Wednesday June 29, 2016 – Berlin, Germany – Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour
Mr. Mo and I woke up bright and early feeling quite refreshed and ready to hit the ground running – literally. Right across the street from our hotel is the irresistible Tiergarten beckoning us to explore! The Tiergarten [‘Animal Park’] is Berlin’s largest public park, which includes a zoo in one section (thus its name). At approximately 520 acres it is significantly larger than NYC’s Central Park.
The Tiergarten is filled with dozens and dozens of intricate statues and monuments, lovely bridges, ponds and streams, and well manicured English-style garden areas. Its trails and paths range in size, and vary in consistency from dirt or gravel to paved and cobblestone. We needed many days to explore here, but only had two short mornings.
Here are several photos:
As soon as we entered we noticed that instead of typical squirrels dashing up and down tree trunks, the prevalent wildlife here are small brown bunnies hopping around in kerfuffles. Oh, so very cute! [my attempts at a clear photo failed]
However, the bunnies must be considered more of a nuisance than “cute” to the caretakers, who have installed many fences and gates strategically placed around gardens to prevent their flowers and bushes from becoming lunch.
One of the most impressive sights here is a 200 ft tall (66 meter) victory column built in 1873 called the Siegessäule – honoring Germany’s victory in the Franco-Prussian war. It is located in the center of a huge multi-lane round-a-bout, but luckily there are four tunnels – one in each street corner – allowing pedestrians safe passage under the street to get to the monument. At the top of the column is a very lovely gold winged statue of the Goddess Victoria.
We didn’t find out until later that there are actually stairs in this column and visitors can pay 2€ to climb and enjoy a stunning view! (We would have loved to do that, but it was definitely not an option at 7 am).
We ended up running a 6 mile loop this morning and we didn’t even see half of the park. We would have loved to spend so much more time in Berlin. But this is just the first quick stop on our 3 week epic tour. So, we find ourselves already starting to say “next time“!
After a nice breakfast in the hotel we had the opportunity to visit a preserved section of the famous Berlin Wall, and see the adjoining museum and memorial.
This was a very moving experience. Mr. Mo and I vividly recall the dramatic historic event when the Wall was torn down. It happened on Mr. Mo’s birthday in November 1989. We were engaged to be married one month later. What we didn’t fully comprehend – what no one outside of Germany throughout those years can fully comprehend – is the human impact of the Wall. Being there in person, touching the remains of the Wall, seeing the guard tower, standing on the ground absorbing the reality of this Wall had a sobering impact. I tried to imagine all of the loved ones that were separated, and the lives that were shattered by that horrible wall.
Inside the museum we could see photos, read the personal stories of escapes (successful and failed) and watch news reels and a documentary about the wall. It was sobering. But, as I looked around, it also felt encouraging. We saw so many school children of all ages coming through the Wall Memorial. Most were born long after its reality. It gives me some hope that perhaps this kind of tragic history will not be repeated.
Sadly, there are still those who want to build walls, and fortify hate. There is so much to be learned from Berlin. Here are several photos:
As we prepared to leave the museum site we saw a street vendor and enjoyed our very first authentic German bratwurst. There are so many reasons to fall in love with Germany!
When we returned, Mr. Mo and the other guests headed off to enjoy free time in the city. He walked to Checkpoint Charlie, and I walked with the Choir and Orchestra to the beautiful Berlin Philharmonie for our two hour sound check / dress rehearsal. Then we walked back to the hotel for dinner, and then we walked back again to the Philharmonie for our concert.
And what a concert it was!
The Berlin Philharmonie has stunning acoustics. This hall is so perfectly designed, ensembles can hear each other clearly and it is easy to blend. It is such a joyful experience to perform here, and no wonder this hall has been the recording home to many famous artists! The very unique design of the hall allows the audience to envelop the stage on all sides. In fact, due to high ticket demand, we even had audience members seated in spare choir seats behind us. Having our audience so close to us provided an opportunity to glimpse their expressions after a song, and to feel their reaction and emotions. For example, I noticed a group of 5 people (three ladies and two men) in the first section who began crying as soon as the Choir started filing in. They were passing out hankies and hugging each other and smiling and weeping together just seeing us walk onto the stage. They hadn’t even heard us sing yet. It was obvious how much it meant to even have the Choir come, and that touched my heart and I began getting emotional even before I started singing.
We were warned that in Germany emotional reactions are rare, and concert going is a different experience than in the USA. If your performance is especially liked, there may be rhythmic clapping. But, we should not expect to hear any whistling nor see any standing ovations. They don’t do that. So, we were really caught completely off-guard when the whole house erupted in joyous clapping, stomping, shouting, cheering and multiple standing ovation!
The first half of our program is sacred classical music and is performed as one set with no pause or applause until the end. The second half of the program is a variety of sacred and secular folk songs and hymns. There is vast variety of music and I love the programming. For this tour, our assistant conductor Ryan Murphy added one of my personal favorites ‘The Battle of Jericho” which is sung A’Cappella. It has tight harmonies and exciting rhythms. And the words hold a powerful message!
Right up to the Wall of Jericho he marched, with spear in hand.
“Go Blow that Ram Horn” Joshua cried, “cos the battle is in my hands!”
Then the lamb ram sheep horns begin to blow, and the Trumpet begins to sound.
Joshua commanded the children to SHOUT! And the wall comes a tumblin’ down!
Singing in Berlin about “the Wall Comes a Tumbling Down” gave me chills. Especially after what we had seen previously today. It was powerful. It was meaningful. Many other performers talked about having the same reaction. And the song obviously moved our audience, too. At the very end there was one audience goer who reacted with a long and loud “WHOA!” – and then, we received some of the biggest cheers of the night.
The final three songs of our program are beloved LDS Hymns; Come Come Ye Saints, How Firm A Foundation, and The Spirit of God. There were many people wiping away tears in both the audience and on the stage. Mr. Mo told me he felt the angel spirit of his Mom during our performance of The Spirit of God. It was her favorite hymn. And I also felt the presence of heaven in that hall, throughout the entire concert – but especially during the hymns.
When we sang our final farewell “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” in German – our audience wept openly. I definitely shed some tears. It was a very tender moment. We could feel our hearts were knit together in unity and love, and there was a longing for these feelings and this night to never end.
Mr. Mo will attend each of the concerts as my guest on tour. He told me that a large portion of the audience were enthusiastic young people. However, there were many from the older generation as well. He sat next to a German man who was stooped with age and walked with a cane. The man was intensely focused on the performances. Afterward, he turned and said enthusiastically in broken English “My heart is filled!” Then, pounding on his chest with tears in his eyes, he continued, “The Choir brings me everything.”
As the audience cheered, I thought to myself How Great is our God to create this incredible musical experience! What a miracle for the Choir and Orchestra to come here! What a tremendous privilege it is to be a part of delivering hope, healing and peace to this land with our music.
I love you, Berlin! Thank you so much for sharing your love with us!
Music is the divine healer. Music is power. Joshua brought the walls of Jericho down with music. And tonight, I think the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square brought down many walls in Berlin. Walls of pain, walls of doubt, walls of worry, walls of fear, and perhaps several walls of prejudice or misunderstanding.
We definitely brought down the walls of a traditional German audience reaction! 🙂
And to think that all of this happened on only the first full day of our 3 week tour. And, this is only our first concert! Wow – What a way to begin!
I’m so excited to see what happens next!! – MoSop
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until our return.
Check back each day for a new installment!