Surrounded and enriched by music

24 Oct 2017

College’s Chapel Choir has recently returned from a three-week tour to Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria.

Much of the choral repertoire is based on European music and to visit the places where the music was composed – have their footsteps echo on the same cobbled streets – is one of the main motivations behind touring.

It is an idea that resonates with Head of Choir Christopher Nye. “To see where the music we sing was written and get an idea of the different cultures and rich histories of the places we visited was fascinating.”

A packed itinerary saw them perform at eight concerts and six services, but also left room for them to relax, as well as visit some interesting and thought-provoking sites – including the Jewish Museum in Berlin, All Saints’ Church, Wittenberg (where Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation), Mozarthaus Vienna, the Augarten Palace (home of the Vienna Boys’ Choir), the Hallstatt Salt Mines, Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, and Munich’s famous Hofbrauhaus.

One of Christopher’s musical highlights was the opportunity to perform traditional Evensong at Cologne Cathedral. “Because of the acoustics, the organist had to play one second ahead, which made it technically more difficult. It’s a really awesome space to sing in, but that made it quite challenging.”

Organist and Music Tutor Harry Meehan says visiting Thomaskirche, Leipzig, and playing the same pipe organ Johann Sebastian Bach had played is something he will never forget. “It’s a really unassuming parish church, but it’s the place where Bach worked as music director, where he wrote some of his most amazing work, and where he is buried. Playing Bach where Bach himself played was absolutely fantastic.”

Music is a universal language and, while absorbing the sights and sounds of Europe, the Choir also took the opportunity to share New Zealand music and waiata wherever they performed. “The audiences were really interested in the waiata,” says Christopher. “They loved the difference in the musicality of the songs, especially using the guitar as an accompanying instrument.”

It is these sorts of experiences that validate the effort it takes to plan and undertake such a tour. Director of Music Robert Aburn says touring gives the Choir access to some incredible acoustic spaces and offers a sustained opportunity for the boys to develop their vocal technique. “It’s really important to expose the boys to different cultural perspectives and give them the chance to experience other cultures and their musical and choral traditions, as well as participate in different forms of worship. The boys grow both musically and socially during their time on tour. It enriches and enhances their outlook on life.”

The 2017 Chapel Choir European Tour left on Wednesday 20 September, visiting Frankfurt, Bonn, Cologne, Berlin, Leipzig, Prague, Vienna, Mondsee, Salzburg and Munich, Nuremberg and Bamberg, before arriving back in Christchurch on Friday 13 October.