Monday, November 10, 2008

In Memoriam - Concert for Barbara Thornton

What a rare experience this concert in Berlin was. The music was fabulous, except for copious amounts of annoying pflegm under my vocal chords my voice was in good form, the group of singers worked well and efficiently together and sounded amazing, the acoustics in the church were astounding and the occasion for the concert was very meaningful to me and a few of us singing.

This was the program:

*Alma Redemptoris Mater - Antiphon, anonymous (10th cent.)
*Motet- Anima mea liquefacta est/Deschendit in ortum meum/Alma - Montpellier Codex
*Eya, mater fidelium - Codex Las Huelgas
*O frondens virga - Hildegard von Bingen
*Motet- Ex illustri - Codex Las Huelgas
*O quam magnum miraculum - Hildegard von Bingen (with solos by yours truly)
*Ave, generosa - Hildegard von Bingen
*O vos imitatores - Hildegard von Bingen
*Motet- Ave,regina/Alma redemptoris mater/Alma - Codex Las Huelgas
*Eterni numinis - Codex Las Huelgas
*Spiritus sanctus - Hildegard von Bingen
*In exitu Israel - Psalm 113
*Quis dabit capiti meo - Codex Las Huelgas
*O monialis concio - Codex Las Huelgas
*Motet- Ave, virgo/Ave, gloriosa/Domino - Codex Las Huelgas
*Nunc gaudeant - Hildegard von Bingen
*O viridissima virga - Hildegard von Bingen (with solos by me)
*Motet- O Maria maris stella/O maria virgo davitica/Et veritate - Codex Las Huelgas

The singers were:
Amy Green (Student of Barbara Thornton's 1996-98/Elysium/Vox Nostra/Diadema),
Susanne Hammer (Diadema/Vox Nostra),
Ellen H√ľnigen (Vox Nostra),
Lucia Reichelt-Pahn (Sequentia 1996 - 1998),
Diane Severson (Sequentia 1997-99/Elysium),
Allegra Silbiger (Sequentia 1997-99/Elysium/Diadema/Vox Nostra),
Anja Simon (Diadema/Vox Nostra),
Susanne Wilsdorf (Vox Nostra/Diadema).

We had 4 rehearsals before the concert and there was no rehearsal where all 8 of us were present. In fact, I think the most we ever were at one rehearsal was 5. Allegra and I were the unifying factor. That said, as you can see from the list above Allegra, Amy and I have sung a lot together, and the others, save Lucia, also sing together a lot. I know Susanne from conservatory in Bremen and Allegra, Lucia, Amy and I all have extensive experience in the oral tradition that is borne of having worked with Barbara. (If you are wondering who Barbara Thornton is, see my previous post "Concert in Berlin" or google her!) So, even though we had never sung together as a group before, we all had extensive experience singing this type of music and singing together in part. Everything just fell into place and we created this powerful, lovely, unified sound. It was an amazing experience to feel Barbara's legacy live through us as singers. What a gift. I wish we had a recording of it.

The church was St.-Johannes-Evangelist in Berlin-Mitte. It's stuck on a little street off Oranienburger Strasse (Auguststrasse) with buildings plastered to each side. The interior is huge and cavernous and empty (they have exhibitions and concerts there only), built in a neo-romanesque style. The reverb lasted a full six seconds, but unlike the Speyer Cathedral the sound remains pure and doesn't swim. The text and the musical line remain pure and understandable. Incredible. We sang from various points in the church - mostly from in front of the altar, but also from the side and the rear balconies as well as from both sides at once (for the antiphonal psalm).

There were possible 40 people at the concert. Not a lot, but it was a very attentive audience (even the 10 year old was rapt!) and I'm just happy when the audience numbers more than the musicians on stage! It's a shame, but then we did it to honor Barbara's life and work. I think we achieved that and then some.


Friday, November 07, 2008


I arrived in Berlin early this morning. Man, I hate getting up so early. My train left at 7:21 so I left home at about 6:45. I'm not convinced it's a good thing, but there was a bus immediately and the connection to the subway was also fast, so I made it to the train station by 7:00, way more than enough time to get coffee. I had a reserved seat, so I was able to relax and read a bit (The Final Key, Catherine Asaro) and listen to my iPod. Listened to GeekAcres, Christiana's Shallow Thoughts (I'm finding this short daily podcast hugely entertaining), Metamor City, and StarShipSofa Aural Delights #48 and the rest of #49. I arrived in Berlin about an hour before rehearsal started so I made my way toward the church in a leisurely fashion. I was nearing the church and still had half and hour to spare, so I nipped into a cafe and had a second breakfast (ciabatta with cheese and a cappuccino).

Rehearsal was long, but we got through everything went over logistics (we'll be singing some things from the balconies) and tested the acoustics. I'm really pleased with the way the group sounds so far. Allegra, Amy and I have tons of experience singing together in Elysium and Allegra, Amy and the other singers sing together often in Vox Nostra and Diadema. Unfortunately though, we haven't had everyone at the rehearsals at once. But in the various constellations sofar the group has a lovely full sound. The church is completely empty (I guess it has no congregation and just hosts art exhibitions and concerts) and has a full resonant acoustic. The reverb lasts a full 6 seconds! Perfect for Hildegard's music.

Amy, Allegra and I went to an Indian restaurant afterwards for lunch (at 3pm!) and to catch up. Oh my God, there was a lot of food. It's amazing how cheap things still are in Berlin. I paid about €10 for soup+bread, salad, main course, bottled water and a mango lassi! That's about $13 these days! There was so much food that we had them box it up to take home. I think it will feed two more people at some point!

We'll have our last rehearsal tomorrow morning at 11. We won't have everyone assembled until just prior to the concert so there will be plenty of exciting new stuff for the concert! :-)

Next post: concert report