The History of the Obernkirchen Children’s’ Choir
A New Beginning: 1980 – 1985
By Britta Kirchhoff and Remon Sperr
Early in the summer of 1980, a new era began for the choir of the SM. Being the music-teacher and leader of the New Grammar School Stadthagen, Friedrich- Wilhelm Tebbe took up the position as choir-master. Since there were not more than six members of the choir left, he asked us choristers of the school-choir, if we would like to sing along with the SM..
No sooner said than done! We knew the choir-master, had a profound formation, and partly also knew the songs. Within a very short time, an extensive repertory was rehearsed, so that already in three weeks’ time the first TV-recording took place. More intensive rehearsals followed, a complete Christmas-programme was set up, and our first concert occurred on December 6, 1980 in the Emperor- Friedrich-hall in Mönchengladbach.
A special highlight was the Christmas-concert in the town- hall in Bückeburg with the guests Gerda Kosbahn and Theo Altmeyer, as well as members of the NDR radio-orchestra. Several scenes from Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel” were performed. (“The Sandman”, “The Night Prayer” and the final chorus- scene). Exerpts of the musical drama “Der Evangelimann” by Wilhelm Kienzl were played, too. The necessary costumes had kindly been sewn by the choir-parents.
Due to the choir-master’s friendship with the concert singer Hermann Prey, a recording of the Bach-cantata 158 “Peace be with you” could be realized in the Bückeburg castle.
For us singers, the membership with the choir meant intensive auditions during the first two years (on Mondays: audition for the girls – on Tuesdays; soloists’ audition – on Wednesdays and Fridays: audition for the whole choir). Often two concerts were given on weekends. Amongst others, we had rehearsals in Creglingen, where we went to quite often in the following years to enjoy leisure time with the choir. One engagement led us to the Netherlands for a couple of days as well. The repertory consisted mainly of secular and sacred choir-music of the Romantic Period, Bach-cantatas, madrigals, demanding music by Rossini, just as German and international folksongs. After all we knew what we strived for: directed by Columbia Artists Management we were allowed to travel throughout 21 US-states and give 32 sold-out concerts from October 10 to November 21, 1982. The partnership of Schaumburg, Illinois and the district of Schaumburg, Lower Saxony resulted from this journey.
A special honour was bestowed on us, when we were invited to take part in the Christmas-concert of the Berlin Philharmonics on the invitation of their conductor Herbert von Karajan. But how did this come about?
The choir had taken over the good old tradition of the SM to appear in hospitals gratuitously in order to give pleasure to the patients. Herbert von Karajan lay ill in bed in the Nordstadt-hospital in Hanover and listened to our “serenade” – we sang “Joy and Laughter”.
He was so enraptured that for seven years in a row, we were guests at Christmas-time in the Philharmonic, the ICC and the Ernst-Reuter-hall in Berlin, accompanied by various orchestras. Up to now, the SM are the only children’s and youth-choir having had an engagement in the Philharmonic.
1983 –another highlight: in the course of a concert with Anneliese Rothenberger and Rudolf Schock in the Olympia-hall in Munich, we were granted the bronze Hermann-Löns-medal for merits of the German folksong. In the same year we recorded “Ave Verum” in the Convent-Church Obernkirchen.
We younger singers always were very excited when we went to the gates of Hamburg, Quickborn or Maschen. There, the studio of Miller International Records ( limited liability company) was situated . Under the label EUROPA we recorded the four-part-series “The little ones of the SM sing nursery rhymes” for a cassette-edition. Already before, a long-playing record was produced with folksongs. Later a record with lullabies followed. During one of those productions we met the members of the group “Truck Stop” who were there at the same time recording their new record.
Our parents were proudly presented the autographs of “Truck Stop”. The cassette with Christmas-songs was recorded right in the center of Hamburg under the direction of Wilhelm Wille, one of the co-founders of Miller International Records. For us kids it was a real challenge to keep up the interest in singing Christmas-songs, when the summer-sun was hot and the temperature high. Mr. Tebbe bought a big sundae for each of us, so that we could not only cool down, but also keep a cool mind during the recordings
Numerous TV-recordings in ZDF and ARD were realized in the course of a couple of years.
In 1985 we were invited to Arezzo/Italy to participate in one of the most important international choir competition, the Guido d’Arezzo (European Grand Prix for Choral Singing).The choir reached a phenomenal second prize. The concert was broadcasted live on TV and radio. This success allowed us to travel to the festival “Radost Europe” in Belgrad/Yugoslavia as ambassadors for the Federal Republic of Germany in the autumn of the same year. What an honour, for this concert was transmitted on TV in the whole world. Another performance at “Joy of Europe” (Radost Europe) took also place in Belgrad in 1990.
A benefit concert in favour of the Welthungerhilfe ( Anm. der Übersetzerin: das deutsche Wort bleibt auch in der engl. Website bestehen) led us to Wiesbaden in 1986, where we not only were on stage with Hermann Prey, Karl Ridderbusch, René Kollo, Grace Bumbry, Theresa Berganz and Francisco Araiza, but also these world-famous singers were so enraptured by our voice formation that they asked us in unison to be allowed to get into voice with us. Our mouths stood agape. We nearly forgot to get into voice ourselves. How impressing it was to be in the limelight together with these celebrities.