When did you become interested in choral music?
In the age of 11 I started to sing in a boys choir in the cathedral of my hometown Limburg. Before joining the choir I was doing a lot of different kinds of sports – but I remember that my first concert in the boys choir really hit my inner personality like no sports event ever did before. And I recognized that singing together with other people in a choir was the best thing ever for me.
What fascinates you in choral music and being a conductor?
Probably the fascination is that as a choir, we do something together. Later I studied some solo singing, but it never made me as happy as singing together with others. As a choir you give your best to delight your audience as a team. This is very special.
Starting to conduct was more like an accident at first. At the boys choir they offered a conducting course for older singers, so at the age of 15 I started to learn a bit about it. Then suddenly a church choir near my hometown looked for a new conductor, and I decided to audition. I was lucky that they selected me as their new conductor, and that is where it started, when I was 16 years old. Now I have been conducting choirs for more than 25 years, and basically what fascinates me is the same, like as a choir singer. The strong will of a group to bring a piece of music to the best possible result and to present this to an audience.
When did you discover the concept of Open Singing?
In the year 1997 there was a huge Open Singing on the famous “Loreley”-mountain, located at the Rhine-river in Germany. It was led by the great Swedish conductor Robert Sund, who is one of the “big masters” of Open Singing. Later I experienced Open Singings at the Europa Cantat festivals, where several thousands of people sing together. A unique experience!
Why is it important to use this concept?
The exciting thing about Open Singing is that it is not about musical perfection, but about enjoying music together. Everyone in the audience should sing along – that means of course, that the audience is no longer a typical audience, but part of the performers. Open Singing breaks down the wall between the people on the stage and the folks in the audience.
Everybody becomes an active part of the musical process. There is not much musical rehearsal in Open Singing, just as long as most of the people have understood the heart of the music. Then we move on. So you can say that the rehearsal is also the concert.
I like this concept, because sometimes people have the impression that choral music must be a very serious thing. Well, of course it can be, but it should not always be! I think it is very important to show this joyful side of singing. We can attract new people for our choirs through this!
Should everyone try to sing at least once in their lives? Why?
Yes, I do think everyone should try to sing! And actually: everybody can learn to sing!
Many scientific research has shown how important singing is for the health of body and soul. Singing can reduce high blood pressure for example. Singing has an enormous influence on the production of positive hormones. And of course singing unites people. Especially after the difficult time of Covid, where many of us stayed alone and isolated, singing can help to get back to social life. But these are just some examples. There are many more that prove the importance of choral singing.
But, well, even if you have never heard about any scientific research: If you sing together with others, you will feel immediately how good it is!