So after the master class with Geert-Jan, we had a fair amount of downtime, which was good. We’d been walking around Leeuwarden for a long time, and the master class was exhausting. So we lounged around the church until it was time to get ready for the performance.
Two things happened. First, I think the work that Geert-Jan did with CC was remarkable. The choir worked incredibly hard, and what I saw, what I heard, was a dramatic change in the sound of the group. We often talk about how, in a way, the notes and rhythms are unimportant…they are things to be learned and filed away. What is most important is finding meaning in the text and expressing that meaning in a musical way. Back home, we do this maybe once or twice a week for a few minutes, if we are lucky. In the master class, despite being totally exhausted, the choir dug deep and made music in a mature, thoughtful, and professional way for the entire session. I saw them grow right before my eyes. By the end of the master class they were a whole new choir. Here is a video clip:
The gist of this is that when it came time for the performance, the choir sung like I’d never heard them. They sang expressively, intelligently, musically, at every turn. The connection between myself, the choir and the audience was deep and meaningful. The audience was enthralled, hanging on the edge of their seats. Every piece, not just the ones that Geert-Jan worked on, had new moments of beauty, excitement, and true high-level music making. I’m gushing a bit, but it’s true. It was amazing.
The second thing that happened could’ve been in a movie. To save time, and because I was worried about the vocal health of the choir, had cut Johann Sebastian Bach’s Der Gesit Hilft…it’s a vocally demanding piece, and we were quite tired. So, we ended the concert, and received an immediate, long, boisterous, standing ovation from the entire house (it takes a lot to get people from the Netherlands out of their seats). They clearly were thrilled with the performance. I acknowledged the choir and then the house quieted down and we were thanking our hosts and receiving gifts from the church, still standing on stage. At this point a man, who must’ve been in his 80s or more, began slowly making his way to the front of the stage. Leaning on his walker and speaking in a thick accent, he said, “I would like to Der Geist Hilft unsrer schwacheit auf!” Apparently, as I learned later, he had traveled from Leeuwarden by taxi to hear that piece.
Well, when we heard his request, everyone smiled at how sweet his request was…I think we all wanted to fulfill his request in a way, but I was focused on moving the show along and getting the kids home so they could get a good night’s sleep. So I said I was sorry, but we had another number that would make up for it. So he returned to his seat and we sang the national anthem of the Netherlands Het Wilhelmus, which went over great.
We leave the stage, concert is over, and I am shaking hands and talking to the audience. I turn around, and the choir has all gathered haphazardly at the edge of the stage, directly in front of the old man. I hear, “Bronfman, we’re singing Der Geist Hilft, if you want to conduct it you can, but we’re singing it!” And so we did.
Very touching. Inspiring. What a great group of kids we have. I am so proud of them.
Tomorrow Hilversum for the Radio Choir and Orchestra rehearsal, plus a master class with Dr. Andre Thomas. Here is some audio of the concert last night.