Tour Diary 4—Performing in Vienna Austria, the “City of Music”
By, Arthur E. Newell, Mormon Tabernacle Choir Member
I arrived in Vienna with only the clothes on my back. For whatever reasons, the airline sent my luggage on a entirely different European tour than the one I was on. By the time we arrived in Vienna, I had learned how to wash my clothes in the hotel bathroom sink. I had relearned how to use a disposable razor. And I had discovered a new found gratitude for clean clothes and a full toiletry bag. Even so, today was a day that I had greatly anticipated, our concert in Vienna, Austria.
What comes to mind when you think of Vienna, Austria? Famed composers like Mozart, Schubert, Strauss, Haydn, Beethoven, Mahler, and Brahms have given Vienna the nickname, "The City of Music." Vienna is a world-class gathering place for music and musicians, so how fitting that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square would be performing in Austria. It's been over 25 years since the Choir last performed in Vienna.
The Musikverein (built in 1870) is known for its exceptional acoustics. It is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic and has a rich history of famous performers. Our performance at Musikverein presented a challenge due to the size of the Choir and Orchestra. On the main level were seated the tenors and sopranos, while the altos and basses were located in the balcony. Many of the baritones and altos had limited or no visibility of the conductor. So in order to stay in tempo, we had to really focus on the beat and know the music. In addition, some choir members that could see the conductor gave subtle hand signals to those who were singing blind.
For myself, I had about a two-inch window (between the ears of two men in front of me) to see our directors’ downbeats. Despite limited visibility, I kept thinking what an amazing opportunity to perform in this storied hall. And I felt so grateful for the hours of rehearsal that led up to this performance. Because of our limited visibility during the Vienna performance, I had to feel the music in a way that I never had before. I had to listen for my cues in a way that I could not have done, had I not rehearsed so long and so well. Singing in Vienna was a full-body experience for me. I had to use other senses besides my sight. I felt the music pulse through my body. With all my might, I tried to stay with the conductor and blend with the singers around me, and as a result, I felt the music at a deeper level than I ever had before.
The audience responded to our extra efforts. They applauded and stood and begged for more. One audience member commented that she heard angels singing above the Choir. The sound was so well blended and sonorous.
After the six-hour bus ride back to Munich, (arriving at 4:00am on Monday morning), we were all exhausted and yet invigorated by the experience. Overall, Vienna was an amazing city and an incredible venue. What a wonderful experience to be a part of this historic tour in Central Europe--with or without my luggage!