Choir festival in Frankfurt, Part I - The Lyorn's Den
Wed Jun. 13th, 2012
11:58 pm - Choir festival in Frankfurt, Part I
Thursday to Sunday of last week (June 7th to 10th), the choir I sing in was at the 2012 Choir Festival in Frankfurt. That was fun.
I had planned to pack for high summer, but weather forecast said "early summer at best, some rain", so I had packed everything and anything and was schlepping a giant bag down the empty street in front of my house to the bus stop. That narrow residential street goes straight from the town to the university campus, and is usually crowded with busses, cars, bicycles, pedestrians, plus the occasional person on a scooter, skate board, or on rollerblades. Seeing it empty is really strange.
We all met at the railway station. It was quite cold, but sunny. The train journey itself was uneventful. I mostly tried to figure out from the festival program where I wanted to go and how to get there, and discovered that this was not going to be easy. Yesterday I read that there were twice as many choirs participating than last time, 2008 in Bremen, that meant a lot more sites and shorter breaks. Getting everywhere in time was going to be a challenge, but this is the kind of challenge I usually like and are quite good at -- if I do it alone, or with people who will just jog after me, no questions asked. *vbg*.
Frankfurt welcomed us with heat and damp and dusty city air, sunlight filtered through a hint of smog. It is always like that. I still like the town, I like the way it smells. When I was a teen and a young twen, I spend a lot of holiday weeks there, working in my uncle's software development company, and those were good times and good memories.
Our hotel was a cheap one in the bad part of town, close to the train station. I had checked the city plan and trotted ahead, everyone else was following me as best they could. I am Sense-of-Direction-Girl. It's a modest superpower and not always reliable, but it's mine. It turned out to be a 500 metre walk, which was not much fun on partially crowded streets and bad pavement, too warmly dressed and dragging luggage.
The hotel was narrow and tall, with a small lobby that was more than crowded with twenty women and their bags. I got the shakes badly from lack of sleep, lack of food and drink, and the unexpected heat and was in a rotten mood. I hate my rotten moods. They cause me to loudly bemoan my fate whenever I encounter some instance of imperfection or anything not going my way, and bite off the head of everyone talking to me like a grown-up. I'm a complete menace. There are reasons why I prefer to be on my own. Being on my own makes the world's imperfections a challenge instead of something I fear will get blamed on me -- blame that I need to duck out of by claiming incompetence and fate having it in for me. Loudly. (Yes, I want cheese with that. Lots of cheese.)
Finally some very patient souls, Ceridwen among them, got me to the room I shared with Ceridwen. I drank a lot of water, ate my packed lunch and was back to my facade of being able to cope with the world, even though it was slightly brittle.
Our room was on the fifth floor, not much of a view, and small, but clean and all in all quite good enough. A lot better than the hostels we were staying in in Bremen, and before that in Berlin. Both had a certain charm, but in neither case it extended to the showers.
After some singing in the yard, we dispersed into different directions. I had decided to do the same thing I did in Bremen: Set up camp in the concert hall where a choir competition was taking place. The competitors all sang for 15 minutes, then there was a 15 minute break where people could come and go before the next performance. This time, there were competitions in about four places, for different musical styles and for "A-List" and "B-List". I looked over the pieces the choirs would sing and decided I was going to have more fun with the B-List. So I went to the Musikhochschule, and Ceridwen, who after 30 years can (fortunately) cope with my moods, joined me.
We heard four groups -- one of those, Joyces, an ensemble of four singers, doing their own arrangements of Cohen's Hallelujah. Usually, this is sung in the Johansen arrangement, but you can't do that with only four singers. They also used a different text selection than Johansen, and I got goose bumps all over. Next they performed the Bohemian Rhapsody as a musical drama. Both pieces impressed me and I enjoyed them immensely. Ceridwen found the performance too theatrical for her taste.
Next was an all male choir, "bad boys", who were doing an amount of choreography and moving with the songs that, for all-male, it nearly qualified as a dance troupe. They did a very interesting rendition of "Tom Dooley", among other things.
The third group, a mid-sized choir failed to impress me much, not in the least because they did an arrangement of Hammond's "I'm a Train", which I had heard performed brilliantly by the Bonner Jazzchor in Bremen four years ago. As it is often the case with brilliant performances, they make it look easy. It did not look easy now, and it was imprecise and muddled. The other songs, I had nothing to compare them with, but they did not leave an impression.
Fourth choir was Tonart Hochstadt, the largest, and they were really good, however, what I remember most now is that their piano player was not following the conductor, which led to time lag between the part of the choir close to the piano, and the rest. I really feel for them -- they were very good, and made me want to sing along, and time lag is so annoying and all-too-common when you are on an unfamiliar stage.
We could have stayed after that one, but there were some arrangements I was really curious about sung by an "A-List" choir in the Alte Oper at half past seven, so we set out to get there.
We didn't make it. We had 45 minutes time, it took us less than 20, but when we arrived, the Mozartsaal where the A-List Jazz/Pop/Gospel competition took place was completely full and we were not let in.
Well, it happens. So instead we went down the Freßgass (Muncher's alley, though it's more a boulevard, really) to find food. I wanted salad (I was very thirsty) and Ceridwen wanted meat, so we went for the steak house. All the outside seats were occupied, so we sat inside. Good idea: We had barely placed our orders when a rainstorm started, taking the heat and the damp with it.
It was still raining a little bit when we went back to the hotel. On the way, we happened upon the Wise Guys concert on the Römerberg. I had wanted to see the Wise Guys in concert for years, but it was so crowded that there was no chance to see anything but people's backs and heads, and even hearing the music was not a given. We spent about half an hour there, then we left.
At the hotel, I was glad to get a hot shower, hung my clothes to dry, fell into bed and soon slept like a groundhog in winter.
More to come...
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