Monday, 2 May 2016

Wien - Liza Lilli

Kirche am Steinhof

The time in Wien was, for me, deeply enriching. Once again we sang in beautiful buildings: in the Kirche am Steinhof and the Stephansdom. Each church had its own particular challenge from the point of view of the acoustics. Clearly Otto Wagner hadn't received or acted upon any advice from acoustical engineers in his stunning Jugendstil masterpiece of the St Leopold Church in the 'Stone Court', and making music in a space with a 7 second echo certainly requires careful attention to phrasing in order that the result is more than a bath of sound. Marko assured us that the concert had come across well and so we will choose to believe him!

The experience of singing in the Stephansdom, on the other hand, was one where a little choir could easily feel consumed by the cavernous space. For me the rehearsal, in which I sang consciously contemplating the fact that Haydn had sung there before me, was one of the many highlights of the tour. As can be the nature of performance, parts of the service were disappointing, but that is insignificant... Our intention had been positive and our contribution to the service was appreciated. 

Schubert's glasses
In my free time I raced from one place of 'musical interest' to another: 1) the Schoenberg centre, 2) the house in which Haydn lived, which also contained a room dedicated to Brahms, 3) the house in which Schubert died, 4) the house in which Beethoven wrote is famous Heiligenst├Ądter Testament, a letter written to his brothers in which he laments his increasing deafness. 
Reading details of the composers' lives and walking the streets and entering churches where these great people have previously been changes my relationship with them - enabling me to sense the humanity contained within the spiritual-physical essence of their music. 

The deep gratitude I already had for the gift of music in my life was certainly intensified by these visits. Concurrently the dilemma of how to receive and reconcile this blessing with the glaring problems of the world was once again opened as we were repeatedly confronted with beggars even amidst the grandeur of the Viennese buildings. I have yet to successfully negotiate this issue but it is in wrestling with seeing both dark and light that we become truly human and that we are given the possibility of being witness to God moving in mysterious ways and thus we are blessed. 

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