Sunday, June 22, 2014

Performing Sunday service in the Marienkirche - Choir Tour Day 10

If church had been like this when I was a child, maybe I would still be attending.  I wish we could take the Marienkirche home with us.

We had to get up very early in order to be ready to sing for the 10am service.  I hope we didn’t wake anyone up in the hotel as we warmed up our voices in our hotel rooms at 7-8 in the morning!  We sang five pieces, interspersed in the rest of the service.  The rest of the time we listened to the German sermon and followed along with the German hymns.

Singing in that space was pretty special.  From the choir's position we didn't get the full effect of the incredible way the sound travelled and moved around the church, but I heard some recordings of it afterwards and I've never experienced anything quite like that.  Our very last piece was a rousing spiritual that surprised and moved everyone and even gave one family goosebumps.  As we processed down the aisle after the priest, a woman was so moved that she came up and hugged and kissed all of the choir members (which I will admit was a little strange, but to each his own...) 

It’s pretty amazing to be able to create that kind of experience for someone else... to know that all the hard work, minute attention to detail, and emotion we put it into the music in our preparations actually reaches out and changes people.

Years ago, our conductor, while trying to impress upon us the importance of what we do, said a few words that always stayed with me: “We help people work things out.” In other words, excellent music changes people in some way.  It helps them process some kind of emotions, whether it be grief, joy, or anything in between.   It’s powerful to witness that happen, and also profoundly humbling. 

I’ve also been on the receiving end of it when I’ve been to concerts as an audience member.  Sometimes I will think “That was really quite beautiful”, but not been changed in any way.  Then there are the concerts I’ve gone to where I’ve wept at certain exquisite passages, or processed some difficult emotion, or been lifted to such great heights of joy for hours afterwards.  To know that we have the potential for that kind of power when we sing for others... it feels like a great responsibility.  Because that power doesn’t come from any one of us; it doesn’t come from the conductor or even the notes on the page.  It is something else, some delicate and perfect balance of each and every person working together as one.

This is why I love choral singing more than solo singing – the latter is a fun challenge and different kind of experience that I like to have every once in a while, but my soul was made for choral singing.  For that experience of oneness.  Those moments where my voice blends with my section,  all the other sections, the intent of the composer, the movements of the conductor, the space we are performing in, and with the hearts and minds of everyone in the audience, as if we were all the same person, the same wind through the trees, the same the same ocean wave crashing on the shore, in perfect unison, perfect harmony.  I live for that.

While we can strive for perfection every time, not every performance is perfect.  But there were enough perfect moments today to move the people that were there and that is not something to take lightly or for granted.
Clock in the church that was recreated
after the ancient one was destroyed in WWII

Some ceiling detail

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