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Coaching in Saulheim


A big thankyou to Werner Schüßler for a great time in Saulheim last week. It was the 130th anniversary of the Saulheim Liederkranz and the 110th anniversary of the building of its concert hall, the magnificent Sängerhalle, by the American wood magnate Friedrich Weyerhäuser. The hall is home to a 50-strong men’s choir and two women’s choirs as well as the Singakademie started by Werner two years ago. Not bad for a community not much bigger than the area of York that I live in. The hall is comparable to the Wigmore in size and acoustic, but with several large additional rehearsal rooms and a well-equipped kitchen and dining room (complete with excellent resident chef. Only in Germany…).


Werner and I were coaching the same three groups we worked with at Schloss Engers two years ago (both schemes were generously supported by Kultursommer Rheinland-Pfalz): ensemble Nobiles, Trio Avijo and the Jubiladies.


Nobiles, from Leipzig and all former choir members of St Thomas’, are one of the most talented up and coming vocal groups, the Jubiladies (named after Jeremy Rawson’s Jubilate which they premiered last year) are four professional singers, and the trio is an outstandingly talented group of teenagers.



As before, Werner (seen warming up Nobiles above) focused on key aspects of vocal technique (which you’ll be able to discover for yourselves when his book is published) and I concentrated on the ensemble side of things. All three groups came together for Jeremy Rawson’s Rollright Stones, which the composer directed from the piano.


It was a terrific occasion – it can’t be easy for a composer to write for three groups that he’s only vaguely familiar with in advance, but it resulted in a stunning creation based on the legend of a mythical king of England and his knights being turned to stone (where they can still be seen near Long Compton in Oxfordshire).


Each group also sang pieces from their repertoire and Werner and I even joined Nobiles for a German folksong, the irrepressible German Geordie producing a guitar to accompany us.


The previous evening Werner’s group the Four Reasons, had sung Veljo Tormis’ Lullaby and then launched into a couple of Scottish reels, metamorphosing into an ensemble of guitars, accordion and fiddle. Nobiles treated us to their reinvention of Tallis as a cheerful fellow (could Dowland be next?) and a Leipzig Wonderful World, and there were great contributions from the female quartet and student trio. This was the celebration of the founding of the hall, and included powerful performances by all three of the Saulheim choirs. It was attended by a group of American descendants of Friedrich Weyerhäuser who still support the Sängerhalle and its activities, a moving example of musical friendships blossoming across the ocean and across the centuries. Great atmosphere, great music and wonderful people – what more could one want?



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