A Weekend at the A Cappella Monastery
When I told my friends and family that I planned to stay at a monastery for three days, I got various reactions. Some worried about the state of my relationship, others nodded knowingly assuming that I needed a break from the business grindstone. I had to assure everybody that neither was the case. However, after 15 days of Zelt-Musik-Festival including a fantastic first “Freiburg A Cappella Night”, it was great to get away for a weekend.
And what a weekend it was! The monastery I went to is situated in the middle of nowhere. It consists of wonderful old buildings. It has a gorgeous courtyard with nice acoustics. And for more than 30 years this courtyard has been the venue for the “Klosterkonzerte Maulbronn”, a concert series mainly featuring top classical chamber ensembles. However, this year Jürgen Budday, one of Germany’s leading experts in choral music, presented a small “Vocal Summit”. Starting with Irish-Latvian-US vocal trio White Raven last Thursday, the mini-festival inside the festival presented four more top-notch vocal groups: VOCES8 (UK), Nordic Voices (NOR), The Real Group (SWE) and The King’s Singers.
As Maulbronn is only 90 minutes drive from my hometown Freiburg, I decided to stay in this town (well, village) from Friday night to Monday morning. And that’s how an almost perfect two-and-a-half-days vocal music vacation looks like:
- Friday: due to super-heavy traffic and an outdated GPS just made it in time for the VOCES8 show, arrival 6 minutes to 8pm. Really enjoyed one of the “most mixed” programmes in the history of a cappella: Gibbons, Byrd, Peggy Lee, Bach, Bond, Monteverdi, Bernstein…and back. Not exactly for purists, daring indeed. Late night dinner with the band and composer/arranger Graham Lack. Most spectacular visits: Dolf Rabus, director of Kammerchorwettbewerb Marktoberdorf who drove 3.5 hours to see VOCES8 and Christian Weiherer, organist and promoter with Memminger Meisterkonzerte, who even drove back a similar distance right after the concert.
- Saturday: When I got up, VOCES8 were already on the road. With their band van. From Maulbronn to Hardelot, France. Which is only 750kms drive, a distance not really worth mentioning if you look at the frantic tour schedule of these guys. While they were crossing France I went for a two-hours mountain bike ride and returned just in time to film the arrival of The Real Group. They were coming from Bensheim, the place they sang the day before. So this night, there was a sound system in the courtyard and Jan Apelholm started working on the sound sitting under
an old tree, almost invisible from stage. This fortunately had no effect on his ears, so the sound was fantastic…as was the whole show of the “Swedish vocal music phenomenon”. My personal favourites: “Prime Time Blues” (Anders Edenroth just writes the catchiest hooks ever!) and the second encore, Peder Karlsson‘s “Gota” (Faroer Islands meet Suebian monastery, goosebumps all over…). No time for a proper hangout this time either: The flight back to Stockholm was at 9am, which meant The Real Taxi had to leave at 6am…who wrote this itinerary?
- Sunday: Rain. Greyness. More rain. Well, a perfect day for doing a bit of paperwork. So I started to work – inspired by the touring groups – on the ultimate booking and tour management system. When my head started to spin, I decided to get some fresh air by going for Vocal Jog No. 2. As in Aarhus, this was a solo project, I’m beginning to wonder when I’ll find the first volunteer to join me running at a cappella events. The King’s Singers arrived, so did (to my happy surprise!) their business manager Claire Long and so did 800 happy ticket owners. Happy,
because they got hold of a ticket for the sold out concert and (very) happy, because miraculously, after a day of constant rainfall, the sky had turned blue. Which was in some way a pity as the promoter gave every listener a raincoat coloured in PINK. I guess the King’s Singers would have had to wear sunglasses to keep themselves from laughing their butts off, had it rained. The concert itself was entitled “Aufforderung zum Tanz” (“Invitation to Dance”) and confirmed the status of complete vocal mastery, the group is known and admired for. Perfect intonation, sophisticated arrangements, a trifle (or two) of British humour and unbelievably good German singing – these are only a few of the things to mention. If you want to hear classically trained singers close to perfection, go see the King’s Singers. And the concert ended early enough to see the second half plus extra time of the women’s world cup final. That’s what I call a perfect weekend.
Next stop for Vocal Blog on tour: vokal.total, Europe’s first and foremost vocal music competition. I’m going to go there with my a cappella nieces The Boxettes. My official nickname by these young ladies: Uncle Flo. Girls, you make me feel so young. See you in Austria!