Written by Rona Murray, Emily Burnell Petrou and Curtis Rossi

A week after the ‘longest journey’ to Hasenbergl, ESME – the orchestra, singers and big band –  were back, now inside the melted city centre for the Christmas celebration concert at the Künstlerhaus. Chandeliers were there to remind us of the earlier icy peaks on the street, but inside all was warm with everyone ready to enjoy themselves: audience and performers!

The orchestra, under Alonzo Barrett’s sharp leadership, started the show with delightful selections from the  “Nutcracker Suite”, the eponymous “Sleigh Ride” and a soaring “Walking in the Air”.  The singers then joined the orchestra to start their set with the “Hallelujah Chorus”, which is usually the showstopper! Fortunately, it wasn’t the time to get one’s coat and leave but, instead, a quick change of chairs brought on the full programme.  Julia Chalfin, directing the choir in her first season, expertly brought to life the wonderful, atmospheric, “Lux Arumque” (Whiteacre), filling the hall, which held its breath to the wonderful, soaring solo from Yara Boustani. This was followed by several step changes of Christmas mood, including lively, jazz inflections via Léa Venisse’s bright piano beats on “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Hall” and “Angels Singing”, where Thomas Padel’s glowing tenor solo lit the way for us.  A different energy filled the quieter moments of “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen”  – one of the pieces to be sung a-cappella – alongside “Silent Night”.  When it was time to let rip, we let rip, opening up with guitars (Didier Caneilles and Curtis Rossi) and percussion (Christian Brandel  and Kerry Wake-Dyster) on “Ocho Kandelikas”, with a beautiful, bell-like solo by Jana Huß, supported by Gen Cory’s cheeky kazoo.  For the encore, the whole choir showed their own cheeky kazoo potential!  You had to be there!  

Now the show really had to stop. “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” (Trotta) brought together the lightness of Katie LeClair’s angelic soprano solo and Victor Galea’s colourful tenor with the chorus’s pulsating rhythm.  What a joyous last note: as if the choir were all that mattered. But, on stage, we can hear all the audience’s own notes – applause, kind bravos – beautiful music, to finish every song!  So, the perfect way to end the singer’s set was Julia’s caroling-sing-a-long with the audience and singers all together. The Resident Alien Big Band then took to the stage and sustained the merry mood with “All of Me”, “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, “Feliz Navidad” and “The Nearness of You”, plus a superb guest appearance by Caro Kelley, giving us what we all want for Christmas, wonderful music. 

We are currently rehearsing for this year’s Spring Showcase (28 April at Einstein Kultur, 4 pm) and our summer concert (13 July at Kulturzentrum Trudering, time TBA) and tickets will be available at this link: https://esme-ev.de/tickets/. Our popular Resident Alien Big Band is also performing at two events this coming June: the 13th will be at Lost Weekend and on the 16th they’ll be returning to a gig at the”Tanzserenade”. And let’s not forget the annual crowd pleaser, Munich Sessions Summer Fest on 4 August (all times TBA). For further updates, and to book this talented ensemble for your event, please check their website: https://esme-ev.de/the-resident-alien-big-band/

Written by Curtis Rossi

Don’t we all dream of a white Christmas? But when you wake to the worst snowfall in ninety years, you sometimes wish dreams did not come true! But with their usual pluck and true grit (useful for those travelling by car), ESME Singers braved the elements, travelling from as far afield as Donauwoerth, Aying, and even Ohio to our first performance of the winter season. This was our joint concert with the Koreanische Frauenchor at the Stadtteilkultur 2411 e.V. in Hasenbergl. These wonderful ladies, dressed in traditional Korean costume, sang beautiful traditional songs, two duets with hauntingly wistful solos, and finished with some local singalongs – Korean Karaoke style. ESME began the concert with an “Ersatz Gluhwein” warm up with a round of caroling, where we learned that when we sing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”, contrary to popular belief, the gentlemen are not merry. Then the whole choir huddled on stage for our Winter set. There were jingle bells ringing, angels singing, flowers springing and even Emmanuel swinging. And amongst all that, we even managed a night of silence. Afterwards, mingling with the audience, they said they very much enjoyed our performance and were delighted to hear we would perform again: the metaphorical sleigh ride through all the snow was therefore well worth the effort. It would be remiss not to mention Annie Janssen for organising it all, thank the fantastic soloists – who repeated their wonderful performance in the Winter Concert, and are mentioned in the next write-up  – and, as ever, Léa Vernisse (reindeer horns worn proudly from start to finish) and our ever inspiring and charming conductor, Julia Chalfin! (Fermata, and “oooooo!”).

Written by Emily Burnell Petrou

Over the weekend of November 17 – 19, the choir and orchestra returned to a perennial favorite venue for our ESME Weekend Away: the scenic Waldkraiburg, in a lovely wooded setting about an hour’s drive from Munich. It was an action-packed weekend full of hours of rehearsals, with the evenings spent on “getting to know you” fun and games, jam sessions and even a yoga class. More than a few of us only managed a few hours of sleep each night (there’s a reason some of us take the Monday off of work afterwards!), but it was well worth it for all of the music we learned, along with the names of our many newbies who were brave enough to come to their first “EWA”. This coming spring we’ll be back to another favorite venue, Bad Schussenried, to prepare for our annual “Spring Showcase” at Einstein Kultur on April 28. Details to follow closer to the date – stay tuned!