Culture Clash in Minneapolis. . . of the oddest sort!

As a performer at musical venues I find it important to support the organizations that support me. This is one of the facets of collaboration that I find to be pretty self-explanatory but tricky to execute, since I work at the times that these organizations are performing. But with a lazy Sunday afternoon behind me last weekend, I fired up Bertha and headed out of the woods of western Wisconsin, into the TC.

At St. John's Lutheran Church in Minneapolis the "Lord Nelson Mass" was being sung by several colleagues and a former voice teacher, who is now a colleague of mine (one of the quirky delights of the performing world--watching your former teacher sing something and knowing that you are now colleagues). I made sure to be there on time, as St. John's has hired me the last two years to be the alto soloist in Handels "Messiah" and I wanted to say hello to a few people. It was great to see so many people I knew. And surprisingly, the program listed several hymns in the first half, beginning with "Glorious Things of You Are Spoken," Franz Josef Haydn's tune "Austria," arranged by Robert Hobby.

But the tune didn't make sense to me--I couldn't understand what my ears were telling me!

During the introduction I tried to quiet the confused waves shattering through my brain. "I know this piece," I thought. "Why do I feel as if I should be in front of the TV watching the beginning of a Bundesliga soccer game?"

By the time the first verse started my brain had ceased the shortwiring and settled into an odd mystique of oddity, some kind of mis-shapen dimension, such that it prevented me from singing with the other concert-goers, as directed in the program. Finally it dawned on me:  it was the tune of the German National Anthem.

I didn't make it to singing along last Sunday. I got lost in memories of watching the US-Germany friendship match in Dortmund before the 2006 World Cup, the Sommermaerchen (summer fairy tale) that was that summer, and my discovery of the wonderful sport of soccer.

Soccer is a pretty big deal in Germany. I've seen many people cry and fall into a minor depressive episode when their team lost and hey--I used to live in the land of Schalke 04--I learned to keep my mouth shut when it came to expressing my true opinions about some teams and their supporters, although I had no particular allegiances. (A tip:  when traveling through East-Westphalia, hide your Dortmund scarf, and hide it well. Better yet:  just leave it at home.)

And I learned the importance of a national anthem. Being an ex-pat in Germany wasn't always easy,  although sometimes it was an absolute delight. However it was tearfully emotional for me every time I went to an American football game or a  US soccer game because of the "Star Spangled Banner." I never once made it through singing the "Star Spangled Banner" without tears running down my face. During the World Cup that year I was so proud that when the US was playing, that every single word of our national anthem was audible on the television broadcast. I cannot say the same for many other countries! Through that one tune last Sunday I got to have a lovely moment in the memories that I gained from living in Germany for five years.

It's truly amazing what one concert experience can lead to. Thanks, St. John's.