Saturday July 9, 2016 – Frankfurt, Germany – Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour ~
The most important and exciting thing about this day is our CONCERT tonight, at a place called the Jahrhunderthalle [The Hundred Year Hall].
#1. I just love saying that word Jahrhunderthalle! It sounds so epic – like something straight out of Wagner’s Valkerie – with Brünhilde waving her arms shouting “Yah – Hoon-duh-Hall! Yah- Hoon -duh- Hall!”
#2. Wikipedia’s description!
Jahrhunderthalle is a convention center located in Frankfurt, Germany. The venue, which was designed by architect Friedrich Wilhelm Kraemer, opened in 1963. Depending on the seating arrangement Jahrhunderthalle offers space for up to 4,800 people.
Notable past performers include Grateful Dead, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Ray Charles, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Yes, and that’s what it really says. Jimi Hendrix and the MoTab.
#3. It looks like a Spaceship. And who wouldn’t want to sing inside a Spaceship?
Oh wait, that’s right… The Tabernacle on Temple Square looks like like a Spaceship, too!
But, I digress.
A LITTLE PLOT OF LAND
We went for an early morning run and this time we knew how to get straight to the park. We found a bridge that led us over the autobahn toward the tall “Space-needle” looking tower – which Mr. Mo informs me the locals call “the Asparagus”[Spargel]. All around the base of that tower are Germany’s version of Super-Sized Community Gardens. The city allows citizens to rent or sometimes even purchase a small garden plot which is part of an organized fenced area, with paved pathways and manicured bushes. The citizens have created a garden community building small huts on their plots for storing tools, or even building ‘tiny houses’ and miniature cabins that they can visit as their own private oasis within the big city.
As one local person explained to a friend, ” it is a place I can take my grandchild to see a butterfly.” Sweet.
And in the middle of this beautiful garden oasis of fresh air and relaxation?
… a cigarette vending machine. Oh, Germany! Such irony.
After breakfast, we rode the subway to Frankfurt’s very small but beautiful Old Town – which is basically contained within a 3 block radius [remember, Frankfurt was destroyed in WWII, so for any historic buildings to have survived is quite remarkable – in fact, many of these were rebuilt]. We crossed paths with a LDS senior missionary couple who immediately recognized us as Choir tour members [who are we kidding? We cannot “assimilate”]. They told us how much they were loving serving their 18-month mission in Frankfurt, and also how excited they were to be able to have a ticket to attend tonight’s concert! [the concert has been completely sold out for weeks] Sadly, I did not think to take a photo with them. I do remember they were from Draper, Utah. 🙂
The Gothic St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral completed in 1550 [seriously damaged during the Blitz of 1944, then restored in 1950] was holding a wedding ceremony today. A large gaggle of tourists gathered behind the closed gate to watch and quietly snap photos. Feeling like we were intruding on such a private event, we walked over to the main Platz, where another wedding had just concluded. The bride in her pink tulle cocktail dress was being greeted with hugs and champagne! Love was in the air! ♥ I purchased a few gifts in a local shop, and then we headed back to the subway. But first, we popped back into St. Bartholomew because the wedding was concluded and I just wanted a peek.
Oh, how that tender Pietà touched my heart!
Pieta – St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, Frankfurt Germany
We returned to the hotel shortly before I boarded the performer buses to Jahrhunderthalle where we would have a sound check and a buffet dinner, before the performance. Mr. Mo and the other guests would be transported to the venue about 4 hours later.
WHAT I DIDN’T SEE
Mr. Mo took the subway to the museum district where it just so happened that a Festival was taking place along the river. He had no idea what it was all about, but it was very colorful.
During our sound check the organ died. It is absolutely critical for our concert! But, there was no sound. The technicians were frantically working on it trying to fix it, and meanwhile we had to do our sound check without it, and time was running out. We needed a miracle. We prayed for the organ! We prayed for the people trying to fix the organ! We prayed for our voices and our instruments that we could give our audience the performance they deserved to hear.
When we were lining up outside in the hot sun the guest bus pulled up. Mr. Mo jogged over and we snapped a quick photo of the two of us together. This is the only photo I have from tour showing me holding my hand bells, which I dearly loved ringing for these concerts. Then, he gave me a quick kiss goodbye and wished all of us a wonderful performance. He hurried off to find his seat – he was excited for another concert! He says that no matter how many times he hears our program (and on this tour, he heard it 7 times) he never gets tired of it.
The Jahrhunderthalle is built on a beautiful backdrop of green grass, a reflecting pond and dreamy willow trees. It has seen countless famous acts since 1963, and now our name is being added to the roster.
It is historic, large, round, cavernous…
The demand for tickets for our Frankfurt concert was unprecedented. When the tickets sold out within minutes, the hall reconfigured seating on the flooring to add several hundred extra chairs which would have minimal sight lines. People didn’t mind. They eagerly bought those tickets, too. Every chair was filled. About 4,500 people or more.
The Janrhunderthalle is a lot of things. But, it is not air conditioned. And it had been very warm all day. We were putting on our happy faces, and would be ignoring the sweat running down our backs. We wanted more than anything to give this audience a transforming experience – where their souls would be lifted up, and their sorrows buried for at least these two hours. We wanted them to leave tonight with the hope and strength of Christ in their hearts to make them feel energized and ready to face their challenges and to be carried forward.
And what about our special computerized tour organ?
It worked! It worked!
It turned out that the computer had crashed and it needed to be rebooted and then reprogrammed. It took a miracle to be able to do all of that within the short window of time they actually had before Brother Wilberg’s baton was raised. And, our audience never knew about the panic.
They only heard sublime music.
DER ALTE MANN, OPA
Shortly before the concert began, a very old man cautiously worked his way through the crowd to the section where my husband would be sitting. Grandpa gingerly sat down in the seat assigned to my husband. Mr. Mo felt awkward asking such an old man to move. He made an attempt to explain to Grandpa that there was a mix-up in the seating – but the old man did not understand English. So, Mr. Mo simply relocated down the row to Grandpa’s seat. He then spent the rest of the night watching Grandpa’s expressions and response to the Choir concert. He describes how the old man sat on the edge of his seat throughout the entire first half of the concert entranced with the sacred classical selections. During the second half of the concert, Grandpa was filled with joyful abandon, tapping his foot in time to the beats, giggling when the Choir began swaying in rhythm during a Nigerian carol, and tapping his toes in time to the beats of the folk tunes. His demanor changed from being a hunched over dour little man, to recapturing his childlike glee. Mr. Mo says Grandpa’s favorite song of the night was “Cindy” where the choir stomps and claps in the style of a Western HoeDown. Grandpa stomped and clapped so enthusiastically he nearly rocked himself right out of his chair! And then, when the hymns began – Grandpa sang along full-voiced in German, with tears glistening in his eyes.
The response from our Frankfurt audience was nothing short of tremendous. The applause was thunderous. They clapped long and loud – and then they clapped in unison. It is electric when 4,500 people are suddenly uniting all their energy to send their approval to you. It gave me chills up and down my spine!
After our encore Battle Hymn of The Republic, our announcer LLoyd Newell thanked everyone for coming. His interpreter for the night was Choir alto Sonja Sperling, who is a native of Frankfurt and was thrilled to be home.
When Lloyd them “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again”- and Sonja interpreted, that is usually our cue to begin singing the hymn in German – but the audience took the cue first, and began singing “God Be With You”… to us! It was so sweet, I really began to weep. We joined in, and we all sang the hymn together – to each other. There wasn’t a dry eye in the entire dome.
As the house lights came up, I saw many white hankies being waved to us throughout the hall. Those hankies made me cry even more. It was just so sweet. It felt like no one wanted to leave, and they wanted somehow to send a part of themselves with us. They just stood there basking in the Spirit of God and love.
As I left my seat, I saw a familiar face shouting to me from below the stage! It was my dear friend Kathleen Lindsey – a former Choir sister who had joined with me, and retired this Spring because she reached the age of 60. She had come all the way to Frankfurt with her husband to hear us sing!! She was blowing kisses and grinning from ear to ear – it was such a sweet surprise to see her! But, I didn’t have much time to speak with her. We blew kisses to each other and made heart shapes with our hands. Forever friends, eternal sisters. “Auf Weidersehen! Auf Weidersehen!” we called out,”Bis wir uns wiedersehen!” – Until we meet again – MoSop
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during 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 we returned.
Check back each day for a new installment!