The GospelChor Saarbruecken
The GospelChor Saarbruecken has its roots in southern Africa. For four years, from 1978-1982
the choir's founder (and present-day director) Dr. Wilhelm Otto Deutsch
lived and worked in Swaziland, a small country to the east of South Africa,
as a Lecturer in Theology at the university and as an assistant minister
at the Manzini Lutheran Church.
Fascinated by the music of the region, he was a member and part-time director
of a multi-racial, multi-national choir, in which he sang and played many pieces
of African music and for which he composed several pieces in siSwati, the language of Swaziland.
When he returned to Germany in 1982 as a University Chaplain in Saarbruecken,
he brought this African music, mostly unknown at that time in Germany,
back with him and found an answering enthusiasm for it in a group of singers here.
At their request, he started the GospelChor Saarbruecken in 1986.
Music from Southern Africa
The choir, which has grown steadlily over the years, now numbers over 100 members:
students, employees and retirees, Catholics and Protestants, of several nationalities.
What binds them together is a passion for a music that expresses the spirit of a free
and just community of sisters and brothers under God, as found in songs from Africa
and other parts of the world. As the choir sings in siZulu in one of the opening songs,
"Nkulunkulu nkululeko": "God (the Great-Great) is freedom."
Such songs mirror the South African experience of oppression and resistance under
the apartheid system, but also the hope for freedom and justice.
A South African theologian once said: "South Africans are a singing people.
During the time of apartheid we sang not because we were happy. We sang as we wept.
We sang in order not to be broken. We sang in order to survive."
These songs, of great emotional and spiritual power, form till today
the nucleus of the choir's repertoire and are sung in the original languages
of siZulu, siXhosa, and siSotho. Visible signs of the force of this spirit
are the colorful African caftans and shirts worn by the choir members
in various colors and patterns.
( 1:40 min - 2,4 MB )
Stop the music
Songs from the World
Over the years the original southern African repertory was extended to
American spirituals and gospels, which in a similar way sprang from the
experience of slavery and the longing for freedom.
The choir also added songs from Latin America, East Asia, and Central
and East Africa, all in the original languages.
The CD "Freedom is Coming," published in 1995, gives a good example
of all these musical traditions.
A second CD, "Come On!" (1999) expands this repertoire and adds
modern gospels from the U.S.
With this repertoire, the choir accepted an invitation in the year 2000
to attend a Black Gospel Workshop in Glen Ellyn, a suburb of Chicago.
Stop the music
The Missa Gaia / Earth Mass
In 1995 our choir was the first in Europe to perform the Missa Gaia / Earth Mass
by the American composer Paul Winter, who composed it for the 800th birthday of
St. Francis in 1981. It shares St. Francis' concern for all of creation,
and is based on the "Gaia hypothesis" by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis
that all living matter - from whales to viruses, from oak trees
to the smallest algae - is one living unit.
Thus, Paul Winter introduces animal voices into the mass - the cries of a wolf,
whales, a loon, and baby seals set the musical themes for the Kyrie, the Sanctus,
and the Agnus Dei. The singers take up their cries, in effect learning the music from the animals.
For the musical styles, Paul Winter presents an ecumenical breadth of Gregorian chant,
Protestant hymn, Romantic organ music, African percussion, Latin American rhythm,
Gospel song and rock ballad. In this way the whole world is present in the music.
The GospelChor Saarbruecken recorded the mass on CD, and Paul Winter
was so impressed with the recording that he invited the choir to perform
the Mass with him and other choirs in the cathedral of St. John the Divine
in New York City for St. Francis Sunday in October 1998.
Godspell - a Musical
This musical, based on the Gospel according to Matthew, was composed by
Stephen Schwartz in 1971, at the same time as Andrew Lloyd Webber's
Jesus Christ Superstar. Biblical texts are read aloud from St. Matthew
and interspersed with joyful or moving songs.
The most well-known song from the musical, which was played at the time on popular radio,
is "Day by Day." The stirring conclusion of the piece is the song "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."
The choir first performed the musical in 1997.
Duke Ellington's "Sacred Concert"
In 1965, the well-known jazz composer Edward "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974)
was asked by the bishop of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to compose and
perform a concert of spiritual music for the 100th birthday of the church.
Elliot not only composed the music, but also wrote the text, of which he said,
"Here I was able to say openly what I have been saying on my knees."
In 1968 the New York Cathedral of St. John the Divine commissioned
a second Concert of Sacred Music.
In 2003 the GospelChor presented pieces from both these Concerts together
with Jazz Train, the high school Big Band of the Saarland.
Leon Roberts' Gospel Mass and Paul Halley's Songs
In 2005 the choir presented the Gospel Mass "He Has the Power" by Leon Roberts,
with such songs as the ecstatic "Thank You, Lord" the contemplative "Remember Me"
and the rousing finale "He Has the Power!"
The program was rounded out with
five contemporary songs by the Canadian composer Paul Halley, including the lyrical
"The Rain is Over And Gone" and Halley's contemporary rendition of the beloved gospel
"Hold to God's Unchanging Hand."
Altogether, the concert presented an inspiring combination
of sacred music in both the black and the white Gospel traditions.
Gospels with the Police Big Band
For a common project with the Police Big Band of the Saarland,
choir director Otto Deutsch wrote new arrangements for choir and Big Band together.
Included were pieces from Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts and from
Leon Robert's Gospel Mass "He Has the Power", songs by Paul Halley,
and "Gospel Sermon" from Leonard Bernstein's Mass - a refreshing new treatment of some
Present Program: "Sing a New Song"
The current project features a colorful combination of songs by Leon Roberts and
David Haas from their collection God Has Done Marvellous Things and new arrangements
of traditional African gospels.
A composition by choir leader Otto Deutsch, Psalmus Africanus,
in various African languages and featuring traditional African instruments
(with marimbas for the first time), rounds off this exciting program.
Concert Tour to Washington, DC
The GospelChor and the Bigband of the Police Music Corps were invited to Washington, D.C.
in October, 2009, to give a concert at the St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church,
the mother church of black Catholics in the nation's capital.
One of the main composers featured in our program was Leon Roberts, who was the Director
of Liturgical Music and leader of the St. Augustine Gospel Choir for 16 years, from 1977-1994,
and composer of the Gospel Mass "He Has the Power." His seminal work is honored by
the Leon Roberts Liturgical Institute,
whose members were delighted to hear that Roberts' music was appreciated and performed In Germany.
Our choir was warmly received and feted by the St. Augustine Gospel Choir,
and our concert on Sunday, which was attended by Leon Roberts' father,
was a resounding success. In a moving conclusion to the concert, the American and German choirs
and musicians performed the song "He Has the Power" together.
The next evening, we had the honor of performing at the famous Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
This concert was broadcast in real time on the internet and
can be viewed today in the archives
of the Kennedy Center here.
During this week in Washington, we had a marvellous time together getting to know this amazing city
and strengthening our ties to each other in the GospelChor and Bigband.
Visit From Washington and Our Anniversary
In the summer of 2011 the St. Augustine Gospel Choir visited us in Saarbrücken. They gave concerts to cover their expenses, but we also did a joint concert in a capacity-packed, but enthusiastic church in Klarenthal.
In December of 2011 we celebrated our 25th anniversary with a concert in the Ludwigskirche in Saarbrücken, offering a “best-of” selection of our complete repertory. The audience reacted enthusiastically. The concert was preceded by an official reception the city of Saarbrücken gave for the choir in the historic Knights’ Hall of City Hall.