I was fortunate enough to join a visit to the German city of Braunschweig with Southern Voices for an extended weekend of singing and making merry – and merry it was indeed.
The primary reason for the trip was to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war in Europe by performing a specially commissioned piece by German composer Jochen Moduβ, ‘Pro Pace’ (Mache mich zum Werkzeug deines Friedens – Make me an instrument of thy peace). Written for orchestra and separate choirs from Germany (main and children’s), Latvia, Poland and England, the whole weekend was extremely moving, with an emphasis very much on peace rather than victory. [It was notable that our hosts were not afraid of tackling historic issues head on – Bishop Christop Meyn spoke on Sunday and said, amongst other things – “Looking back, it is shocking to see how easily people lose their humanity in war, the speedy brutalisation by the war commanders leading to the war of annihilation against Russia and genocide of European Jews”.]
Each of the visiting choirs got to perform individually in the first half of the concert before getting together in the second half for the main event. Southern Voices performed an all English programme (from Byrd to Parry), chosen particularly to mark the occasion. The Cathedral choir from Posener, Poland, consisting of many robed choristers sang a variety of Polish music and the Latvian choir (in light brown and not-too-flattering robes) sang more contemporary Latvian music. We all came back together for a commemoration service on the Sunday, where we performed a Mendelssohn cantata (see the clip from YouTube).
Deep friendships were made and we look forward to a return visit from our German hosts. Although we have been abroad as a choir, this trip reminded me of a similar weekend in France whilst at University, with the University choir then singing with a French and Italian choir – amazing how music can bring people together than otherwise would simply not interact (or understand each other!).
To extend the weekend music-making some more, we visited the picturesque town of Goslar to perform an extended programme at one of the local churches, enhanced by some brilliant organ playing by our MD Katherine. In addition to the music, it was a great opportunity to see some of the local sights and sample some local fare, as well as reminding oneself what a great bunch of people sings in Southern Voices.