Something Beautiful About Silence
“Thank you for withdrawing yourselves for the purpose of a palpable unity.” That comment from an audience member at our July 1 concert in Nuremberg has given me a lot to think about.
Pictured: Meistersingerhalle, exterior. Me holding Liz's cello (don't worry--I didn't play it!). Meistersingerhalle, interior.
Ryan Murphy (our conductor) started our rehearsal in Nuremberg by saying “Don’t expect a ‘Whoah!’ after The Battle of Jericho!” We didn’t get one of those, but there was still some nice applause.
The 8-hour trip from Berlin to the Munich area had turned into a 10-hour trip with horrible traffic on the Autobahn. Standstill. The trucker next to us turned off his truck and fell asleep. The driver in front of us climbed out of his car, got out his work gloves and his tools, and started working on his driver side window. Drivers from three other cars got out to help him. It was a long 2 hours. I’m glad the concert in Nuremberg was good enough to make it worth the trip.
Like the Berliner Philharmonie, Nuremberg’s Meistersingerhalle is not much to look at. It’s a big box of a building, nondescript and unassuming. But hidden inside that concrete box is a beautiful hall, both acoustically and visually. The hall, with a single wrap-around balcony, spreads wide and long. It holds about the same number of seats as the Philharmonie, but over what feels like 3 or 4 times the space. The walls are covered in beautiful dark woodwork, with ice-like lighting fixtures around the walls. The floors are a beautiful parquet.
The stage is dominated by a massive and imposing pipe organ. Singing along to the power of that organ, sandwiched between the organ and the orchestra, was thrilling. Long-time Tabernacle organist Alexander Schreiner was born in Nuremberg; it was a privilege to honor him with a concert in that magnificent hall.
As beautiful as the sound was--beautiful, rich sound--there was no sound in the concert more beautiful than the silence that followed the first half of the program. When we finished that first half, with the quiet, whispered prayer of “Lord God, we all praise Thee...before Thy throne,” the audience sat silent for several seconds before there was any applause. There is something beautiful about silence.