Choir of St. John's College Cambridge performs in Wittenberg's Castle Church
Photo: EKDIn the Castle Church, Wittenberg: (from left to right) Michael Wegner, Dr. Hanna Kasparick and Reverend Elizabeth Adekunle.Since the 1670s they sing daily in the evening service in the chapel of St. John's College in Cambridge. Currently, Currently, this liturgical task is paused because of the term break, which is why the thirty boys and men of the renowned choir of St. John's College in Cambridge – half of them youngsters between seven and 13 years, half of them college students – are on an international concert tour. On Easter Sunday they exchanged their university chapel for the Castle Church in Wittenberg in order to sing in the Evensong. Evensong, a service with music that comes from the tradition of the Anglican Church, has established itself in the Luther City over the course of the last couple of years.
The focus is on the music by Samuel Sebastian Wesley
Now the choir from Cambridge offered the opportunity to experience this music in an especially authentic way. Most of the compositions chosen by the conductor Andrew Nethsinga were from the 19th-century composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley. This Easter Sunday afternoon was one of the highlights of the theme year "Reformation and Music". The Castle Church was overcrowded with worshippers and music lovers, many of which had come from out of town.
Beginning with the introit - verses from the Song of Songs -, the singers demonstrated their vocal and musical powers: A mighty but effortless fortissimo was followed by an intimate passage of great gentleness, reflecting the tender words of the text. Psalm 118 was offered as an artificial recitative with a natural articulation – it became very obvious that the young singers are totally at home in the Anglican service, where the praying and singing of psalms plays a central role. And how consonants can resonate, especially when they are sung in English! The ethereal bright boy's soprano was wonderfully light and was complemented by the counter tenor voices of the adults, who added strength of sound and a solid timbre.
The voices of boys and men revelled in the sound of music
A soprano solo, complemented by the soprano boys of the choir, became the most touching moment during the Evensong. Wesley's Magnificat was performed with an astonishing vocal strength. The voices of boys and men revelled in the sound - mighty chords, out of which the composer built a cathedral of music. Nethsinga directed in a very friendly and convincing manner, enabling the young choristers to reach an impressive sovereignty.
The congregation stood up during the singing in order to demonstrate that the choir performs in their place. At the end, choir and congregation joined and became the "choirs of new Jerusalem"; who, "in strains of holy joy", sang of "Paschal victor", before the organist presented a worthy conclusion with Bach's Piece d'Orgue BWV 572.
Easter Cantata; "Abide with us, for it is toward evening"
Those who were able to make it came back on the next day for the cantata service in order to hear the pleasant male voices once again in Bach's Easter cantata "Abide with us, for it is towards evening", during which the English guests were accompanied by the instrumentalists of a Baroque ensemble from Dresden.