Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Concert: Mozart - Requiem and J.S. Bach - Easter Oratorio in Dillenburg

I flew back to Germany this past weekend to sing in one of my old haunts - Dillenburg. My relationship as a singer with this church is largely due to my experience in singing the music of Hildegard von Bingen. I was contacted by Joachim Dreher, the church musician of the Catholic Church - Herz-Jesu-Kirche, through a recommendation (thanks Edmund!). He wanted to perform a program of music by Hildegard with a newly formed women's Schola-choir and he wanted a soloist. This was in 1998, the 900th anniversary of Hildegard's birth. I spent much of that year on tour doing Hildegard's liturgical drama "Ordo Virtutum" with the ensemble for medieval music Sequentia, so I was primed. I let Joachim know that I also did other styles and he promptly hired me to do Pergolesi's Stabat Mater. That was the beginning of a long series of projects we did together, which broke down when I moved to London with Magnus. I guess back then we all considered London too far away to return to Dillenburg for concerts!

When Joachim decided to reprise the Hildegard concert in 2011, he got in touch to ask if I could do it too. That was the famous concert I appeared in Dillenburg to do a whole year early! See my blog entry "If I only had a brain!" for the full story. Anyway, that project opened up the lines of communication between Joachim and I again and after a 5 year hiatus I began performing in Dillenburg again. I jumped in for a soprano who'd canceled a few months before a performance of a Bach Mass pastiche and when I heard Joachim saying he was entertaining doing a big Mozart project I jumped to tell him that I adore singing Mozart and have been told I have the perfect voice and style for it.

In 2012, just after we discovered that we'd be moving to Paris before the end of the year, Joachim contacted me about singing in 2 concerts in 2013. It took me about 2 seconds to consider if I could afford to travel back to Dillenburg to sing Mozart's Requiem and Bach's Easter Oratorio. It's a valid question, since travel costs are not assumed by the church. Those would come out of my paycheck, I'm afraid. Traveling can be quite inexpensive within Europe if you book well in advance. No problem there.

Enough history! So I'm in Frankfurt spending the night there with my dear friend Pamela and her family and I discover early before leaving for Dillenburg that I've left my concert dress shoes in Paris. Ugh. A few phone calls later I realize I'm going to have to duck out after rehearsal to buy a pair, unless someone in Dillenburg can come up with a pair to borrow that fit!

Rehearsal was weird. I was weird. I guess I was too preoccupied with the shoe question to concentrate and I fail to sing the first 2 phrase bit that I sing in the Requiem correctly even once. Arrrgh! And I call myself a professional. Double Arrrrrrgh!

I rushed off to the only shoe store in central Dillenburg before they closed for the weekend at 1pm. I was there by 12:25 and by 12:35 I had a pair of not exactly inexpensive, new, super comfy black, leather wedge concert shoes. Great for winter/cold weather concerts, since my other shoes are more suited to summery weather. Yippee!

The afternoon rehearsal went much better, thank goodness! I enjoyed spending some time talking with Sybille Kampheus, the alto soloist in our downtime, which was considerable.

I spent the night with one of the women singing in the choir who sang with the Hildegard Schola throughout the years and who has always been very dear. She treated me like a queen and I enjoyed sleeping through the night with a certain small person joining me and proceeding to keep me awake.

After a brief "dress rehearsal" was the concert. True to the nature of the occasional concert-goer, the church was filled to the brim! Nice to sing for a large audience, but people! Be a little more adventurous! There's a lot of beautiful music to hear live!!!

This concert was stellar from top to bottom. The usual Bezirkskantorei (area church choir) was augmented by the school choir of one of the local high schools. The orchestra, "L'arpa festante", on period instruments was of the highest quality. Natural trumpets, trombones of various sizes, timpani and even bassett horns! It was a delight to sing with them and the other soloist (Sybille Kampheus, Hans-Jörg Mammel and Paul Theis) as well. Very high quality. Joachim had put a lot of research into which version of the Requiem he wanted to perform and came up with a hybrid mixture of mostly the Levin extrapolation with a bit of Süßmayr and Druce and his own arrangement of the Amen. It was bombastic!

The orchestra played a piece by contemporary composer Arvo Pärt - "Cantus in Memoriam of Benjamin Britten", which was quite lovely and atmospheric. And wonder of wonders, Hans-Jörg Mammel played contra-bass for it! I had no idea. He's very well known as a tenor soloist, but as a bassist? - Not so much.

Bach's Easter Oratorio was no slouch either. After a brief discussion I was allowed to sing the early version text of my aria, since nothing, absolutely zero else was different. I don't know what got into Bach to change the text in such a way in a later version as to make it nearly impossible to sing the B section with out suffocating. The earlier version text has difficult vowels, but at least there is more space to breathe than between two 16th notes!

It was great fun all in all and I think the school choir enjoyed themselves as well. Especially when they could relax and do the last choral piece of the Easter Oratorio as an encore. It brought tears to my eyes. Really.

I'm looking forward to the next concert in Dillenburg - in September with a program of Mozart's Credomesse (a repeat for me) and CPE Bach's Magnificat (a first for me).

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