Singen in Bonn (that’s Deutsch, not a typo)

Anyone who has known me for a few minutes might find out that I like to sing, and often unintentionally just sing things. I grew up always singing formally and informally. My family would sing at all of our family gatherings, at Christmas my cousins and I would stand on my grandparents hearth and sing, sing, sing. Christmas songs, that song about the moon, etc! Does anyone else know that one…Moon, moon, bright and shiny moon, won’t you please shine down on me? (cheesey little song, eh?)  I don’t know anyone else who does, but man do we have some great family videos of us singing. I sang in church and school choirs, I did all the musicals in high school. I took voice lessons one semester in college. Sean and I are that couple who sing things. You get the picture.

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Look at these blooms!

In my adult life I’ve always wanted to get back into formally singing, join a choir, or do some community theater, but I never made it happen. I emailed the Washington Chorus in D.C. to find out when auditions were last year but never made it happen. So when I found out about the Bonn English Singers here I was intrigued. Originally The Embassy Singers, the Bonn English Singers formed after the British Embassy moved to Berlin in 1999.The choir performs regularly in and around Bonn and is best known for its traditional Christmas services and concerts. I’m bummed I can’t sing in their Christmas concert because it’s going to be at this awesome nearby castle.

There’s something so invigorating to me about being a part of a group that creates beautiful music. I am one of those people who can get goosebumps from listening to music, aka frisson. And the nice thing about singing is that even if you’re not perfect, it’s okay. You can improve or just be drowned out by your neighbor. It’s a team effort of a different kind.

In early January, I emailed the Bonn English Singers to find out more and see if it might work for me. They said to come and try out a rehearsal! So in mid-January on a Thursday night, a bit nervous, I hopped on a train, traveling to a tiny train stop outside of Bonn 15 minutes away to go check them out. I hadn’t sung in forever, and was nervous about what I’d sing, how I’d sound, who these people were. Well I got to the train platform and saw there were delays. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. No train was going to come. So I tried to get a bus, but the next bus wasn’t going to get me there in a timely fashion in the least. I debated going and showing up super late, but tardiness is not looked upon favorably here so I sighed, and walked home saying I’d try next week.

The next Thursday arrived, and I set out to try out this rehearsal. Again, a bit unsure of what to expect, I hopped on the train with plenty of time for punctuality. Pushing the button saying I wanted to stop, I stood up, waited for the train to slow down, then pushed the button to open my doors. Oh no, this door wasn’t opening. I ran down to the next car, pushed the button same story, the doors wouldn’t open. Soooo, the train started moving on to the next stop, and I got the most pitied “Sorry!” from this youngish looking guy on the train. It was kind of comical, especially considering that most people would have no expression for me. Okay, so on to the next stop, I’ll just hop on the train coming back.

Nope, not that simple. I got off at the next stop that was IN THE MIDDLE OF NO WHERE. I was near some homes, some fields and this was the tiniest little stop ever. There was no one there except for a guy on his bike waiting on the other side. And of course there was a 25 minute waiting going back in the direction I needed. FOR REAL? Sigh. Called Sean and we debated my tardiness. I would just be 10 minutes late. So I said okay I’ll just do it. Otherwise I’m never going to get to this rehearsal. And if the doors wouldn’t open this time…well forget this choir thing ha. I stood there freezing my butt off, doing some German homework on the lonely platform.

Some 25 minutes later, the train came, I made it back to the stop and….moment of truth…the doors opened. I hurried off and found my way to their rehearsal spot. As I approached I noticed they were already singing and everyone was way older than me. eeeee scary. Then set in the silly reaction of: I can’t do this…this is nuts. They’re all older than me, this is scary, I haven’t sung in forever. I grabbed my phone about to text Sean for him to tell me to just go in. Then quickly threw it back into my bag and realized how silly I was being. Who cares if I’m new, who cares if they all know each other. Who cares if I’m late. I’ll just be myself, make some funny comments about Americans, sing my heart out and who can be mad.

I walked in and they stopped the rehearsal! Having everyone with all eyes on me was a bit much, but was good practice in introducing myself to a group of international strangers. 🙂

The choir director is this Scottish guy who is hysterical, and the choir members are always making cheeky jokes back and forth with him and each other. It’s been a fun way for me to practice my German more (though rehearsal is in English), sing my heart out, meet locals and have a great time once a week at rehearsal.

Making this happen even with my initial uncertainty was really a good reminder to me about how great embarking upon the unknown is for a person, how much it helps you to grow, push, and remind yourself how great it is to step outside of your normal day to day and go forth with confidence!  Each time I find myself thinking about how great these experiences are, I’m making a point to take it in and remind myself to file away for other times when I’m launching into unknown projects.

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I’ve been going back ever since and it’s been great fun! Most weeks I get a ride back downtown from someone in the choir, and we mostly try and speak in German. The last two weeks, I’ve gotten a ride from this one really nice guy who is also pretty new to the choir and both times we have practically had German speaking lessons. It’s been perfect for giving me a boost in my German speaking. Last week we had a hilarious conversation in German about his wife’s Chihuahua that recently had an appointment with basically a “dog whisperer.” The tiny Chihuahua basically had a therapy session and the “therapist” wrote the family a report about what he and the dog spoke about. This little pup shared with the dog whisperer that he has some angst around bigger dogs in the neighborhood, but loves his owners and especially feels most at ease relaxing on the couch. My choir mate told me he really did it for the story (that his wife really wanted it though hah!) Anyway it was one of those fantastic moments that while we were driving back on the autobahn, I was laughing to myself saying, Am I really living in German, speaking German with this man about his Chihuahua’s therapy sessions, after going to a choir rehearsal across the world? Yes, yes, I am doing that and it’s wonderful. Silly story and conversation, but these are some of my favorite moments.

 I may not be making lifelong friends (since we’re not staying forever and everyone is older and has different lives than me) but it’s been fun hearing their stories, getting to know some people a little bit, and doing something I love. Sean has come with me a few weeks too, but he’ll unable to sing in the concerts unfortunately. We’re singing some Shakespeare arrangements, some that are pretty complicated and I’m singing second soprano. Here are links to two of the songs if you’re curious, Shall I Compare Thee and Serenade to Music. If you happen to find yourself in Bonn at the end of May, and early June we have two concerts! One on May 29 and another June 2nd.

Otherwise, Everything’s been great in Bonn – we’ve been busy and my German lessons are getting increasingly harder now that I’m now at the B1 level (I passed A1 and A2! yay!) We’ve been getting outside more now that the weather is finally warming up and the sun is shining more often.

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A few weeks ago Bonn held a Garten and Old Car Show – oh and that band was playing the Blues….American Style of course!

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This is what I imagine Gatsby’s car to look like.

It was SUCH a gloomy gloomy winter over here – not much sun and so many clouds! So the sun is a relief now.  I’ve had some technical difficulties with the blog and photos lately so I’ve been realllllyyy slacking on getting stuff up here. But I figure it’s truly most important for me to be out there living and exploring, not just behind my computer!  That said, it’s time to head outside for a good old Saturday walk. Happy Weekend, or Schön Wochenende, as they say here!

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Oh and I even FINALLY tried Ethiopian food here (and loved it) and Sean caught this moment so perfectly with me stuffing my face like the dainty lady that I am:

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One thought on “Singen in Bonn (that’s Deutsch, not a typo)

  1. I love that you are “living in German.” I have a singing addiction myself, however unfortunately not paired with your experience or skill. Enjoy the weather and meet some young folks, damnit. Go on a bender and you’re bound to run into some fun folks. Or is it really that small of a place? Ok, sorry to use your blog comments to keep in touch, but we miss you. Have so much fun.

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