Sirene (Turkey) at the Opening Concert © Matthias Bein

Fantastic Opening Concert in Wernigerode

International choirs present their amazing skills

Johannes Brahms Int. Choir Festival & Competition

„Singing together brings nations together.“ This INTERKULTUR motto clearly proved to be true last night at Sylvestri church. At the Opening Concert to the 10th International Johannes Brahms Choir Festival & Competition, four choirs from four different nations presented their music to the even more multi-cultural audience – with amazing success!

The first tones came from the Belgian Jeugdkoor Waelrant. In a very dynamic style, they managed to make the church walls shake as well as they could motivate the audience to absolute silence. The choir from Antverpen took the invitation quite seriously: “It’s an honor to sing at this opening concert. We put a lot of effort into our preparation and now we want to show that to the audience and convey our feelings.” The director Marleen De Boo is standing outside the church telling me about her choir: “We have three basic rules. First: Everyone who wants to get involved is welcome. The second one says that friendship takes part in the music, too. And last, but not least, it is much more important to sing with passion than to hit every pitch exactly.”

On stage, you can clearly see and hear those principles. The result is an amazingly present choir sound, very flexible in tone and atmosphere. And it seems like singing with passion and hitting exact pitches do not exclude one another.

The second choir came to us from Saint Stephen’s Girls’ College in Hong Kong. In a very accurate style, the girls offered the audience a part of their competition repertoire. Though the church acoustics apparently hit them a bit harder than the other choirs, they impressed with masterful accompaniment by solo horn and on the piano.

“Our voices come from far seas”, is how the Sirene ensemble from Istanbul characterizes themselves. The conductor Volkan Akkoç even arranged a traditional Turkish folklore by that name to give his choir a theme song. With national and international pieces, it was not hard for the Sirenes to lure the audience into their world of floating sounds – and the choir dresses did not have a negative effect on that either. The performed pieces were relatively short, but left an impression of flexibility, especially by changing their style so quickly from romantic music, over a modern sacred piece to their director’s own traditional arrangements.

As the crowning finale, the local Kammerchor Wernigerode (Wernigerode Chamber Choir) presented a really multi-facetted program. From European Renaissance to Basque contemporary music, from di Lasso to Elberdin and Neske, the Wernigerode Music School alumni (Landesgymnasium für Musik Wernigerode) opened up a broad repertoire that contained something for every listener. The ensemble is on a high flight not only concerning their preciseness, but also their strength of expression. Anticipating their participation in the World Choir Games in South Africa next year, all pieces are prepared to a tee. Extraordinary performance even for a top-level international choir like this one!

Overall, the concert was a grand success! Audience and choirs alike were quite happy with the performances. If, however, you ask the listeners which choir they liked best, you can see a clear connection between the answer and one’s nationality. A quote from a fan of the Kammerchor: “You are and you stay a Wernigerode person. That’s what you are used to.” But doesn’t that only show how important the INTERKULTUR motto really is? To open yourself up to new and different musical styles from all over the world and to make contact based on that? To see the festival not only as a competition, but as an event that “brings nations together”?

(Lucas Waclawczyk)