ESME Singers and Rheinland-Pfalz International Choir Perform Together Again

By Emily Burnell Petrou

In what we hope will become an annual event, the ESME Singers and the Rheinland-Pfalz International Choir performed together in their second joint concert on Saturday, May 11, 2024 in the light-filled Lutherkirche in Kaiserslautern. Last April, the RPIC came to Munich, and this year we returned the favor; our entire choir was not able to participate, but 22 of us managed to make it up north for the adventure. The RPIC is led by ESME’s former longtime choir conductor, Eric Weddle, and he, along with their highly efficient choral manager and soprano Gosia Schulze, and ESME’s own organizer extraordinaire and alto Annie Janssen, have worked hard to make these concerts happen. Thank you, Eric, Gosia and Annie!

The concert opened at 18:30 on the dot with both choirs enthusiastically taking on Rossini’s popular opera chorus, “Il Carnevale di Venezia”, setting the mood for a cheerful evening of choral entertainment. The audience was delighted and ready for more!

Then it was time for ESME to take the stage on their own, led by our multi-tasking pianist Léa Vernisse taking on the conducting role (as well as accompaniment on several concert pieces). Our set featured three a cappella selections recently performed in our Spring Showcase: Monteverdi’s crisp “Cantate Domino”, Billy Joel’s soulful “And So It Goes”, and a rousing traditional spiritual, “I Can Tell the World.” This was then followed by the Rheinland-Pfalz International Choir presenting the lilting and precise “Se Ben Vedi O Vita Mia” by Giovanni Gastoldi, another lovely “Cantate Domino” (this time by Karl Jenkins), Frank Ticheli’s ethereal “Earth Song”, a talented ensemble (including Eric Weddle) performing an Eagles song, “Seven Bridges Road”, and finally, perfect for the gorgeous spring weather outside, the whole RPIC choir was back to thrill us with Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun”.

Another ensemble of two trios then formed a sextet of “wise women”; one from ESME (who also performed this in our recent Spring Showcase) and the other from RPIC, bewitching the audience with the mysterious tale of “The Magpie”. Following that, the two choirs gathered together once again for more joint pieces under Eric Weddle’s steady hand: the rollicking sea shanty “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor”, the well known spiritual “Elijah Rock”, and finally, the grand finale: a stirring version of the beloved Simon and Garfunkel hit, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. An encore capped off the evening with a personal favorite of both choirs, the lively South African “second national anthem”, “Tshotsholoza”, always a crowd pleaser (and mighty fun to sing as well!). 

The two choirs then happily headed out to dinner to celebrate another successful concert, mixing and mingling at the tables, making new friends, and – of course – serenading the restaurant with a spirited reprise of “Tshotsholoza” (a long-standing after-party tradition).

Plans are already underway for a joint weekend away next Spring in our usual venue at the Humboldt-Institut in Bad Schüssenried. This will give us all a chance to have more rehearsal time with both conductors together, something we have yet to experience with our joint concerts, as Eric was unable to attend last year’s, and the same went for ESME’s conductor Linda Oppermann this time around. Watch this space for more information on our two choirs collaborating together to make a joyful noise!

Text by Rona Murray, photographs by Aurelien Godenir

Whether you were at the showcase or unfortunately missed it, don’t forget the ESME Summer Concert on the 13th of July at 18:00 in the Kulturzentrum, Trudering. It’s going to be Hot, Hot, Hot!

How do you describe the audience noise pre ESME Spring Showcase? A hubbub, a chattering, even a coo-ing of voices?  Whatever springs to your mind, there was anticipation in the air on that last Sunday in April in Halle 1 at Einstein Kultur for the ESME Spring Showcase.

The concert opened, courtesy of the fabulous lighting from the equally fabulous Hans, as if in a purple, velveteen music box.  In the dark, the box sprung open with the choir’s opening blast of fresh Spring air: a ‘Cantate Domino’ (a capella), strong, clear and bell- like through all the different layers of voices. As a surprise,  the stylus hit a new groove straight away with ‘Elijah Rock’, with its gospel rhythmic bursts and tight, quiet choral humming. 

So, early then, it was a proper variety (chocolate) box of traditional and modern treats.    The classical note reappeared with Elaine Cole and Caro Kelley and divine  ‘Blessed Spirits’.  It’s Spring, so what lover does not try their best to find a mate? Try either ‘Mon Coeur se Recommande a Vous’ or ‘Matona Mia Cara’: In the hands of the quartet “The False Relations” – Linda Oppermann, Thomas Padel, Stefano Ceolin and Bryony Preynat – – it turned into a beautiful, four-part harmony.  The cellist trio of Victor Galea, Clara Müller and Richard Bromham then struck an elegiac note with ‘Requiem’, moving us from a minor to a major key.  Rebirth beckons! 

If Spring means new life, then several pieces celebrated this by reimagining older songs, breathing fresh energy through them.  Jorge Cristobal and Linus Heckemann found a dynamic stillness in Bob Dylan’s ‘Make you Feel my Love’ retold as a quiet song of unrequited love. By contrast, Jana Huß and Linus tripped up Franz Ferdinand’s punk posturing, turning it into a song  – ‘Take Me Out’ –  ‘a deux’ for all of us who have watched the party from the sidelines.  The jazz ensemble grew before our eyes with Davy Kazan, Elaine Cole, Rebecca Sadler and Theo Kazan who reinvented ‘The Way you Look Tonight’ to get even us wallflowers moving! 

The Spring Showcase, then, was definitely all about the romance.  But if the audience was now coo-ing comfortably in their perches, they needed to be more alert!  Enter three wise women – Annie Janssen, Emily Burnell Petrou, and Eva Netzhammer – to sing of the magpie, symbol of love and romance (Eastern cultures) versus symbol of evil (Western).  They incanted, with measured harmony, that ‘devil, devil, we defy thee’.  We were in safe hands with them and, therefore – possibly – in a friendly relationship with our feathered friends. 

Or maybe not, when birds gathered again for a fateful rendezvous on Julie Chalfin’s balcony. She followed up with a bright, upbeat invitation on a date to ‘poison pigeons in the park.’

The last ensemble performed a blistering rendition of Billy Joel’s ‘Root Beer Rag’, with  Linda Oppermann, Frances Hughes and Mark Hammond, who were joined half way through by Bryony Preynat, Ryanne Leong and Brian Eve on trombone who added a delightful, comedic touch.

The choir then returned and, by the looks of things, a few of them had had a drink (and it wasn’t root beer) at the bar in the interval as they wondered what to do with a ‘Drunken Sailor’. After a lot of rollicking (or rowlocking), stamping of feet and mysterious nautical terms, no conclusion was reached, so they moved on the grand finale – continuing the aquatic theme with an emotional yet energetic ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’.

Less coo-ing, then, but this offer – as with all the other ensembles – was irresistible.  Grand or intimate, bold or soothing – the musical harmonies weaved around us making for a lovely atmosphere, sing to each of us and all of us together as to a loved one:  “and so it goes, and so it goes” and “you’re the only one who knows.”

We hope to see you all on the 13th of July!