Tour 'in the footsteps of Bach' enriches L.A. Cathedral Choir
-- The Tidings
/ May 2007
Photos by Bill Stephens
morning November 11, Los Angeles Cathedral Choir began rehearsing Bach songs in
Leipzig Germany's St. Thomas Church. Here, Johann Sebastian Bach is buried and
composed his finest choral works.
minutes into our rehearsal, many of us had a LOOK WHERE WE ARE! moment of realization," said choir
member Peggy Cribbs. They were moved to be singing Bach's music in Bach's church.
Cathedral Choir was in Leipzig for the First
International Bach Choir
Choral Festival, along with three other select
choirs from England, Japan, and Korea. Bach is famous for his sacred music and
was music director of eastern Germany's Leipzig.
This was the
first tour for the ethnically and age diverse L.A. Cathedral choir, which sings Sundays downtown. Under L.A.
Cathedral Music Director Frank Brownstead they prepared months to master Bach's
complex music in German. Choir sections held break-out practices. Choir members
practiced during summer recess and rehearsed with individualized Bach CD's.
Singer Melanie Heyn learned German.
had never done Bach before,” said singer Martha Cowan. “So it was a
“This choir is only three years old. We thought the tour would help us improve
and grow because we're putting ourselves out there as church and Los Angeles
ambassadors. You learn from other choirs, gain confidence, and get to know the
others in your choir. I expect a growth spurt after this tour."
morning rehearsal, the choir walked to a welcoming reception. Festival
organizers brought together the four choirs to foster international friendships
through music and raise money for Bach manuscripts preservation. At the
reception, the choirs sang individual pieces.
the L.A. Choir performed at modern St. Trinitatis Catholic Church along with
the Japanese at the Friendship Concert, featuring musical pieces of friendship
and national culture. The L.A.
choir sang American folk songs and spirituals, sacred songs, and Bach's
challenging "Lobet den Herrn." The audience responded well.
post-concert reception, Japanese choir members asked L.A. choir’s Steve Smith
about one of their songs. Soon, Americans, Japanese, and St. Trinitatis' host
choir were leaning over song sheets together in a spontaneous cross-cultural
celebration. Says singer Alana Jennings: “It showed how you can cross
boundaries with music."
Bach-oriented city tour, the L.A. choir sang three Bach pieces the next evening
at St. Thomas Church for the Festival Concert. They joined the other choirs for
two final Bach songs, including Dona Nobis Pacem ("Grant Us Peace").
The audience applauded enthusiastically.
choir’s Chris Walker: “The applause for four global choirs singing Bach was
Devlin, a Bach devotee, called singing Bach at St. Thomas with all four choirs
"heaven on earth.”
the L.A. Choir traveled to Berlin to sing for the Mass at historic St. Hedwig's
Catholic Cathedral. Berlin is L.A' s sister city. The L.A. choir sang several
pieces in German and Latin and the congregation warmly applauded. L.A.
Cathedral's pastor Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik concelebrated the Mass with the
German Cathedral priest.
La Cross was inspired by the Berlin appearance. “I was a soloist. And I sang better than
L.A. Choir members
Dresden, then arrived at Leipzig's St. Nicholas Church, where Bach's music was
often performed in his time. The church
is also the site of Monday night Peace Prayers,
which by in 1989
spawned candlelight street processions
for peace and freedom that eventually led to German unification.
As part of the
Peace Prayers, each choir sang a
selection about friendship among nations and peace. The L.A. Choir sang
"Caritas et Amor" and joined with the festival choirs. During the
Peace Prayers Monsignor Kostelnik praised the people of Leipzig for their
grassroots peace and freedom movement which started here. He said he recently paid
an emotional visit to Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park, which reminds that peace
must reign. He urged the audience to "Let peace begin with us."
The L.A. Choir
then joined in a candlelight
procession to the Bach statue at St. Thomas Church, where the choirs
sang together to end the festival.
found the final night moving because the Peace Prayers are a continuation of
the events that in the 1980s led to German unification.
the four choirs congregated for a farewell dinner and casual singing. Said Peggy Cribbs: “It was an enjoyable cultural
festival came the possibility that the Korean choir may perform at L.A.
Cathedral in the future.
Brownstead: "Our people grew, and
we represented L.A., the U.S. and Catholics well. Connecting with the
Koreans was special."
“I liked the camaraderie and
walking in the footsteps of Bach. We learned new music for this event
and grew as a result.”
Flahive: “A choir needs to do concerts. Traveling together promotes bonding,
which leads to better music. The experience will improve us, and it
re-confirmed why I'm a musician.”
“The trip was enriching. I liked seeing other traditions and meeting people
from other parts of the world. Music is an international language.”
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