Published: May 10th 2012May 10th 2012
(more pictures will be added to this)
I am not sure I like waking at 3am each morning, but it does give one time to blog!
Today was incredibly memorable on many levels, starting with our Vienna tour. We began with a walking tour that included the Imperial Palace, Stephansdom, the Mozart House, and variious sites in the central downtown district of Vienna. This also included some free time to explore the sites and to enjoy lunch at a cafe, which was located next to the monument to commemorate the end of the black plague. We then hustled back to our hotel, which was within a few blocks of the central distinct, and headed to the Klosterneuberg Monastary and Stiftkirche. The dark, heavy gothic Stephan's Cathedral and the gold gilded Baroque interior of the the Klosterneuberg Cathedral were certainly contrasting. The various styles and historical implications are of course, fascinating, as various periods represented society and powers / affluence/ influences of the time that were reflected in the construction, renovation, or additions to the structure. Once again, of couse, the powerful influence of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Dynasty (primarily gained through the "politics" of marriages between the Hapsburgs and royal
famines throughout Europe) and resulting acquisition of wealth and power permeate the architecture, art, literature, and music. The power and influence of the Roman Catholic church in this part of Europe is also apparent, particularly as related to the cathedrals we saw today.
I could go on forever on this topic, but want to instead change course and share in more detail our afternoon activities at Klosterneuberg. After touring the expansive, historic, and influential monastery, (literally dripping with gold and high Baroque ornamentation), we rehearsed with the Chor Weidling, and quickly became friends with this choir. They were dressed in authentic Austrian Folk attire. Then we moved right into our 4 pm joint concert. Our concert had been highly publicized, with posters and on radio. The large cathedral was literally packed with audience members. This is one of the many reasons I appreciate our tour company (Cultural Tour Consultants). We have enthusiastic audiences, rather than just singing to an empty room (which, in these venues, would not actually be bad!)
After Chor Weidling performed four or five short Austrian folk songs (part songs simple harmonic settings) under the direction of Herr Helmut Kunkle, we sang a joint piece
under his direction: Bruckner's Locus iste. He moved the tempo along a bit, confiding in me "no five minute rendition today- that is just too long!" He is a very down to business man, but with a very dry humor. We then gave a full hour concert of our prepared repertoire. This included two additional pieces by Bruckner, the Os justi and Christus factus est. To sing Bruckner in a cathedral where Bruckner himself served, while in his employment with the Imperial family was nothing short of amazing! Being prepared for the extensive reverb in such a cathedral, I adjusted the tempo slower, and articulation on the faster pieces to even much crisper and more detached, and literally had to wait for the sound to dissipate following cadential points even more than I had anticipated, finding it necessary to allow the room to dictate these issues "in the moment." As prepared as I thought I was for this, it was still incredible to experience this acoustic with our very appropriate repertoire. The Byrd pieces (one of which was directed by our assistant conductor, Karen Lange) were particularly beautiful in this venue as well. I have to admit, though, I was
not prepared for how beautiful the Buchenberg was, and the piece finally truly made sense to me in this acoustic. Our soprano solo voices were stunning, and their beautiful notes seemed to take on an "afterlife" of their own! Equally beautiful was our own Patrick Rooney's Nunc dimittis, under his skillful direction. The audience loved this piece, and Chor Weidling requested a copy of the score (along with his autograph:) I had been a bit curious as to how an Austrian audience, in a location where Bruckner himself had served as organist, would receive our musical offering. Their applause, in response to these pieces, was noticeably strong, long, and enthusiastic! At the end of the concert, the choir received an equally enthusiastic standing ovation. What a great experience with a very receptive audience!
Following the concert, we were in for a treat. A joint dinner with Chor Weidling in Weidling, a small area of Klosterneuberg. Friendships were cemented between our students and the primarily adult Chor Weidling singers! As we shared Weiner schnitzel, Apfel strudel, and various other Austrian cuisine, there was much laughter, celebration, and sharing of stories, experiences, and of course, much singing! Several of the singers spoke English, although a few spoke no English at all. Everyone worked to communicate, but once the singing started, we truly could experience deep connection. We sang Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus and Ride the Chariot and various other folk songs with one another, and, after too much food, hugs and handshakes, departed from a long but enriching evening! This direct exchange between the choirs was perhaps the most effective way in which to truly learn about the culture:through the people themselves, their food, their wine, and their warm acceptance into their lives. And of couse, by sharing in singing together! What a memorable day! Oh yes, and I finally figured out why my hair looks so awful in Europe!!! I can never seem to get my flat iron to work, even with the adapter/ converters! And we finally figured out why our iPads have not been charging when we leave the room. The Austrians, in their very environmentally responsible way, set their rooms up to automatically shut off the power when you leave. Duh- it took us two days to solve the mystery and to make the connection:)