The Light - An Alumni Publication Summer 2015 - Page 15
That changed when I entered the Adalbert Endert
Haus, a hall used by the local choir. The room teemed
with old men, middle-aged women and a few teenagers.
Everyone was snacking on beer, Fanta and something
called Schmaltzbrot (rye bread smeared with rendered
lard and topped with onions). I lingered on the sidelines
until it was time to sing. I took a look at the score—Latin
words, complex harmonies. I had
long sung in choirs and missed
my high school, an arts magnet
where I sang daily. But could I
tackle this challenging score?
Like everything else during my
exchange year, fear collided with
intrigue. I’d have to give it a try.
Over the months that
followed, I learned that
Germany has a long tradition
of local choirs, community
mainstays that have been
performing in towns, cities
and villages for hundreds of
years. “Winfridia,” Fulda’s city concert choir, has been
performing since 1876, only two years after Verdi’s
Requiem was first performed. My fellow performers
laughed at my fumbles—false notes, language gaffes,
my refusal to try that nasty Schmaltzbrot. They also
supported me unconditionally, giving me rides, sharing
their music, paying for me to accompany them on tours,
including one that took us to that age-old church in
Gotha. Together, we performed Verdi’s masterpiece,
Mendelssohn’s Elias, and Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Somehow, over the months that followed, I formed
fast friendships and in-jokes. As my grasp of German
became more confident, rudimentary and pragmatic
exchanges turned into real conversations. I came
to appreciate the choir’s
diversity, its commitment to
serving up a side of culture
in a small region dotted with
farms and Baroque churches.
On my last day with
Winfridia, my fellow
singers made fun of my
customary refusal to eat
that Schmaltzbrot. Then
they serenaded me with my
favorite passage from Verdi’s
Requiem, the a capella “te
decet hymnus.” A hymn in
Zion befits you, O God, and
a debt will be paid to you in Jerusalem, they sang in
Latin. Hear my prayer: all earthly flesh will come to you.
Tears streamed down my face as I accepted their tribute.
The words were Latin, but the sentiment was distinctly
German. It still makes me tear up with gratitude and
nostalgia for that life-changing year auf deutsch. ■
“My fellow performers
laughed at my fumbles
— false notes, language
gaffes, my refusal to try
that nasty Schmaltzbrot.
They also supported me
Sarah Coomber is editor of Reflections, the creative writing section
of the YFU alumni magazine and welcomes submissions of poetry and
prose containing a cross-cultural element at email@example.com.