If Music Be the Food of Love – Play On!

Immanuel-Kant-Schule, Rüsselsheim
Sunday, April 3rd 2011
Vocalensemble Rüsselsheim (leader: Stefan Speyer, recital: Bernd Hunger)
Wie es euch gefällt / As you like it 



Rather a bit short-noticed I decided to cancel my appointments for today and  attend a special local event: The Vocalensemble Rüsselsheim, a choir of 59  members (of which 14 are male), gave a musical tribute to William Shakespeare  (1564-1616). Under the direction of Stefan Speyer they performed (both a capella  and accompanied by piano player Barbara Schweikard-Sepehr) 15 of  Shakespeare’s verses and one of Christopher Marlowe’s poems. From Romeo and  Juliet to A Midsummer Night’s Dream to his famous Sonnet XVIII (Shall I  compare thee to a summer’s day?) the audience got to enjoy some exquisite,  rather seldom performed songs.

There was a huge stylistic diversity between the pieces, for example Marlowe’s Live with me and be my love, being a rather jazzy piece by modern composer George Shearing (1919-2011), and It was a lover and his lass from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which was a typical Renaissance piece for an a capella choir. The latter was composed by Shakespeare’s contemporary Thomas Morley who lived from 1557 until 1603. Most of the other compositions were actually by quite modern composers: except for Morley, W. Byrd (1543-1623) and another unknown composer, the others had their creative phase in the 19th or 20th century.

The choir was perfectly in tune at almost all times, expect for some minor inaccuracies in the high notes. What was most enjoyable were the recitals by Bernd Hunger (former English teacher at Immanuel-Kant-Schule and expert in the English language and culture) between every two or three songs – with a deep, sonorous voice and flawless pronunciation he gave the audience the possibility to find out how Elizabethan English sounded, plus supplying them with extra information on Shakespeare and his works. This really made the concert entertaining – a lovely combination of a concert and a reading.

The arrangements were beautiful, most of them perfectly mirroring the poems’ messages. As the encore the choir presented a German version of Who is Silvia? from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, this time not by George Shearing but by Austrian composer Franz Schubert. Written in 1828 it had a typical Lied-character, here a strophic arrangement.
The choir showed that they were absolutely able to sing such difficult pieces, all of them polyphonic.

On the whole I had a lovely lunch concert, and what I’ve been glad about was also the positive resonance of the numerous guests. As I spoke to one of the members it was clear that they did not expect too many people – in Rüsselsheim often a justified worry since small cultural events are still not as well-attended as the organisers wished. So in regards to this, the concert was great success. <\span>



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