by Charlotte Kersting
The Jazzchor Freiburg has given concerts in Germany, Japan and Russia, and other countries. It has won choir contests and has been on stage together with Bobby McFerrin, the Swingle Singers or the Bamberg Philharmonics. The year 2014 started in Guanzhou, China, with a spectacular New Year’s concert.
In-between, the choir gave a unique improvisational concert with Roger Treece and performed a world premiere of a piece by Morten Kjaer. And this fall a tour through Germany and the release of their new album, “Schwing!“ brought an exciting and highly successful year to a close.
Since 1990, the Jazzchor Freiburg stands for class, quality and innovation. It will soon turn 25 – a quarter of a century old. Or young, as the case may be. If it were a person, it would be just on the verge of adulthood, still trying itself out. But as a choir it has been experimenting ever since the beginning while at the same time maintaining the confidence of an established performer. It is many people. And one person, holding them all together.
Bertrand, having begun the year under a rain of glamour, glitter and applause in China, doesn’t that make a tour through Germany rather boring in comparison?
Absolutely not! To me and the singers every concert is a challenge which does not depend on where it is or if there are 300 or 3000 people in the audience! Sure, every country has a different mentality and every venue has different acoustic circumstances. A concert is never a repetition of the last one. That is the exciting thing about it. I would say in a musicians’ life a concert is the top of the mountain.
A concert can be exciting for very different reasons and might also entail the possibility of not succeeding. Suppose a concert did not go well, what do you tell your singers?
Each concert has different qualities and creates different feelings. If the rare thing happens that from an objective point of view a concert didn’t run well, I try to find out what the reasons were. These might be manifold: the sound system, not enough sleep, difficult parts of the score which we didn’t manage. There are always things to improve. If it concerns the singers, I tell them clearly and in a friendly way. Regarding music as a whole the view should be focussed forward most of the time. As we say in Germany: after the match is before the match…
8 days, 8 concerts. How do you manage to get your amateur singers into shape?
Many of the singers are not amateurs, but that doesn’t make a big difference. I believe that the strength of the voice relates very much to psychological strength. So if a group is in a good mood, it helps a lot. And the groups’ mood is my responsibility both on and off stage. Besides, it is important that the preparations in musical and vocal terms have been going well before the tour.
You also experienced your very own adventure this year. How do you hold a choir together when you are hiking through the tundra, 5000 kilometres away?
This was a personal gift from me to me and from the choir letting me go on this trip to have a break shortly before our 25th anniversary! The choir is well organised, mainly by the chorus manager Nina Ruckhaber. And we have fantastic guest conductors like Roger Treece or Tamino Franz who sings with the choir.
How do you notice that the Jazzchor Freiburg makes good music, apart from awards and exuberant reviews?
When all the musical and technical tools like tones, timing, blending and dynamics are at the right place we can start making music. When we are in a flow on a concert and I feel like starting to fly I know like everybody else that good music happens right now.