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!

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: 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:

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!”).