(Photo: Chrissie Dittmers)
European Culture: From Adiemus to Blue Spanish Eyes (Satis Shroff)
This year’s Christmas Concert in Kappel’s Festhalle began at 8pm with a song from Spain sung by the MGV-Kappel with the title ‘A la nanita nana,’ with Johannes Söllner as its conductor, a serious-looking young man with a bald head, and a goatee, but with an elegant gait. The way he sways his torso and extremities, you’d think a panther is about to pounce you. Johannes is a perfectionist and he has the talent to coax out the best performance from his singers of the men’s choir from Kappel. Every song bears its characteristic lilts, sudden burst of energy in the form of loud men’s voices that peter away. Ah, it’s a delight to watch this dynamic conductor lead his charges to new heights and it’s an honour and a pleasure to sing under his baton.
Next came a song from neighbouring France but in the German version with the title: ‘Hört der Engel Jubellieder.’ It begins slowly but I love the part when you have to sing ‘Gloria’ in excelcis deo..’ You do hear angels sing.
We went back to the 16th century and sang ‘Gaudete’ with much pomp and gusto. Söllner calls it ‘mit schmackes!’ That was our share of spiritual songs for the evening.
We went to the Heimat chest and fished out a German folksong ‘Nun Ade, du mein lieb Heimatland’ about a son who remembers his beloved country while travelling to foreign shores. The Heimat laughs benignly with its azure sky and greets the traveller with its meadows and fields. God knows, my heart is always with, sings the wandering son, but he has to go afar to seek his fortune.
The fifth song was another volkslied, as a folksong is called in German, penned by Friedrich Silcher: ‘Durch’s Wiesental gang I jetzt na,’ a long song with a sad ending sung in a light style with a heavy refrain: I have no treasure anymore. The treasure implied is the lover who doesn’t seem to be in his grave because he wasn’t true in his love towards her. The roses and the carnation have to wilt away like my love, she says, for I have my Schätzele no more.
Then came a jolly song about plantation workers from Jamaica: the Banana Boat song made popular by Harry Belafonte. Johannes Söllner sang the lead part and the labourers of the banana plantation were the men of the MGV-Kappel. The song was sun with the usual swing and a good piano beat. The song came to an end and suddenly the choir members had Bio-bananas in their hands as a gag. The audience raved and loved it.
The ‘Day-O’ song was followed by a love-song about a Mexican beauty and her ‘Blue Spanish Eyes’ sung by Satis Shroff with the Kappeler men’s choir singing the chorus. This brought the house down. The people love schmaltz and quite a lot of elderly Germans could remember the hit from the sixties composed by Bert Kämpfert and made famous by Al Martino.
The evening of international songs was ended with Karl Jenkin’s ‘Adiemus.’ An encore ensued with a song from Israel: ‘Hine ma Tov,’ with lovely, manly Hebrew intonation. The moderation of the men’s choir ‘Liederkranz’ was performed by Johannes Söllner, who established himself as an animator and made the audience answer his quiz and pranced and hopped around on the stage. The audience was putty in his hands.
Since Karin Peters was busy with her family affairs, a moderator of the South-West 4 did her job and received a lot of appreciation for his im promptu interpretations and announcements. The Musikverein began with ‘A Celtic Christmas’ with music by James L.Hosay and the conductor was Manfred Preiss, a thick-set man with a bald head, who has been conducting the Musicverein Kappel orchestra since over 30 years. Noah Schroeder’s rendering of ‘alla Milanese, Siciliano, Rondo Veneziano on his fagott was a treat for one’s ears with music by Kees Vlak, accompanied by the brass-orchestra. Other notable numbers were: ‘The Bremen Town Musicians (Hayato Hirose), the Images of a City (Francesco Sessini, Op.42) and the New York Overture (Kees Vlak). The last piece was one with feeling: percussions, clarinets, flutes reaching a crescendo only to melt away in recurring waves. Samba rhythm in the first half, followed German brass in a slow tempo mingled with bells chiming, a trumpet solo reminiscent of Milies Davis, a foxtrott played on the clarinet and the evening vanished like stardust on a dark Schwarzwald sky.
The history of the MGV-Kappel dates back to 1920 and initially it carried the name ‘Musik und Gesangverein’ under the leadership of Hermann Steiert. However, it was in Mai 1, 1932 that the official MGV_Kappel ‘Liederkranz’ was founded. Whereas in those thrifty days the membership-fee for the singers was 1 Reichsmark, today it is 15 euros per annum. Politics brought new changes in the vereins of Germany in general and on November 23,1933 the Singers’ Association (Bund) demanded that a meeting be held whereby the key word in those days of the Third Reich was ‘Gleichschaltung’ meaning thereby that all associations in the country had to have a common function: to serve the nation under Adolf Hitler. New terms were introduced: Vereinsführer, vice vereinsführer.
The World War II broke out on September 1, 1939 and a lot of MGV singers had to go to the battlefields. It was on may 8, 1945 that the big ethnic murders were brought to an end in Europe. Where ever you looked, you saw piles of rubble, dust and ashes left by the krieg. It was on July 13, 1947 that the MGV-Kappel ‘Liederkranz’ was given permission by the French military government to re-start the men’s choir.
Since the Musikverein and the men’s choir in Kappel have a common origin and split up later and hold the annual Weihnachtskonzert together, it would be wonderful if the two vereins would cooperate and coordinate music and songs together in future. Miteinander instead of hintereinander or nebeneinander, for through togetherness we can win the hearts of the audience.