The other Sunday, I got a quick phone call from my neighbor Omar with his girlfriend Billy who were in downtown Freiburg then that afternoon. We made something very un-German, that is a spontaneous decision to watch a classical concert starting in less than three hours. We prepared spaghetti bolognese as soon as they arrived and ate like hapless chaps chased by the culinary Mafia. We took the tram and headed to the St. Martinskirche in the Altstadt by six-thirty, half an hour before the concert started.
We stepped inside the church, clueless whether there were still seats available, especially the ones at discounted student rates. We got hold of the cheapest ones for six Euros a piece (each with a 2 Euro student discount), only to find ourselves seated at the rightmost part of the mezzanine where the best view we got was those of some heads- from the shiny to the ones covered with black or with a cap or some others curly – and those of the church’s unyielding pillars. Billy went down to talk to the one of the couple of organizers manning the counter, and was able to negotiate for us a standing room at the rearmost part of the church. It was better than getting a seat and yet seeing bobbing heads and mother of pearl pillars. Some of us standing were offered to get some leftover seats after the church doors were closed, thanks to the gracious man clad in bow-and-tie behind the makeshift counter.
The venue was almost full with a speck of vacant seats few and far between. It was close to about 300-strong audience, mainly consisting of older folks with some younger adults who appreciated their very own Handel and Mozart featured that night. I am no classical music master, yet I enjoy Akon with much gusto when I hum to Johann Sebastian. This musical gig is one item off from my virtual to-do-while-in-Europe list.
True to their culture of punctuality, and as if taunting, the audience clapped when the clock struck seven to welcome the choir and orchestra but who were still out of sight. Another round of applause greeted the musical group as they entered the side door on the right located near the pews populated by patrons. The instrumentalists sat while the singing ensemble stood, both groups clad in black- in formal dresses and coats alike. There was a pause as the last member settled snugly on the stage. No more than five seconds past after the first few notes were played, and then time stood still. It began with an overture and succeeded by an aria, and then a coro.
I took one of the free seats left somewhere midway of the second part of the concert, which turned out to be a good idea to better savor the sounds. The choir was intense yet under control, and sang with almost no obvious difficult effort. It managed with not much hustle the highest of the notes on the lyric book. The singers subtly swayed like grass lulled by an afternoon soft summer breeze as they made their masterpiece. For his part, the conductor waved his wand, weaving magic and making the best musical silk from it. Tenors, bass and sopranos hit their ranges of notes close to perfection as they sallied forth into their solos. The audience held their breath, frozen and enthralled in the blend of instruments and voice, while bound under the aural spell.The magic went on for the next three hours and only broken by a couple of breaks in-between parts of the oratorio. I stood from my seat after the second break, leaned on a pillar which I used as my leverage as I clicked away on my camera. I almost failed to capture the moment when the same guy who gave us our seats forbade me to take pictures. After the first break and perhaps captivated and disarmed by the music, he changed his mind and permitted me to take some photos. The last part was a chorus, ending with an Amen sung in such a way that surely put a smile on Handel’s face. And then there was silence. After about ten seconds, the first clap tore through the deafening silence, followed by another one and a couple of hundred more. Spectators randomly stood up until everyone has done so to offer a standing ovation. Five minutes had passed since the last note was made, and we decided to leave the comforts of the church, sneaked out into the cold and damp night, leaving behind the rest of the crowd still applauding.