The performance went very well and we were satisfied. We got a standing ovation. A Consul from the German Consulate in Krakow and her family were in attendance and we spoke to them at length. They were pleasantly surprised and taken with the music, which they'd never heard.

Sunday's concert was at Tyniec in this beautiful hall. The acoustic was wonderful for Hildegard and vocal music. It was a pleasure to sing there.

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