An unusual Christmas concert by MixTape, Soncett & Die Blowboys.
One could easily get carried away by the sheer number of concerts going on in the pre-Christmas period. Especially in Rostock, the town that arguably represents the cultural hub of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, each Advent weekend sees numerous concerts throughout the city’s churches and concert venues, making it hard to make up one’s mind where to spend a cosy afternoon, wrapped in a blanket to brave the December cold, to get in the right Christmassy mood.
An event that differed from the typical Christmas concert took place on 17 December in Rostock’s Heiligen-Geist-Kirche. Three ensembles came together for this concert, three ensembles of different sizes, different musical approaches and, above all, different repertoires that, at first glance, do not in the least seem to fit together.
The concert started with a common piece, the well-known Swedish carol Jul, Jul, strålande Jul. The large number of singers on stage and three ensembles, altogether making up almost 50 people, did not however obscure the fact that the tune is not a part of any of the choirs’ repertoires. It was well-sung, solid one might say, but did not reflect the kind of moments you could experience when watching a performance of a well-rehearsed song, feeling that mood that inspires a singer to create a truly magic atmosphere. It was nevertheless a nice warm-up piece for both singers an audience.
Soncett opened the concert with a short selection from their repertoire. The three ensembles had all cut down their programmes to approximately six pieces each in order not to prolong the concert late into the night. The four women of Soncett are current or former students of Rostock University of Music and Drama. Their impressive repertoire comprises folk music, pop, gospel and jazz in different languages. They usually arrange their pieces themselves, setting them in high-quality four-part harmony. You can hear their borrowings from the Swedish folk-quartet Kraja, not only because they presented two Kraja-songs this evening, Tystnaden and Allt under himmelens fäste, but also in the swift and clear manner of singing, mixing the four womens’ voices, without promoting one at the expense of the others–the first alto is equally important and equally present as the second soprano.
It couldn’t have been a more radical change of atmosphere when, after a calm and beautiful own arrangement of the German Christmas classic Es ist ein Ros entsprungen and the following well-deserved applause, the Blowboys entered the stage.
Everything from their music down to their outfits was a huge contrast to the previous performance. Dressed in knitted jumpers, oilskins and woollen hats, the first thing to do was to clear away Soncetts’ music stands, while one of them strapped on a massive accordion. The twelve young men, mostly past or present students of Rostock University of Music and Drama , sing sea chanties and maritime folk songs. They sing the traditional songs in demanding four-part harmony, usually accompanied by piano or accordion, and write their own arrangements as well. Their unusual yet catchy name derives from the chorus of the popular Low German sea-chanty Ick heff mol en Hamborger Veermaster sehn, which’s goes ‘Blow Boy! Blow for Californio!’ After a brief moment of bewilderment during the first measures of their opening piece, a men’s choir adaption of the US Navy march Anchors Aweigh, the audience fell into the rhythm and you could see many feet moving under thick blankets. The Blowboys gave an insight into their varied repertoire that also features solosinging parts, piano interludes played in a virtuoso manner and, unusually enough, a-cappella pieces like their final tune, an own arrangement of the well-known Shenendoah.
MixTape is by far the largest of the three groups. The mixed choir of about 35 sing mostly choral arrangements of current pop songs, some of which they arrange themselves. Supported by rhythm instruments such as hand drums and even background playback music, they offered a light final touch to this unusual concert. The audience were humming along the tunes by Coldplay or Florence and the Machine and, because singing together is an essential part of Christmas, all the singers came on stage together once more at the end of the concert to sing Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht together with the audience – which proved to know the lyrics suprisingly well!
Different though the ensembles may be, they did a great job in coming together to organize this very special Christmas concert. Judged by the overwhelming applause, the rest of the audience enjoyed the concert as much as I did and the evening prove that one doesn’t necessarily need two hours of Christmas charols to get in a cheerful mood of Christmas.
Further information on Soncett: www.facebook.com/soncett
on MixTape: www.mixtape-rostock.de
on Die Blowboys: www.blowboys.de