The following piece was written by Dr. Jerrode Marsh. She is the artistic director and conductor of Trinity International Concert Choir (TICC) and the Director of Music for Trinity Lutheran Church, Frankfurt, Germany. Trinity is the English language speaking International Church of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Trinity serves the expatriate community in Frankfurt and its surrounding areas. Missionary Pastor Robert Flohrs is the pastor there. Dr. Marsh recently conducted the choir in a concert at Trinity Lutheran Church. Here is her description of the concert and the music there.
The Trinity International Concert Choir (TICC) of Trinity Lutheran Church in Frankfurt, Germany, performed a concert featuring sacred choral music from five different countries, all nationalities represented within the choir. The concert took place on Saturday, 9 November 2013 at Trinity Lutheran Church and was performed for a very enthusiastic audience of about 200 listeners. Audience members came from Trinity Church, the surrounding Frankfurt community and some even came from as far as Heidelberg, Paris and London. The a cappella concert featured music from the English Renaissance, (William Byrd and Thomas Tallis), 19th-century German Romantic (Motets by Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn), Russian Orthodox music of the late-romantic (excerpts from the All-Night Vigils by Sergei Rachmaninoff), French Catholic music from the 20th century (works by Maurice Duruflé and Francis Poulenc) and the concert closed with arrangements of American Spirituals.
A particular favorite of the choir, director and audience was the Motet based on Psalm 51, Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein rein Herz (Create in me a clean heart, O God) by Johannes Brahms. Both rehearsing and performing familiar Biblical passages (such as Psalm 51) in more than one language and in a multi-cultural setting provides the unique opportunity to explore one’s understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. In this motet, verse 12 was particularly significant. This verse is often translated into English as “restore to me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Some versions refer to a “willing, “steadfast,” or a “right” spirit. And many versions emphasize obedience within this context (i.e. “willing to be obedient”). Brahms of course used the German version, which refers to the freudige Geist, which, when translated into English, means a joyful spirit. One can debate the hermeneutics and whether this is a precise translation of the Hebrew or not, but the music clearly indicates what is so often easy to overlook: that a truly willing spirit is indeed a joyful spirit. So often the emphasis on obedience to God’s will leaves out the critical element of joy. A spirit aligned with God’s heart and His will is one that is indeed obedient, but more importantly, also filled with joy! Brahms understood that and the special emphasis he places on the joyful spirit becomes more and more intense to the end of the work. (The audio for the Brahms piece is below).
Just as challenging was Blazhen Muzh (Blessed is the Man) by Rachmaninoff, sung in the Russian language. Unlike many of the members of the choir who speak either fluent or basic German, only a handful of the choir members speak Russian. This piece is an 8-part work based on Psalm 1, and while the Russian language proved extremely difficult in the initial rehearsal phase, it was in the end very rewarding. There was a recurring refrain between each verse—Alliluiya (Alleluia)—a universal word that bound the group together each time it was sung. What was particularly thrilling was seeing the Russian choir members moved to tears by singing about God’s promises in their native tongue, in a country far from their own. Music really is an international language. Living in a foreign country, learning to speak a foreign language, and adjusting to a new culture are no easy feats, so for many of the choir members, the music provides comfort, a way to connect into the international community and the chance to express themselves and their faith in a group of others like themselves. Through music, through people, through familiar Biblical texts (sung in many languages!), choir members have the chance to meet their God wherever they are. And some of the members meet Him for the very first time in the music.
Trinity International Concert Choir originated in the spring of 2010 as a group of 18 members from Trinity Lutheran Church, who wanted to perform Handel’s “Messiah” in the original English language. Enthusiasm for “The Messiah Project” grew and within several months, there were more than 60 singers from 18 different countries participating in the project. Members came from local international churches, German congregations, and friends and neighbors not associated with any church at all. Trinity’s visibility in the Rhein-Main area grew immensely and as a result of the project, several people have found their new “church home” at Trinity. The choir membership includes singers who sing in the top concert choirs in Frankfurt as well as people who have never sung in a choir before. It is a unique choir when compared to the rest of the many Frankfurt concert choirs: it is a choir that prioritizes the individual over the music, but still maintains a high musical standard and has achieved critical acclaim for several of its performances.
Since its establishment as a concert choir, the group has performed two concerts per year in venues such as historical churches in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Ilbenstadt, as well as at Trinity Lutheran Church. There is a deliberate emphasis on the cultural diversity of the choir members, as this is the main element that sets the choir apart from other large concert choirs in the area. Concert programs alternate between large choral works in original language with orchestra and soloists (such as J.S. Bach’s Johannes-Passion and Handel’s Messiah), with diverse a cappella concerts containing a variety of works highlighting some of the many nationalities within the group. In addition to TICC’s most recent concert, the group gave three performances in December 2012 of “Christmas Around the World,” an a cappella program that featured Christmas carols from eleven different countries sung in nine different languages, all representing countries within the choir. The choir’s next concert will be in May 2014 and will feature sacred music from England, including John Rutter’s Requiem and 19th-century Cathedral music by Ireland, Stanford and Wesley, and five pieces from the Renaissance and Baroque eras.
- Please pray for the continued work of Dr. Marsh and the choir.
- Pray for those who came to the concert and are unchurched, that the proclamation of the Gospel there might work in them.
- Check back in May for a follow-up of the TICC’s next concert, or make plans to be there in person!
Tags: Brahms, Byrd, Dr. Jerrode Marsh, Duruflé, English, Expatriate, Frankfurt, international church, Mendelssohn, music, music outreach, Rachmaninoff, Robert Flohrs, Tallis, Trinity Lutheran Church, Witness