I've gotten quite behind since Ben has joined me in Berlin but I will try my best to briefly catch you up on the days since he has arrived.
Day 7 -Final Day in Cologne
I woke up early to meet Stefan for coffee in the heart of Cologne before attending another rehearsal and their afternoon concert. I was able to ask him anything I wanted about his career or what it is like singing under the direction of him and so on and so forth.
One of the first questions I asked is, "what is the process for auditioning to sing in the Cologne Radio Choir?"
He explained it as something quite unique to their choir specifically. He doesn't actually have the final say in choosing who should be in his choir. There is a committee of choir members that meets up for auditions and they choose who should move on to the next round and then who should ultimately be in the group. There are usually 3 rounds of auditions, singing prepared solo pieces, singing pieces given to you by the choir to learn your specific part, and sight reading. I was surprised to learn that sight reading was the last part of the audition since all of the members of the choir are forced to learn songs quickly and efficiently. Sight reading plays a huge role in that. Stefan also agreed that if he could have it his way, he would make sight reading a requirement in the first round. I couldn't agree more with that statement.
There were many questions to follow that related to his career as a conductor and what sounds he expects from him choir. Something I found peculiar is once his contract ends wit the Cologne Radio Choir, it is up to the choir to decide whether they want him to stay or not. Which, as difficult as that is for the conductor, it makes sense since ultimately the choir knows their own potential and wants the best person conducting them to their success. We also discussed further Stefan's style of conducting and how he has adapted to adding orchestras when conducting larger works. He says this is what separates a mediocre choral conductor from an advanced one. If you make rhythm a priority and have advanced rhythmic techniques, that you will be successful conducting any work whether it has orchestra, small ensemble, etc. He says that choir conductors get a bad reputation for not being able to conduct with a full orchestra and a choir in front of them but Stefan has done his best to break that stereotype and I feel he has been truly successful.
After my wonderful talk with Stefan and 2 cappuccinos later, we were off to a short rehearsal before heading to their concert. They wasted no time making sure all of the pieces were performance ready. There was nothing out of the ordinary that wasn't already done the day before and before I knew it we were heading to the "small" church just around the corner of the WDR. I walked into the church and immediately realized the incredible acoustics of the room.
The church was standing room only by the time the short afternoon concert started. The choir had informed me beforehand that Germans love when things are free, especially their concerts. So I can't even tell you how many people were in that church just waiting to hear a taste of what the radio choir would be performing during this term. I couldn't believe all the support they had from the community. If only there was a way for people in the states to get that excited about hearing an exquisite choir perform very complex music. One can dream!
After the short concert which went absolutely perfect, with only 2 days of rehearsal, I said my goodbyes to Stefan and the choir and was quickly heading off to the airport to catch my flight to Berlin to meet Ben! Unfortunately I was given very confusing information from the help desk at the train station and was taken onto the wrong train heading the opposite direction into the country of Germany. I finally asked someone for help and a very nice young German girl wrote down specific directions to get me back on track and I was stuck at this very creepy train stop for about a half hour. It looked like someone had filmed a horror movie there before and the time couldn't have gone by any slower. I finally got back on track and was at the airport with plenty of time before my flight. But then another issue had presented itself...
Ben was in Berlin texting me before my flight took off and he was looking for my flight number to check what gate I would be arriving at. Well it was at that moment we realized that our flights took us to different airports in Berlin. Ben was at thee Berlin-Tegels airport on the North side and I was flying into the Schonefeld airport on the South side. At this point Ben was on his own to get to the hotel with not knowing an ounce of German. I started to get really anxious picturing him getting lost in Berlin. Luckily Ben got very lucky when he got off at a random stop and found his way to the hotel one a whim. I was relieved to know he was at the hotel by the time I landed. I got train information and met him at the hotel about an hour after I landed and we were finally reunited! We got settled and had some dinner at the hotel restaurant and Ben had his first German black beer. He was in heaven especially after having the best cheesecake he'd ever had for dessert. We went back up to the room and crashed hard, preparing for the amazing day ahead.
Day 8-10- Berlin
We woke up to a beautiful clear day and immediately got ready to head out and explore. Our main goal was to go up to the Berlin tower and have lunch in their rotating restaurant. What an incredible view on such a sunny day. The food was amazing and I had my first curry wurst, which was absolutely delicious.
We explored other monuments, churches, and even some luxury cars, including a $2.5 million Bugatti. And we ended our day of exploring with a picture in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
My time in Berlin with Ben is not really related to music at all because I wanted to have time to do touristy things with the one I love most. My musical journey wouldn't be continuing until London.
On our last day in Berlin we went to an evensong service at the Berliner Dom performed by the Berlin-English choir. They were a small group that had a difficult time filling out the sound of the cathedral. They did have great diction and their men's sections were definitely the leaders of the group. The service was very peaceful and all in German but we had a wonderful time soaking up the beauty of the church and getting to hear the huge organ performing the prelude and postlude. After the service we walked to a little restaurant that seemed like the living and dining room of someone's house. Here we had an authentic German dinner with schnitzel and delicious desserts. The waiter was also incredible friendly. It was the perfect way to end our last night in Berlin and when we walked out of the restaurant it was snowing hard! The walk back couldn't have been any more beautiful!
Day 11 - Leaving for Salzburg
Our flight left early Sunday morning and we had a 3 hour layover in Cologne. I was getting so giddy to know that we would finally be flying into the city I had dreamed of going to most for nearly 20 years. As we landed in Salzburg, I immediately recognized the beauty of the city and the buildings and fortresses that we were passing on the plane. We took a taxi to our hotel and were immediately surprised at how central our hotel was to the rest of Salzburg. We were both equally excited. We checked in and got into our hotel room and were immediately out ready to explore. We walked through some popular parts of town and had our first meal at the Cafe Mozart (fitting, isn't it?). We had some authentic Austrian noodle dishes and then we were off to the pub that was going to play the Seahawks game. We befriended an Austrian who had studied at University of Oregon and grew to love the Seahawks and then a man from Holland who knew nothing about American football. We watched the Seahawks game and even though it ended in a loss, I couldn't help but just be so happy that I was in Salzburg and there was snow everywhere! I hadn't seen anywhere more beautiful than this city of Salzburg.
Day 12 - Original Sound of Music Tour
We woke up the next morning and I was more excited than a kid in a candy store. Ben and I were going to be on a 4 hour tour learning and seeing the filming locations of thee Sound of Music. We went to the lake where the children and Maria fell out of the canoe and saw where the terrace was custom built between 2 fortresses. We went to the Schloss Hellbrunn where one of three gazebos was standing and right outside of the Hellbrunn was the same bus stop that Maria got out on to walk towards to the house to meet the Von Trapp family. It was there that I needed to skip and sing a part of "I Have Confidence". I should also mention there was snow everywhere and it was a perfectly sunny day. It was seriously so beautiful. We then drove past the fortress that they film the exterior of for the front and back and past the Nonnberg Abbey.
The bus then took us over the mountains heading towards the Mondsee to see the church where the wedding scene was filmed and we even got to walk down the aisle that Julie Andrews did nearly 51 years ago. We also made a bus stop on the way there that showed a gorgeous view of a huge lake that was filmed at the very beginning of the movie before Maria started singing "The hills are alive with the Sound of Music".
I was the happiest I'm sure Ben has ever seen me and it couldn't have been on a more perfect, sunny day. We ended our tour by seeing the Mirabell gardens and walked through most of the spots they filmed "Do-Re-Mi" in.
After the tour we went and had lunch at a pizzeria about 5 minutes from our hotel and had some HUGE and delicious pizzas. We came back to the hotel and actually passed out and got 12 hours of sleep that was very deserving.
Day 13 - Sallzburg
Today was a day of exploring. We went to the modern museum of Monschberg and saw some of the weirdest exhibits we had ever seen before. But the museum was at the top of a cliff that overlooked all of Salzburg. Wow, what a sight to see!
We then walked around to see other sights of the Sound of Music filming. We passed the fountains and the square that consisted of the fountain and the place where the Nazis marched through. We then walked up the 100 steps to the entrance of Nonnberg Abbey, where multiple scenes were filmed in front of.
We then had lunch at an Italian restaurant and had some amazing pasta with the most flavorful sauces. On our way back to the hotel we got some beer and wine and laid on the bed and watched the Sound of Music on my iPad. How amazing to relive everything we had just walked through the past 2 days. Living in a dream every time I'm in Salzburg.
Thank you everyone for continuing to follow and read my blogs. No promises on them being daily but I plan to catch you up when I get behind!
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