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Globe-traveling Thomanerchor Leipzig comes to Luther

Thomanerchor Leipzig, an ensemble comprised of boys between the ages of 10 and 18, performs concerts around the globe.

Thomanerchor Leipzig, an ensemble comprised of boys between the ages of 10 and 18, performs concerts around the globe.

Photo courtesy of Thomanerchor Leipzig’s Facebook page

Photo courtesy of Thomanerchor Leipzig’s Facebook page

Thomanerchor Leipzig, an ensemble comprised of boys between the ages of 10 and 18, performs concerts around the globe.

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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German boys choir Thomanerchor Leipzig performed on Nov. 18 in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL). The performance was the final installment of the Center Stage Series’ fall semester.

Thomanerchor Leipzig has a long and rich history and was even conducted by Johann Sebastian Bach from 1723-1750. The choir is now conducted by Gotthold Schwarz, who became cantor in 2015. The singers in Thomanerchor Leipzig include fifty boys between the ages of 10 and 18.

Thomanerchor Leipzig performed 12 songs during the concert. The choir performed three pieces by Bach, including “Fürchte dich nicht” (“Do not fear”), “Komm, Jesu, Komm” (“Come, Jesus, Come”), and “Der Geist hilft unset Schwachheit auf” (“The Spirit Comes to Help Our Weakness”). Along with the music by Bach, they performed Johann Hermann Schein’s “Herr Gott, du unset Zufulcht bist” (“Lord, you have been our dwelling place”), Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s “Kyrie Eleison,” and Heinrich Schütz’s “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” (“For God so Loved the World”).

The performance was divided into three sections, with each section separated by an organ solo by Gregory Peterson (‘83). Peterson’s two organ solos gave the singers a chance to sit down and get a drink of water before beginning their next part of the concert. Peterson performed one piece by Bach and one by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

Thomanerchor Leipzig was founded in 1212 and still sings music from 800 years ago. When they are not touring, the group sings in St. Thomas in Leipzig, Germany. The singers live, learn, and sing in the Thomas-Alumnat, which is their boarding house.

They attend St. Thomas School.

Organist and general manager of the choir Stefan Altner said he was excited to perform at Luther because of its association with the Reformation.

“In Leipzig, there was this big disputation in 1519, which is when the Reformation really started, and we were involved in this directly,” Altner said. “We are very proud to be in Decorah because I learned that it is the foundation of the Norwegian people that fled from Norway when they had problems with the Lutheran religion in Norway. It’s good to be here and show our connection to this.”

Photo courtesy of Thomanerchor Leipzig’s Facebook page
Members of Thomanerchor Leipzig live, study, and sing together.

Altner was in the choir when he was a child, and he said it has not changed much since he was first involved. He is especially proud of the choir’s connection to Bach.

“I joined the choir in 1966, and now I have been the general manager since 1993,” Altner said. “It’s a big challenge and also a big deal to deal with this great history. For 27 years, Bach was our conductor and teacher, and he composed most of his world famous music for us, for our choir. We’re still alive, so we bring his tradition all over the world.”

Performing Arts Commitee (PAC) co-technician and attendee Alex Lapinski (‘19) thought the event was a success.

“I really enjoyed listening to the show,” Lapinski said. “They had a very wonderful sound, and the sound that was coming out of some of the really young male sopranos and altos rivals the sopranos and altos we have here. I could tell that there was a lot of work put into faithfully performing these classic pieces of choral literature.”

President of PAC Melissa Kirby (‘19) shared this excitement. She said the choir’s performance in combination with the Anniversary of the Reformation made it a memorable event.

“This is a big year for Luther because of the Reformation,” Kirby said. “I’m so excited that we’re able to have [Thomanerchor Leipzig] the same year as the 500th anniversary [of the Reformation]. I think it’s so cool that they’re a group that has been around for 800 years. They’ve held together in their culture and they’ve made it a way of living. It gets passed down from generation to generation.”

Attendee Mikaela Hanrahan (‘21) attended the event because it was required for her German 201 class. She thought the event was a valuable experience.

“They were so good,” Hanrahan said. “I felt like I was brought back to Bach’s time and just sort of immersed in it. It was amazing how the boys could hit those high notes, but they were so pure, too. It was a really cool experience, especially for the German and the music students.”

Decorah is the third to last stop on the tour for Thomanerchor Leipzig. Altner explained that they will return to Germany after two more concerts in the United States.

“We have 17 days on tour,” Altner said. “We started in Montréal, and we have nine concerts in eight states. We’re in Boston, Decorah, Madison, and some other places. River Forest will be the last one and then we go back to Germany.”

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