Just imagine a chorus of 40 musicians from a picturesque town in South Germany earnestly rendering a set of sacred songs in a magnificent church in far-away North India, and suddenly there's a massive power failure and no lights and loudspeakers!
What would have been the result normally? Of course, the concert would have come to a temporary standstill, and the large congregation would have become extremely restless and lost its concentration by the time the power and the performance were restored.
But not in the case of the young musicians belonging to the Youth Chorus from Göppingen, who just went on performing without even pausing for a single moment! -- which they could easily do because most of them knew the songs and scores by heart. Here's my review of the intriguing event:
THE HINDU, New Delhi
13 Jan. 1989
Versatile Choir From West Germany
Lovers of Western music in New Delhi have just had a rich bonus in the form of 'Youth Chorus' from the West German town of Göppingen, organized by the Max Mueller Bhavan, the India International Centre and the Delhi Music Sociery, in the IIC auditorium.
Led by the group's founder-director Heinz Rauser, the 40 choristers rendered various compositions pertaining to the Renaissance, Romantic and modern periods -- mostly in German, with a few songs in French, Italian and English. The concluding number, entitled Insalat Italiana, was a parody of an opera scene: the text was made up of a long chain of Italian musical terms like piano, crescendo, espressivo, recitativo, con grazia, agitato, etc., and the music reflected the spirit of those expressions. A very humorous climax, which drew a well-deserved ovation.
On Sunday, one had a glimpse of another dimension of this choir's potential, when they gave a totally different kind of performance in the Cathedral Church of the Redemption. It consisted entirely of sacred songs (16th to 20th centuries), in German and Latin. This was choral music par excellence.
Special mention must be made of the fact that except for one or two singers, the members of the group had got all the songs by heart, and performed without holding the text or the score in their hands, which gave a very natural appearance to their recital. This aspect hadn't escaped one's attention even on the previous day. But on Sunday it proved to be a very crucial factor -- because when a massive power failure plunged the church (and the whole city) in darkness for more than half an hour, the choir went on singing nonchalantly in dim candle-light. (Six large candles were already burning when the power failed, and more were brought in soon).
In the event, far from being a distraction, the power failure actually improved the setting. For with this transition the concert became far more poignant and impressive, as the Reverend Motilal, the Vicar of the Church, said in his thanksgiving speech after the recital. Perhaps on future occasions when such splendid performances are organized in the church, it may be a good idea to switch off the electricity and have only candle-light!