Berlin Tour August 2015
Over 70 members from the joint Chorleywood and Berkhamsted Choral Societies performed as the Gaudeamus Chorale in three concerts in and around the historic city of Berlin.
In perhaps one of the most challenging and exciting programmes ever to be performed, the choir sang pieces ranging from the very new work (written for the choir) and jazz setting of The Four Seasons by Sebastian Weiss and the debut performance of Sebastian’s setting of In Paradisum to more ‘classical’ anthems by predominantly – but not exclusively – English composers.
Sebastian not only composed The Four Seasons – based on four poems, one for each season – and In Paradisum, but also accompanied the choir at each concert on the keyboards along with a saxophonist, double-bass player and drummer. Whilst the challenge of this piece drove choir members to tears of despair and delight at various times and stages of rehearsal, by the last performance I think everybody agreed that we had risen to the challenge with commendable fortitude but that ‘little lambs’ would probably never be quite the same for us ever again!
The second half of the programme, in complete contrast, included anthems by Bairstow, Purcell, Bruckner and a movement from Brahms’ ‘German Requiem’ – all accompanied by our talented organist Iestyn Evans who also performed organ solos at each concert to everyone’s delight.
Being based in an hotel near to the Alexanderplatz and with great transport links soon made ‘experts’ of us all in traversing the city by S-bahn, U-bahn , Strassenbahn (and bus) and that was before the coach trips! However it was probably the hotel Sky-bar on the 14th floor that was the big attraction after returning from concerts (not, however, for our distinguished conductor Graham whose lack of head for heights featured prominently on this tour! Well we all have our little weaknesses, nicht wahr Graham?!).
Travelling to the three concert venues – one of which was just outside Berlin in the small, lake-side town of Strausberg –and having a trip to the beautiful city of Potsdam allowed us to see a great deal of Berlin and environs. Having most mornings free for our own sightseeing also provided plenty of opportunity to see the city sights and enjoy a bier (oder zwei) with fellow choir members – whoever happened to be on hand at the time!
Our farewell dinner on the Saturday night was unique in the history of the chorale’s tours as we were hosted by the St Marienkirche community in Strausberg whose welcome to their beautiful, medieval church could not have been warmer or more enthusiastic.
Before flying home on the Sunday, there was time for a group boat cruise through the centre of Berlin in wonderful sunshine. Time to relax, reflect on a tour that had been hard work but enormously rewarding, and to engage in lots of chat about where and when the next tour will be.
So bring it on for the Tour 2016 – we’re already packing!