A fortnight ago, myself and the rest of St. Michael’s choir in Exeter went to Fulda, Germany for our annual summer choir tour to help celebrate the 300th anniversary of their current cathedral. After a fairly early start on the Monday morning (I was up at half six but those coming from Exeter had to be on the train to Southampton at the ungodly hour of five o’clock in the morning) we flew to Frankfurt, landing in glorious sunshine and heat before getting the train to Fulda and going straight into our first rehearsal with all 100-odd members of the Dom Chor, a thirty piece orchestra and four soloists for the Liszt Coronation Mass which was to be sung during the celebrations on the Wednesday morning! Despite having to attempt to understand directions in another language and try to remember to use German Latin instead of Italian (Kuhreeay instead of Kireeay etc.) it all went very well considering by that time we were all rather sleepy.
Day 2 consisted of a mayoral audience and a tour of the cathedral and city, including one of the oldest churches in Germany which has the most wonderful 9th century crypt; we tried to persuade Erika to let us sing something down there but we sufficed with a chord instead to test the exceedingly close acoustic. I also managed to catch my first bit of foreign public transport without getting horrendously lost, and I now know that “einzelfahrt” means a single ticket! (I somehow doubt this certain word will come in overly useful in the future however…).
Wednesday was the main day of our tour, with over 1000 people turning up to the morning mass to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the “Dom”, after which the Bishop decided to invite the entire congregation to the party laid on for the choir afterwards; it was a testament to German efficiency that they managed to feed over a thousand of us a hot meal in a relatively small space of time! After a lazy afternoon in the city we were back for the second service of the day, only this time we were on our own singing-wise. Again we packed out the cathedral, so walking down the aisle with a thousand faces looking back at you was quite a daunting experience! This service mainly focused on the Assumption of Mary, and at the end of the mass we followed the Bishop out of the cathedral and across to the park where again thousands of people gathered in the darkness for a candlelit procession around the schlossgarten carrying an exceedingly ornate statue of Mary, it was absolutely magical and you’d never see something of that scale over here in England (or have the weather for it either!).
After the busy day that was Wednesday, Thursday was ours to do with what we wished. Despite walking around the park in the pouring rain waiting for the others, the weather improved and we took to exploring some more of the city. First we investigated a shop run by nuns which one of our basses claimed to sell an awful lot of rather potent schnapps, but instead led us to going to their midday prayer service all conducted in plainsong. After that we had a very long lunch while Alex went and had a go on the massive organ on the cathedral, then managed to blag our way for free into the cathedral museum, before settling at a café for beer and ice cream.
Friday was concert day, so a lot of the morning was taken up with rehearsals and more lovely food (which leads me on to the discovery that Germany is actually more vegetarian friendly than France! Every restaurant I went to had at least one vegetarian option on their menu and at the BBQ on the Friday night I still managed to have a full plate of food, whereas when I go to France I often have to order off the menu). In the afternoon after some shopping we headed off to Blankenau for our concert of English contrasts which seemed to go down really well, especially the Gibbons “O Clap Your Hands” which was quite a surprise for us! (I’ve since been sent some very good but deeply unattractive photos of us singing at Blankenau so I won’t be posting them on here… it appears we all pull some very funny faces when we sing!).
On Saturday morning I went with my host Leonie to another park in Fulda for some cycling, an activity that I’d managed to avoid for a good eight or so years which might explain why I managed to fall off quite spectacularly! After having half a litre of apple juice in the bier garten (I foolishly ordered a large and forgot that everything is metric) we did a bit of shopping where I discovered that Woolworths still exists, then visited a local castle before another rehearsal, dinner at an Italian restaurant and then watching my friends get absolutely “schlossed” at the wine festival at a local café!
Our final day started bright and early with Sunday mass at the cathedral with some lovely Darke in F, then after lunch we started our journey back to our various corners of England after a great week away. My host family were all lovely and fortunately spoke a fair amount of English; the two years I spent learning German at school clearly has been replaced by French instead!
I’ve written this post on my phone, so I apologise for any hideous spelling mistakes. I have another post planned soon about my Filofax and going back to university but that will have to wait until I’m a bit more awake!
EDIT: Link to the broadcast of the Wednesday morning service on DomRadio.de – http://www.domradio.de/video/8869.html