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2009-04-22/23/25 German Tour: Berlin, Stuttgart and Frankfurt concerts

reviewed by Beate

 

I'm just back from Germany (yesterday evening) and literally, this is the first time I (a) have a PC available again, and (b) am awake enough again to actually do some typing... I did make use of the opportunity to spend a few extra days in Berlin, and saw the Berlin, Stuttgart and Frankfurt concerts.

 

The "Universitaet der Kuenste" in Berlin is situated quite centrally, but was a bit complicated to navigate (I got lost in the building several times). The concert took place in the "Kammersaal", quite a compact venue, no stage or anything, just a piano, a little space for the tenors, and the audience seats... I'd rather seen them in the concert hall, however, the positive thing about the Kammersaal was the fact that the tenors did the concert acoustically, which made it very special and intimate. The confined space also made more interaction with the audience possible, sometimes with quite funny results, for example when there was a mobile phone ringing (belonging to someone in the second row) and James raced to answer it, with Daryl close on his heels. I am not sure what the caller thought of that, or whether he or she could hear anything at all as everyone was roaring with laughter...

 

Acoustic concerts are always special, and I really enjoyed this one, sometimes getting completely lost in the music, sometimes watching other people's reactions as I like doing, or just letting the mind wander... the audience was very enthusiastic, clapping along and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Judging from how busy the guys were during the meet and greet, the concert in Berlin was a great success.

 

On to Stuttgart the next day  this time though, the concert was held in the "Liederhalle", and the audience was again very very receptive.

 

I gave Bremen a miss, mainly because of the long distance involved, and travelled straight on to Frankfurt on Friday morning to stay with a friend. Indeed, it was the same friend who, all those years ago, ventured to the Alte Oper with me to see a group called "The Celtic Tenors" in concert for the first time... so actually getting back to that very same venue on Saturday night brought some lovely sentimental memories back! I even remembered were out seats were in November 2003&

 

The venue is lovely (I've always thought that, whenever I went there during my time in Frankfurt) and it certainly was no less impressive with the tenors in concert this time. Now, I will try to go through the setlist, which was more or less the same for all three concerts, and see what I remember...

 

The concerts all started with Colm's overture version of "Remember me", which I think is a great way to open the concerts, before the tenors actually bounced onto the stage for "I'll tell me Ma". They then did their personal introductions, and for the German tour, they also did a little bit of it in German and the rest in English, but it was a pretty... hm... let's say flexible arrangement. Three concerts, and I think I heard three different versions each, which was really entertaining, but probably only if you could compare...

 

Next on the list was "You raise me up", introduced by Daryl, before they launched into "Spanish Lady". It was then Matthew's turn to introduce the next two pieces, and to give a little background and a little history of the Irish "An poc ar buile" and the Scottish mouth music piece "Fionnghuala" . Despite the fact that they tried to encourage crowd participation, there were actually very very few people singing along...

 

Those two were followed by one of my personal favourites, "The Holy City". It is a good while ago that I have heard the tenors do this for the first time (I know it used to be in the programme before, but my "premiere" was in Sligo cathedral when they sang this with a children's choir), but I can't hear this enough!

 

Next was a good old friend from the past... soooo fitting for a German tour, and bringing back memories as well: "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz".

 

James then introduced "Finnegan's wake", with detailed explanations about some traditions in Ireland, which involve the belief that whiskey can bring a dead body back to life.

 

After that song, James, Matthew and Colm left the stage and Daryl made his way over to the piano, once (Berlin) with a kind of quietly uttered "I thought they'd never leave", once (Frankfurt) with an open sport-event like celebration of the fact that "they're gone, they're gone". Different from the other two, Daryl changes his solo from time to time and sometimes from concert to concert, so I do consider myself incredibly lucky that I got to hear the same song  "How great thou art"  three times, because I simply love it. It's really as if everything around just stops for a few minutes, and if I had a say on it, the song could go on much longer than that!

 

Also, I think this is worth sharing, I have meanwhile come across a bit of background with regards to this hymn, which also details when and how it was written:

 

"Although this beautiful hymn is often associated with the crusades of Billy Graham, it originated in nineteenth-century Europe. In 1886, Swedish pastor Carl Boberg was caught in a sudden thunderstorm while visiting a beautiful country estate. As the storm passed, giving way to the sweet sunlight, Boberg composed the nine original stanzas of this hymn. In time the hymn was translated into German and Russian. It was noticed by a British missionary who was serving in the Ukraine. That missionary, Stuart K. Hine, often sang the song with his wife as they ministered there. Later they translated three stanzas into English from the Russian and Hine himself added a fourth...and the rest is Christian music history..."

 

Next was a collection of songs from the new CD, "Hard Times" and "Four strong winds" with Daryl on guitar, and "Shenadoah" a capella. Again, I think the version I'll treasure most, looking back on all three concerts, is the one from Berlin which was just pure voices, without any technical support.

 

Last song in the first half was "Remember me", with German introductions by all three tenors. They are all able to get through their texts flawlessly  but I suppose on stage the nerves sometimes get to them& Berlin was particularly interesting, with the audience helping out at times and notes being required... Frankfurt, on the other hand, was almost perfect, so I think we can move on to more German texts for the next tour!

 

The second half opened with "Grananda", which was enthusiastically received in Berlin, with someone in the audience wildly cheering when the song started. They continued with "Bring him home", and "A love so beautiful".

 

Back to the new CD songs, next was "You ain't going nowhere". That, I realised, is a real "crowd song". It was followed by James' solo, "Come what may", complete with introduction of the recording in Hollywood with David Baerwald. James is also alone on stage when doing this, accompanying himself on the piano, and it's another one of these show-stopping songs. I am actually very very happy indeed that the tenors have brought the solos back, it is a really nice feature and the voices are soooo worth it.

 

After "The mad lady and me", another one of "my" songs for several reasons, it was time for Matthew's solo, "Fearless love". He dedicated that song to his wife every night, who he said was looking after their three children at home, among them a six-months-old baby girl who "doesn't like sleeping too much". Now, as things were, Matthews wife wasn't at home during the Berlin concert, but right there in the crowd, and judging by her reaction, the dedication had not been discussed with her beforehand! Matthew only stopped short of asking her to stand up, and it was so very very nice to hear him talk about the family, and then, indeed, see/hear him sing to his wife in person, as if there was no one else in the room.

 

On to the next section of long-time acquaintances, "Irish Rover, "Caledonia", and "Whiskey in the jar" were next. All of this was building up to another a capella song, and this one without microphones in all three concerts: "Danny Boy". And to make this even sweeter, the second verse  just like in former times  was in German.

 

After that, it was "Time to say goodbye", and the tenors received standing ovations in all three venues. There were two encores in Berlin and Stuttgart, "Nessun Dorma" with audience participation was the first, "In the gloaming" the second. In Frankfurt, there were even three encores  "Nessun Dorma", "Star of the County Down", and "Ireland's call".

 

Ive had a fab week in Germany, with lots of sightseeing, travelling, and last but not least, three unforgettable concerts. Really, I don't know how it could have been better in any way!