Posted by: rlustig1952 | December 15, 2011

Von Anfang

I write this sitting in my hotel room in Berlin, having started my day (days) on Wednesday evening from Boston and ending it here, following a reception welcoming the choral groups participating in the festival. It has been needless to say a very long day.

I didn’t travel with the group, so you’ll need to read some of the other blogs to find out what happened. All I know is that the main group arrived uneventfully this morning, with stragglers like myself checking in at various times in the day. I flew here via London and arrived in Berlin about 1 p.m. It was necessary for me to get to the hotel on my own, and I was able (without speaking a lick of English) to find out which bus to take and then (with the help of my handy GPS) walk to the hotel.  After that it was get ready quickly for our first concert, which took place early this evening at the Krankenhauskirche im Wuhlgarten.

After a longer-than-expected bus ride, we arrived at the church and began rehearsing. The church itself is relatively new (it was built in the early 1900’s), but it was built in the Romanesque style so it feels older. The acoustics were terrific. During rehearsal, it was clear that the long day of travel had taken its toll, and we had challenges with intonation, consistency, and focus. Our hosts had very graciously laid out a very nice spread, so getting some fuel was very helpful. And then as we were rehearsing people started wandering in. I had wondered what kind of an audience we would get for a Jewish choir singing in a church in a Berlin suburb on a Thursday night. As it turned out I needn’t have worried. We drew a very nice crowd (I would guess around 150-200 people). I don’t know if it was the food, or the large crowd, or our collective determination to put on a good performance, or all of the above, but the performance turned out to be very solid, and we had a wonderful response from the audience.

After the concert, we were all handed roses and had a chance to talk with members of the audience, who universally expressed their good feelings about the performance and about us having come from such a long way to perform. A converation I had with one gentleman was particularly interesting. We were discussing the quality of the acoustics and how the church was a great performance space and what a pleasure it was to sing there. He said something to the  effect that it was an important event, because it helped emphasize what they (i.e.,, Germany) had lost by pushing out its Jews. I was very touched by that sentiment.

We then returned to our hotel, where we immediatly went to a kickoff reception for the festival,  which featured some very tasty eats and the answer to my prayer (beer was served).

Because it was such a hectic day and I spent what little time I had in Berlin getting to and from the concert, I really can’t offer much in the way of first impressions. I will try to post another entry tomorrow before Shabbat. We will  be going on a tour of Jewish Berlin tomorrow morning, so it should be an interesting day.

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