A Delight for the Senses

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Original Invitation



Impressive sights and sounds captivated visitors the evening of 27th September 2007 at 8,00 pm in St. Marienkirche at Berlin's Alexanderplatz, the parish church built in 1250 AD. Overwhelmed at first by the architecture of the church and its numerous works of art, visitors found that the visual enjoyment was followed by the highest gratification and amazement at the marvellous singing of the independent choir The Embassy Singers.
The members come from the most diverse countries, as the choirmaster explained - such as the Ukraine, New Zealand, England, Singapore, and even Malaysia. In Berlin, where the choir is based, he has received many enquiries about the English language choir. The singers delighted the audience with glorious
interpretations of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis - the Canticle of Mary when she received word from the Angel Gabriel about the coming birth of Jesus and the Canticle of Simeon when he recognized Jesus as his Messiah. Both works belong to the Liturgy of the Hours in the Catholic Church, and they are part of the trilogy of canticles (Cantica) from the gospel of Luke, to which the Benedictus also belongs. By being presented with the versions in all their fullness and variety, the listeners were demonstrated countless facets in which each one of these pieces could take shape. The high regard for the arts that drew listeners to this performance was confirmed by an older gentleman before the beginning: "I hope my inner being will be touched by the sound." His hopes were fulfilled to his complete satisfaction. The audience that evening had come for a variety of reasons. For one thing, relatives of the choir members were present - even the tiniest offspring made a point of listening to their mothers' singing and were looked after with extra loving care by their fathers. Naturally, the audience also included some solitary persons, who sought and found contentment in the sound of music.
Mellow voices followed Choirmaster Andrew Sims' every gesture, resounding downward from the vaulted ceiling of the nave. Andrew Sims has directed the choir in Berlin since 1999, where he works as a conference interpreter for the Federal Government as his main profession - which did not prevent him from gaining 40 years of experience in choral conducting, a task to which he dedicates himself

with total enthusiasm and determination. That the choir members have met the high demands and standards was proven by the long, sustained applause and by the choirmaster's expression, radiant with joy and pride.
Among the highlights, a select part of the choir distinguished itself in a solo passage, sustained by the forceful male voices of Ingo Bathow (tenor) and Benjamin Nill (bass), but tempered by the dulcet voices of Caroline du Vinage (soprano), Andie Ullrich-Permutti (soprano), and Doro Schleiff (alto), their vocal art, rendered with fervour, reached the listeners.
These had their eyes intently turned upwards toward the organ loft, where the choir was standing, forming a wonderful ensemble with the organ in the background.
Organist Daniel Clark, born in Wales in 1973, played the imposing organ, which was gilded and decorated with angel figures. By alternating the accompaniment of the choir with solo pieces, his mastery found expression to the fullest extent, together with the magnificent force of the organ. He has studied music at three different universities and won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge. Since 2006 he has also accompanied religious services in Dresden's Frauenkirche, and this activity was preceded by numerous successful solo performances.

The evening's programme sequence was a special challenge for choirmaster Andrew Sims. How is an evening to be planned with the performance of the same pieces ten times over in different variations? To this he responded: Arranging compositions with the same text but in different keys in good order is an art that is often underestimated. It was his aim to create tension, surprise and harmony, which he achieved brilliantly, according to numerous comments from the audience. The programme had been established in chronological order and proceeded, beginning with a version by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625), passing to Herbert Sumsion (1899-1995) and to Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), turning slightly back in time and leading to an encore that lay outside the general framework. The end of the performance at 9,40 pm was rounded of with an anthem by Charles Wood (1866-1929), "O Thou the Central Orb". During the ten-minute intermission starting at 8,45 pm, visitors were able to reinvigorate their sense of hearing and all other senses, while the artists used the time to refresh their spirits so as to continue presenting their splendid performance with renewed vigour and every incentive.

The choir's next performance, Songs from the Shows - the Music of British Musicals (Admission 6,00 /Reduced 5,00 Euros) is scheduled for Saturday 10th November at 8,00 pm in St. George's Church (Preussenallee 17-19/Charlottenburg).

Text by Gesine Westphal
Photographs by Paul Harwardt

Gesine Westphal
Gesine Westphal
Gesine Westphal is just
beginning her university studies in Potsdam
with a view to a career in business journalism
©Network for International Cultural Exchange
A Delight for the Senses
Text by Gesine Westphal
Photographs by Paul Harwardt