May 27, 2013


Spending a few days in Berlin confirms for me this great city's reputation as a creative centre. I have long wanted to visit Berlin; amazingly in all my European travels of the past, the opportunity never presented itself.

This first stay in Berlin was only a few days, but even in that short time there were many chances to feel the creative energy and to experience some diverse musical events. Upon arrival, I of course took a little walk around the "Mitte" area just to get oriented. My timing was lucky, arriving at the Berliner Dom just in time for an Evensong service at which the Stuttgart Boy Choir "Knabenchor collegium iuvenum" sang. A very high level of music-making.

The next day was a trip to the outskirts of Berlin to the MoBe culture house, where Moving Poets Berlin is based. This is a space where artists of diverse fields have the opportunity to create interesting projects. The occasion for my visit was to watch a "Ha! man performance". The "Ha! man" performs on various instruments, and uses movement and visual projections as well to create a captivating experience for the audience. Beginning with simple mouth sounds into a microphone, he gradually moves through space towards his cello, keyboard, and laptop, from where the sounds expand into a musical collaboration with himself. Lots of pleasing sounds, musical textures and colours arise. A most exciting moment in his performance is when he offers a white plastic schoolchild's recorder to a randomly chosen audience member and invites her forward to improvise over the musical support he has crafted. 

I felt very drawn into Ha-man's creation in the first half of the evening and quite wish he had left it at that. The second half did not take the magic he created any further, so unfortunately the audience began to feel like they had had enough.  This affirms my current conviction in my own programming, that an hour or 70 minutes is an optimal length for a performance. It is very difficult to re-gather the audience and build the energy again after an intermission. 

That is, unless you are the Berlin Philharmonic. I attended a performance at the Philharmonie (which felt like a trip to Mecca) of the Beethoven 4th Symphony and the Nielsen 5th Symphony. Herbert Blomstedt conducted, and thrilled the audience. What a joy to be in the presence of this music, performed at the highest level.

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