The Light - An Alumni Publication Summer 2015 - Page 15

REFLECTIONS 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 unconditionally...” 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 alumni@yfu.org. YFU • The Light | 15