Bach - Weihnachtsoratorium - Zerbst & Halle

I performed Bach's Weihnachtsoratorium [BWV 248, Cantatas I–III & VI] with the Halle Händelfestpiele Orkester in Zerbst (17th December 2016) and Halle (18th December 2016) in Germany. I had been invited to play with the orchestra as their guest principal trumpet player. The Stadtsingechor zu Halle and the choir of Halle University joined forces to sing the Christmas Oratorio, with Jens Lorenz directing Cantata I & II and Clemens Flämig directing Cantatas III and VI.

Gesine Adler - Soprano
Julia Böhme - Alto
Robert Sellier - Tenor
Clemens Heidrich - Bass
Stadtsingechor zu Halle & Universitätschor Halle »Johann Friedrich Reichhardt« - Chorus
Jens Lorenz & Clemens Flämig - Conductors

We met for a rehearsal in the Marktkirche [»Unser Lieben Frauen«] in Halle on the morning of Saturday 17th of December and we rehearsed all of the choruses in order. This rehearsal would also serve as our soundcheck rehearsal for the Sunday performance in the Marktkirche in Halle. After the morning rehearsal on Saturday, we had a few hours off before taking a coach to Zerbst, where we had another rehearsal before the performance there.

The first performance took place on Saturday evening in the Stadthalle in Zerbst. It is a beautiful building on a grand scale, all white, with ornate plasterwork and a recessed ceiling detail. The acoustic did not feel so generous, despite the size of the hall, though the concert was very enjoyable.


I have wanted to visit Zerbst ever since I discovered that Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688 - 1758) had been the Kapellmeister at the court there, from 1722 until his death in 1758. Sadly, we didn't have much time between the rehearsal and the performance to explore. We were in the middle of the Schloßgarten, it was freezing cold (and dark) outside and accessing the centre of Zerbst was sadly impractical. Hopefully next time! After the performance, the orchestra and choirs boarded several coaches back to Halle and the bus journey proved to be very sociable, with a really fun post-concert atmosphere on-board.

Sunday's 6pm performance took place in the Marktkirche in Halle. It was a fantastic concert and the more generous acoustic helped the musicians to really blossom and enjoy the performance. The atmosphere was amazing and the audience filled every available space, including up in the gallery. 


The concert concluded with a special encore of just eight bars - featuring the 'Hallelujah' motif from Handel's 'Messiah' - this being Handel's hometown and the church where Handel had learnt to play the organ. The words had been changed to 'Frohe Weihnachten' instead of 'Hallelujah' and it was a suitably joyous way of culminating the concert.

Afterwards, several of the musicians enjoyed the nearby Christmas Market in the Marktplatz in Halle. I had made friends with several of the players on the bus journey back from Zerbst - all great people and the most wonderful, kind characters.

I woke early the next morning to join another Christmas Oratorio project in Luxembourg and Metz and had adjusted my original travel plan - which would have involved traveling via Berlin on the day of the lorry attack on the Christmas Market there.