THE HINDU, New Delhi
30 Dec. 1988
Herrscher des Himmels, erhore das Lallen
Lass dir die matten Gesange gefallen. . .
(Ruler of Heaven, hear our stammering tones,
Let our feeble singing please Thee. . . )
So sang the Chorus of the Collegium Musicum Bremen from West Germany, in the concluding stanzas of Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio, which they performed at the Cathedral Church of the Redemption in New Delhi last Tuesday evening. But there was nothing feeble or stammering about their music, which was rendered with much finesse and feeling!
The 120-member group from Bremen (about 80 singers and 40 instrumentalists), which was led by the choir's founder-director Lothar Stoebel, seemed to be perfectly comfortable and composed on the occasion, although they had arrived in New Delhi only on Tuesday morning, 12 hours behind schedule in the foggy weather, and had spent eight hours struggling to get their instruments cleared by the Airport Customs.
Probably the extremely cold winter air suited them well. But without doubt the imposing interior of the Cathedral Church and the excellence of its natural acoustics must have filtered out the alien elements of the surroundings, and made the musicians feel at home during the rehearsal in the late afternoon. The visible enthusiasm and intense concentration of the overflowing congregation must also have raised their spirit. All told, the performance (which lasted about 80 minutes) turned out to be a memorable one. . . .
PostScript, 2013Reflections on retelling
In the above article, I went on to recall a recorded version of Handel's Messiah which I had heard in a Calcutta Church on a cold winter evening exactly 3o years earlier. So unforgettable was (and still is) that occasion that I retold that story in greater detail in an article I wrote in THE HINDU in 2010, which I reproduced in this column during last year's winter music season in Madras.
Yes, I can hear you loud and clear, asking me: "How many times will you be retelling the same old Messiah story?" And my instant response will be to ask you: "What would wonderful stories be worth, if you can't retell them now and then in different ways?"