We awoke on Saturday morning for our final full day of our tour in Leipzig, and were welcomed by a buffet of mixed meats, assorted jellies, and other morsels for our eager stomachs. We then set off with tour guides to explore the rich architecture and history of the 999-year old city. As a crossroads between Europe’s two main trade routes, Leipzig grew as a center for trade and culture over the last millennium. The music in Leipzig was manifest, second only to Vienna in terms of the presence of famous classical composers who had a relationship with the city. It was amazing to walk within a few blocks and discover the school that young Wagner attended, the location of the apartment where Mendelssohn lived, a coffee shop where a variety of composers like Berlioz and Robert and Clara Schumann frequented, and Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church), where Bach’s Magnificat was premiered. The older baroque architecture was mixed with modern styles, as much of the historic city center had been destroyed by bombings in World War II and rebuilt. However, the city’s spirit clearly survived through its variety of shops, museums, and musical experiences.
After the tour we returned to the Thomaskirche for a rehearsal with the Leipziger Barockorchester on an entirely Bach repertoire for the afternoon service. We were all in awe of the professional sound of the orchestra – everything from the precision of the violin runs to the blended timbres of the horns. After a short break, we changed into concert dress and took our places up in the balcony of the church in front of the massive organ. The performance was truly an unreal experience. We performed our first piece O Jesulein Süß a cappella, followed by a beautifully conducted rendition of O Jesu Christ Mein’s Lebens Licht under the direction of our assistant conductor, Kamna. Our final piece was the famous Magnificat, and truly felt like the musical culmination of our trip. What could be better than singing one of Bach’s most famous pieces at Bach’s own church and final resting place? All of the soloists performed with vitality, and we could see just how overjoyed our conductor, Gabriel Crouch, was for the experience conducting the piece. And, of course, all of the members of the choir were ecstatic as well! It was a little strange not to receive any applause after our performance (it was a church service after all), but we all certainly felt proud of the result of weeks of hard work on this music.
Following the performance, we took some group photos and had a few hours to explore the city on our own. Some of us took to the nearby bratwurst stand—others to the local shopping centers. We later reconvened to celebrate with one final dinner of German cuisine and libations where we toasted all of the people who helped make this tour possible: Jürgen our coach driver, Kerry our accompanist, Katherine our tour manager, Johan our tour guide, Gabriel, our esteemed conductor, and, of course our alumni and supporters without whom this trip would not have been what it was. They made sure that every stop was truly unforgettable.
Spirits were high, and the upperclassmen shared goodbyes for what was their final glee club tour--an experience that they will surely carry with them, as so many PUGC alumni have in the past, for the rest of their lives. The group then split off to continue celebrations at various nightclubs and bars across the city. Even with the looming 4:30 AM wake-up call, many of us continued dancing and hanging out with fellow glee clubbers into the night, squeezing as much out of the wonderful city as possible.