I was meant to sing Fauré’s Requiem for the second half of a concert with a choir in Berlin. We , me and a few others from another choir I had just joined, were supposed to join rehearsals later since they were also rehearsing Poulenc for the first half of the concert. As ususal in those days, I was early. So I sat on the floor outside and listened to the choir sing ‚Paradisi Gloria‘. It sounded totally different than anything I knew before. Also, it had me from that moment and I yearned to sing it.
Luckily young singers are in demand in choirs. Especially in choirs with a rather classical and serious repertoire. And that even includes Alti such as me! So after the rehearsal of Faurè I was asked to join the choir even for the first half of the concert, for Poulenc’s Stabat mater and Sept Répons des Ténèbre. I was so excited but at the same time very much aware that I only had six weeks until the concert! This was to take place November 20, 2008. So what followed was that in every single second that I didn’t have to listen or talk to someone else I was listening to those pieces. I can still see myself walking through Berlin Dahlem on my way to the library (I was still studying at FU Berlin back then) listening to ‚Sepulto Domino‘ out of the ‚Sept Répons des Ténèbres‘. It reminded me of film music.
So it will come as no surprise: from that time on, November for me is linked to Poulenc. And I am very happy to share these wonderful pieces with you. I will say this, however: you might not like it at first hearing. It’s from the 50s, so it’s modern classical music, it sounds different and maybe not always be easy listening. To me, after spending weeks rehearsing it and years re-singing it again and again, I just love it and by now it is as familiar to me as my couch. Well, a nice comfy chair, maybe. So, give it some time to grow on you 😉
Stabat Mater – Francis Poulenc
Sept Répons des Ténèbres – Francis Poulenc
Let me close with this: I am deeply grateful to my conductor in Berlin, Thomas Hennig, for this experience. While the ‚Stabat Mater‘ is performed from time to time, it seems that the ‚Sept Répons‘ are something of a rarity. And it is not often that lay singers get the chance to perform something like this. Because it is rather ambitious, it has a smaller target audience and concerts like these are expensive. Not every conductor has the guts to do this. Thomas did. And it was an experience that is still lingering on. Also: It did my sense of self-efficacy a great deal of good. I got this down in six weeks, for heaven’s sake! I have never been afraid of a musical challenge since 😉