Berliner Philharmoniker, Berlin Marienkirche, the Berliner Dom and the Berlin Wall are just some of the highlights that jump into my mind thinking back fondly on last week when Voices of Hope embarked on its first European tour to Berlin! As a close group of friends we had been really excited to not only to
widen our musical audience but to spend some relaxed time away together beyond our usual hectic rehearsal schedule. 4am last Wednesday at Newcastle Airport saw the start of our trip as a surprisingly spritely group of singers met for sausage butties and pancakes ahead of our 6am scheduled flights to Schiphol and later onto Berlin.
On arriving in Berlin we headed straight to a rehearsal with Judith, a contact of Simon’s from the EU funded Singing Cities project who provided us with a brilliant rehearsal venue, joined us to sing and also to conduct us in a piece she is currently working on. We had a productive rehearsal but were definitely ready for dinner after what had been a very long day. Judith took us to a local Mexican restaurant, where the cocktails flowed and where we later treated our fellow diners to a rendition of one of our favourite encore pieces, Moses Hogan’s, Battle of Jericho!
Our next day was a chance to see the sights. We learnt about the rich history of the city, viewed the sights from the 105m heights of a hot air balloon before enjoying a few drinks and the local cuisine, ‘currywurst’ in the afternoon sun!
On Friday morning we gave an informal performance in the beautiful Passionskirche, Kreuzberg which was enjoyed by a modest yet appreciative audience. Judith again joined us and was able to translate some complimentary feedback from audience members who told us that they felt very lucky to have heard us sing. We followed this by seeing more of the city ahead of a definite tour highlight: an opportunity to hear the Berliner Philharmoniker.
We were incredibly lucky to secure tickets to see Sir Simon Rattle conduct Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust at the Philharmonie where the distinguished orchestra and chorus were joined by world class soloists including mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and tenor Charles Castronovo. This was hugely inspiring and left even us sopranos dumbfounded in awe!
Somehow Saturday was upon us; our last day in the city and our main concert performance of the trip in the city’s striking Marienkirche. Our afternoon concert was a showcase of some of our favourite music and was met earnestly by a sizeable audience. The acoustic was something quite special and helped to facilitate some very beautiful moments, Rachmaninov’s Ave Maria and Bruckner’s Os Justi being particular spine tinglers for us.
After stumbling across a German beer garden for some post-concert relaxation (!) we visited the Berliner Dom and were able to attend Evensong where we delighted in the music and remarkable beauty of the iconic cathedral. Our tour closed with a trip up to the 203m high viewing gallery of the Berlin TV tower as the sun set over the city. As we looked onto the sights and savoured our final evening, we reflected on our ‘Top 3’ experiences of the tour. We were spoilt for choice but were all in agreement that following some fantastic music and having enjoyed many great laughs together, a 2016 tour was to be pencilled in the Voices of Hope diary! Where to go next? Estonia, Italy, Lichtenstein....