The History of the Obernkirchen Children's Choir
The choir must stay alive: 1975 – 1980
By Susanne Rust
“I was very surprised by the quality of the choir’s sound pattern, and I admired the leader’s way to conduct the choir. She didn’t make use of too big hand-movements, but rather led the choir with her eyes and small, reserved gestures. All the children’s glances met in the leader’s eyes. Edith Möller was a blessed musician!”
That’s the way Denis Halikiopoulos describes the meeting with Edith Möller and the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir on the occasion of a first shared rehearsal, when the choir was in need of a new pianist. The former mayor of Bückeburg Helmut Preul initialized this encounter. They got on well with one another, and a co-operation was agreed upon. Since the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir’s concerts occurred nearly always on weekends, Denis Halikiopoulos’ honorary employment was compatible with his work at the music-school in Herford.
As a pianist he accompanied the choir at several concerts. When he returned from Athens, where he had acted as a guest-conductor at the Greek National Orchestra, he was desolate to find out that Edith Möller was seriously ill. Stipulated concerts were to be held, and so it was reasonable that Erna Pielsticker asked for the help of the professional bandmaster and opera-conductor to direct the concerts.
Denis Halikiopoulos was very taken aback by Edith Möller’s death on July 10, 1975. He contended with the inquiry by Erna Pielsticker, mayor Helmut Preul and member of the board Kurt Rabe , since the job represented a position in public service (as before in Herford) as well as the directorate of the newly established “Music-School Schaumburger Märchensänger”. At that time the choir still was a commercial enterprise. There were concert- and tour-contracts for years to come that had to be satisfied. For many years, orphans had lived in the house in Georgstrasse, the living for whom was partially supported by proceeds of the concerts.
Denis Halikiopoulos moved to Rinteln. He rejoiced in working with the choir – especially with the young talents. He found the full score work easy, even ‘though the formation consisting of three girl parts and one baritone voice was unusual for him. He set a high value on keeping up this special choir timbre. Often he himself accompanied the choir at concerts. For this purpose the piano was put in the centre. Later, music students, coming out of the choir itself, took over the accompaniment. He worried about the next USA-tour in 1976 – how would the change of the choir-master be judged and his work evaluated?
A journey to Luxemburg and France (Sablé and La Fleche) planned two years ago by the partner-cities of Bückeburg and Obernkirchen turned out well. The three- months-tour throughout the USA and Canada with stops amongst others in Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Memphis, Santa Fe and a final concert in the New York town-hall was successful. The Greek name was shortened to “Denis Halik” because of the (for Americans) difficult pronunciation. In spite of many standing ovations (enthusiastically counted by the choir-children) and positive press commentaries the renowned “New York Columbia Artists Management” planted 1980 that another six-week tour from the east coast to the Midwest was prepared. As always, the choir children enthusiastically counted “standing ovations” (standing ovations at the end of the concert) and the press reported positively. Nevertheless, the two-year contract rhythm with Columbia Artists Management, the renowned New York artist agency that had accompanied the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir since 1954, was interrupted and a six-week tour was not agreed until 1980.
During the following years, the choir continued to rehearse a new repertory while still cultivating and presenting the old one. In 1977, the students’ choir “Purdue Glee Club” from Lafayette/Indiana was welcome, and together the two choirs gave a big concert in the town-hall. In co-operation with the Culture Society the traditional Christmas- concerts took place there, as was customary. At nearly all weekends, the choir gave about 40 concerts a year in Germany, repeatedly in the Ruhr territory together with the local men’s choral societies
1978: Appearance in the TV-family-show “The Merry Musicians” in the Dortmund Westphalia-Hall. The choir’s existence was kept alive by a commercial for a welfare-lottery together with Hildegard Knef in 1979, a visit by the children’s choir “Dikkricher Solschlösselcher” from Luxemburg (met on a tour in 1976), the participation in the Federal Garden- Show in Bonn, and a leisure-time on Norderney in the same year.
In January 1980, the choir and members of the town council went on a short trip to Nieuwerkerk, the Dutch partner-town of Bückeburg. Together with the Bückeburg Brass Orchestra, peasant- costume-groups and the gymnastics club of the VTB a colourful evening was organized.
In the same year Denis Halikiopoulos said good-bye to the Obernkirchen Children’s Choir. There was a last concert under his conduct at the end of June in the Bückeburg town-hall. He took over the conducting of the newly founded “Schaumburg Youths’ Choir”, before he transferred his living space to Bad Salzuflen, where he worked as director of the special- field piano at the music-school there.