At the end of this special, memorial November, I’m taking the opportunity to revisit the concert we described at the start of the month. In this post, we hear from people involved in the performance, and what the concert meant to them. My thanks go to Jane Eminson for doing the hard work, and Jonathan Schöps, photographer with the Jena University Choir for allowing his images to be reproduced here. All photos used in this post are © 2018, Jonathan Schöps Fotografie.

balcony audience
The view from the balcony. (Jonathan Schoeps)

From the Audience:

What an amazingly wonderful event! The choirs were spectacular and seemed as if they’d been singing together forever, stunning pianissimos and magnificent high sopranos. Soloists very good quality (better than many Proms performances!). It must have been an enormous feat of organisation, persuasion and stamina. We are so glad we came and it was very moving to be surrounded by French and German nationals as well. We discussed everything from Brexit to War Remembrance, and the roots of World War 2 in the Versailles Treaty.
Liz and Robert Chalmers

From the Conductor:

Rank upon rank of singers – different ages, different nationalities, some known to me, many not. I suppose we should not be surprised that their knowledge of English was so good, but the choirs’ combined German accent was very effective. Many were eager to return the eye contact and smiles which encouraged them to lift their heads and follow the nuances – dynamics, variations of speeds, give and take.
All the soloists were also responsive and effective. The first entry of the quartet in the Beethoven raised so many goose pimples. Beautiful delicate moments from orchestra, soloist and choir alike for the Fauré ‘Requiem’, especially from St Peter’s choir girls’ Pie Jesu.
A huge wall of sound at the end of the symphony – such joy in the text, the orchestral playing and, above all, the voices.
Peter Morris, Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra

[Click on the circle for the complete image.]

From the Orchestra:

Being part of the concert felt a privilege, that our orchestra was part of a bigger team – the choirs, the hosting church, and all the people who were supporting the event in various ways. We were seated in the midst of it all – choirs were above and behind us, the soloists in front of us, and the audience all around. It was simply lovely to be part of it – our music enriching the music of others and vice versa. And for there to be an international dimension made it very, very special.
Jane Gledhill, Oboe, Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra

[Click on the circle for the complete image.]

From the Choirs:

Total Vokal usually sings unaccompanied and is especially interested in music by leading contemporary composers. Neither Faure’s ‘Requiem’ nor Beethoven’s ‘Ninth Symphony’ fit into this scheme. Therefore I was worried how the choir would respond to Peter’s request at the beginning of this year. However, my concern has not been justified. Unanimously the choir appreciated the opportunity to sing in a concert marking the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. And the vast majority could make it for the weekend in the West Midlands. In matters of music, it was an outstanding experience to sing with about 300 singers and 50 musicians from Britain, France and Germany, to be part of one single resonating body. Moreover, spending the weekend with old and new friends, overwhelmed by the hospitality of the British, it was also a political sign: As singers and musicians from different countries – having been in war with each other in former times – we could mourn together and stand up for a peaceful and united Europe. Crossing borders by singing has become a musical, geographic and political reality.
Ralf Lange-Sonntag, Total Vokal, Dortmund

Balcony choir
Singers in the balcony (Jonathan Schoeps)

 

When we started back at choir in September we were delighted to hear that our choir was invited to be a part of the Remembrance and Reconciliation Concert at St Matthew’s this year. Each week we went to rehearsals and, as second alto and second bass, it is true to say that we had to twist our tongues and vocal chords to hit the right pronunciation and higher notes, especially in some of the Beethoven.
We were pleased to host a social evening for the visiting choirs and managed to discuss Brexit only once with some members of the choir from Brittany. The performance, conducted by Peter, was thrilling, playing to a full church, truly an ‘Ode to Joy’!
Our grateful thanks to all who made it possible.
Christine & Ed Hammonds, Walsall Choral Society

audience and performers
Audience and performers (Jonathan Schoeps)

To sing one choral masterpiece is uplifting for an amateur singer, but to have the privilege of singing THE choral masterpiece with a full orchestra and hundreds of other singers is unforgettable. At St Matthew’s, Walsall, on 11th November, with not a seat to spare, our audience, many moved to tears by Faure’s ‘Requiem’, sat transported, absorbed, waiting for the finale of this unique occasion.
We singers waited. Could we unite to give a performance of a lifetime? Baton raised, all eyes on Peter. Supported, surrounded, inspired by wonderful young soloists, we gave our hearts, minds, and voices. Unforgettable!
Sue Symons, Wolverhampton Chamber Choir

 

At the end of the concert I was on a fired-up high: the music and the messages, of Remembrance during the Faure and universal Brotherhood of the Beethoven, were so well conveyed by orchestra, choir and soloists that the excitement is still there, days later! Dudley Choral was especially thrilled to sing with the Continental choirs, as well as in a huge choir with a fine orchestra.
Anne Shirley, Dudley Choral Society

all performers
All the performers (Jonathan Schoeps

Speaking for Jena University Choir, I can say that taking part in this project offered us a number of positive experiences. We were thrilled to be invited as representatives of our university, city and country in this important act of Remembrance and Reconciliation. Everyone in my choir was deeply touched by the hospitality and positive atmosphere throughout the weekend. Many lovely individual memories have been collected and new friendships have been established.
Fabian Pasewald, Conductor, Jena University Choir

 

First of all I would like to express my gratitude to our conductor for inviting us to take part in that adventure. I cannot go on without mentioning Peter Morris who gave us the opportunity to share such a moving concert among so many chorists from England and Germany.
It was a unique experience of acting dutifully as a chorist in a united group performing a superb concert flooded with sincerity and emotion.
What struck me was the genuine communion, through music, between people from different countries, with different sensibilities and above all from different generations. Nothing could equal that collection to honour all those young soldiers dead for our countries.
Brigitte Heulard, Tregorissimo, Lannion, France

applause
Applause (Jonathan Schoeps)

A retiring collection raised £1010 for UNICEF’s work with children affected by the current conflict in Syria

Full list of participating organisations:

Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra
Tregorissimo – Lannion, Brittany, France
Jena University Choir – Jena, Germany
Total Vokal – Dortmund, Germany
City of Wolverhampton Choir
Dudley Choral Society
St. Peter’s Collegiate Church Wolverhampton Girls’ Choir
Sutton Coldfield Choral Society
Walsall Choral Society
Wolverhampton Chamber Choir
Wolverhampton University Choir
Wombourne Choral Society