Concert Given by the Choirs of Lessing Grammar School in St. John's
Ambassadors of Song
Lovingly restored, the inner city of Hoyerswerda
in Saxony's easternmost region, Upper Lusatia, has become a veritable
treasure chest of cultural history. Bright colours dominate the
historic buildings, with the brightest hues coming from the late
Gothic Johanneskirche or St. John's Church, suffused on the outside
and the inside not only by light, but in April, 2006 also by the
light timbre of a choir that will hardly find its match even in
Germany's celebrated major cities.
by Martina Arlt 2006
full concentration on Lothar Kusche's every sign: the girls'
speaking, there were two choirs that taken together encompass almost
a third of the entire student body of the Lessing Grammar School
so rich in tradition namely, the girls' choir "Cantemus"
and the mixed Youth Choir which performed on the occasion
of a charity concert organized by the Lions Club in the crammed
full St. John's Church.
the very outset, the girls of "Cantemus", numbering about
forty, captivated the audience with their spotless intonation, crystal
clear transparency and almost ethereal vocal colouring. About half
of their contributions were characterized by the English language,
both in the religious field ranging from the Norwegian Egil
Hovland's psalm version "O Come, Let Us Sing" to American
gospel classics such as "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho"
and "Ticket to the Kingdom" and in Thomas Morley's
vivacious and amorous madrigals from chivalrous Elizabethan times.
all his international orientation, choirmaster Lothar Kusche also
highlighted popular songs from the German regions, including contemporary
scorings such as Heinz Lemmermann's "swinging" version
of "Hab mein Wage vollgelade" and an absolute curiosity
in waltz rhythm, "Die Schwätzer" by Hessian composer
Winfried Siegler-Legel. Between songs, the girls moved swiftly,
orderly and noiselessly into the ideal acoustic position for each
In between the a cappella versions, a grand piano and even
a guitar provided a varying accompaniment, thereby lending an attractive
setting particularly to the solo performances. A reminiscence of
the eighties was evoked by Lisa Wiemer with the dreamy song "Out
Here on my Own", with which Irene Cara once captured the hearts
of musical fans, Josefine Brechel carried the gospel song about
the "motherless child" to a passionate crescendo on "a
long way from home", a duo sang the praises of tree blossoms
in spring in a rarely heard work by Siegfried Bimberg everything
in contemplative minor keys. Georg Schubert achieved an equally
pensive effect with Robert Schumann's setting of Heine's poem
well suited to Hoyerswerda, where Napoleon took lodgings just prior
to the Russian expedition "The Two Grenadiers".
Even with the outburst of the "Marseillaise" with a G-major-fanfare,
these warriors were denied one last rearing up; the rescue of their
commander-in-chief remained a mere thought. The interspersed readings
of poetic texts were just as thought-provoking, as in the case of
Wilhelm Busch's poem "Der Vogel auf dem Leim" about a
bird caught on a lime-twig, confronting certain death with a cheerful
song cause for a smile, but not without compassionate tears.
by Martina Arlt 2006
gospel music was performed by soloist Josefine Brechel and
the Youth Choir of Lessing Grammar School, Hoyerswerda conducted
by Ilona Seliger
marvellous thematic unity combined with stylistic diversity was
demonstrated by the mixed Youth Choir under the direction of Ilona
Seliger, head of the faculty of arts. There was no shortage of young
male singers among the approximately seventy voices, which confirms
the high regard for vocal music at Lessing Grammar School. At this
point, the French language ("Au clair de la lune") and
even the Czech language were added with Leo Janácek's
adaptation of two Moravian songs by Antonín Dvorák,
pearls of Slavic Romanticism. The Late Renaissance, too, was represented
one rarely hears a performance as brisk as that of Hans Leo
Hassler's "Tanzen und Springen". However, a calming influence
emanated from the slow marching rhythm of James E. Moore's hymn
tune "That We May Be One", a long-time favourite for wedding
ceremonies in English-speaking countries.
surprisingly at times, the delicately woven choral sound grew to
a lush, rounded opulence that made the church reverberate, almost
reminiscent of the mighty vocal tradition of our Slavic neighbours.
Thus, Johannes Brahms' "Waldesnacht" suddenly erupted
with "the world's loud commotion" ("lauten Weltgewühle"),
similar to the cheerful exuberance of Rolf Lukowsky's arrangement
of "Horch, was kommt von draußen rein" with pure,
infectious joy of singing. The spring concert ended splendidly with
spirited piano accompaniment to the notes of Jay Althouse's polyglot,
Spanish-Latin song of praise, "Exultate Cantamos Festivo".
Subsequently, two cheques were presented to the "Lebenshilfe"
(association for the mentally disabled) and to a centre of support
for the physically disabled by Lions Club President and City Councillor
is the secret of the high quality and the international reputation
of these choirs? Excellent teachers, certainly, and perhaps a continued
effect of the Sorbian singing tradition that was cultivated for
centuries in Upper Lusatia. Very clearly, it was possible to discern
the ideals of the finest and most creative models of music education
in the former GDR such as the professors Bimberg and Lukowsky. Equally
remarkable in this context is the status of Lessing Grammar School
under its long-standing Principal Ortrun Böhme as one of only
six grammar schools with "enhanced education in the arts",
which includes, in addition to advanced courses in music, experience
in orchestral playing, jazz, dance and the theatre.
a long time, the award-winning choirs of Lessing Grammar School
have been going on tour as cultural ambassadors of their region.
Far beyond technical perfection, they have achieved a clear cut
profile in their style of singing, which represents a distinct counterpoint
in voice formation and expression, for example, to the Mediterranean
ideal the pathos and drama of operatic choirs are so remote
from their style, that even ritardandi at the end of a piece are
employed by Ilona Seliger with the utmost economy. Moreover, what
elicits even higher admiration, is that all the choir members have
complete command of every note of their programme by heart. In summary
and this makes every support of these young talents by our
Network for International Cultural Exchange appear justified
they possess all the qualities among Saxony's top choirs to represent
the vocal culture of our country even far beyond the Federal Republic's