Cantores in Germany

The concert venue at LĆ¼denscheid

Choral scholar Emma Bryant reports on a recent tour by the university’s choral scholars, who travelled from home base at the ancient city centre church of St Michael’s in Southampton to some equally wonderful venues in Germany:

Over the Easter vacation Cantores Michaelis, the University of Southampton choral scholars, spent four days in the German town of LĆ¼denscheid and performed two concerts there and in the nearby town of Herford. Both towns are located near to the Rhine river in Western Germany and are full of lots of lovely German churches and ā€˜Kneipenā€™ ā€“ traditional German pubs.

The trip was arranged by Keith Davis, head of vocal studies and the choir conductor, who had connections with our hosts, Barbara and Otto Brauckmann. They, along with a few other families in the town, kindly gave us accommodation, provided our meals and arranged the concerts at the churches.

Cantores had been hoping to do a tour for a while and this was our first exciting opportunity to prepare a full programme and perform it to an audience outside the UK. The programme included a wide range of pieces from monophonic plainchant to the six part ā€˜Cantate Dominoā€™ by Hassler. The programme was designed to give the audience a taste of the Choral Scholars’ repertoire for the year and was split into four sections; winter, spring, summer and autumn. Some highlights included the 15th century ā€˜Salutation Carolā€™ usually sung at Christmas time and performed with a drum, the lively ā€˜Hosanna to the Son of Davidā€™ by Weelkes and the more well-known ā€˜View me Lord a Work of the Thineā€™ by Lloyd.

A particular challenge was performing pieces with German lyrics to a German audience. We regularly perform German music but usually to an English-speaking audience. Ensuring we correctly and clearly pronounced the lyrics for the German audience was therefore very important. We think (and hope) we pulled it off! The audience seemed to think so.

The choral scholars with our hosts Barbara and Otto Brauckmann and conductor Keith Davis

Our first concert in the town of Herford did not attract the largest crowd, although the church venue was lovely and those who were there seemed to enjoy it. Our second concert, however, performed in the main church in LĆ¼denscheid, attracted at least 100 people and went extremely well. The concert had been advertised in the local paper and my host explained that the English choral tradition is particularly popular in Germany. The large audience gave us the adrenaline and enthusiasm we needed to really perform at our best.

Aside from the concerts, the tour was a good opportunity to experience some German culture, socialise with each other and even pick up some of the language. I am a non-Music student studying for a degree in German and spent last year studying in Vienna. It was therefore lots of fun for me to act as group translator and teach the other scholars some bits of German. By the end everyone had picked up something! On the last night, our hosts took us to the local brewery to sample some traditional German food and drink (lots) of German beer.

The tour ended with the promise to return next year and some very sad farewells to our generous hosts who had been so lovely and welcoming!