Most of us had withdrawal symptoms after two months without chorus at the latest, «says Regine Marzahn-Blöcher. She is an ensemble member of the Hanns Eisler Choir, which, like all other Berlin choirs, has been in the corona-related forced break for four and a half months. Not just for eternity for Marzahn Blöcher. Daniel Selke, artistic director of the Ernst Busch Choir Berlin, says: »Everyone knows that singing is our life.«
No adequate joint rehearsals, no adequate performances: The Chorverband Berlin, the largest amateur music organization in the capital alone, has around 290 ensembles with around 11,000 singers and choir directors, including the around 75 men and women of the Busch Choir and around 60 active members of the Eisler Choir. And for all of them, the shutdown that started in mid-March continues for the time being, while everything around them and in all areas of life has been eased weeks ago.
Since the Senate passed the Sars CoV-2 Infection Protection Ordinance at the end of June, there has been a kind of cultural struggle for choral singing, since the passage contains a phrase in the paper: “It is not allowed to sing together in closed rooms.” Everything is allowed, only chorus not? The choir association was outraged. “This results in an acute endangerment of all choirs in the state of Berlin,” it said in a letter written to cultural senator Klaus Lederer (left). There was talk of “wiping out cultural assets” and “ban on professions” for choir directors and singers.
Lederer defended himself several times. Only a good ten days ago, after a conversation with the choir association and the State Music Council, he referred to “the unchanged critical pandemic situation and the special risk situation that is now considered to be secure due to the aerosol spread of the viral load, which is particularly high in singing”.
Unlike the representatives of the umbrella organization, Daniel Selke can understand the reluctance of the cultural administration. Not only because Selke, even though he was born in 1983, conducts a “senior choir” with the Busch Choir, who explicitly sees himself as one: “Our oldest member turns 92 shortly before Wehnachten.” He also knows the senator personally. For this reason alone it was clear to him that Lederer “certainly does not want to ban choir singing if he pays tribute to the health risks”. Of course, the members of the Busch Choir are “sad, sometimes impatient, because many prepared projects are unfortunately not possible, it is not possible to study new songs online.” But Corona is simply a conflict situation in which decisions have to be made without being able to say with certainty “what is really right now”.
Regine Marzahn-Blöcher from the Eisler Choir sees it similarly. She also calls for serenity, “with all frustration.” The cultural administration had to “manage the balancing act, not to let the choirs die, but at the same time to ensure healthy conditions”. In addition, regulations are regulations. “We just have to stick to it,” says the retired comprehensive school teacher who has been with the Eisler Choir since 1975.
Busch and Eisler Choir: That sounds like a twin project. The composer Hanns Eisler’s battle songs, created at the end of the 1920s, are interpreted by singer Ernst Busch to be among the “evergreens” of the communist workers’ movement and beyond. In fact, the two choirs have some things in common. Both were founded in 1973, both emerged in the context of a Socialist Unity Party, but on the other side of the wall: the Busch Choir as a vocal initiative by party veterans of the SED in East Berlin, the Eisler Choir as a project by teaching students, most of whom were closely related to SEW , the Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin.
For the most part, the West Berlin student choir has also long since become a senior choir, says Marzahn-Blöcher. There are also younger offspring. »But two thirds of our choir belongs to the so-called risk group, a member has just turned 80.« She is now 73 years old. And maybe it is precisely this age structure that feeds a little bit into the understanding of the two choirs, which are still politically committed to this day.
Some members of the Eisler Choir are already actively addressing their “withdrawal symptoms”. After all, the June Infection Protection Ordinance only explicitly forbids singing in closed rooms, but not “outdoor singing,” says Marzahn-Blöcher. So she mobilized. Since then, around ten Eisler people have come together regularly to sing under a bridge in Tempelhof. “After all, we are in the fresh air and we have more sound under the bridge.” That is “good for the soul”. But ultimately only a small consolation: “Most of our pieces need full choral sound.” And that only works in closed rooms.
After all, land is in sight. In the course of Lederer’s meeting with the choir association and the State Music Council a good two weeks ago, it was decided that the cultural administration would develop a “hygiene framework concept”, on the basis of which rehearsals beyond bridge underpasses would then be possible again. It should be there by the middle of next week, says Lederer’s spokesman Daniel Bartsch. At the same time, it dampens high expectations. »The guideline must be the epidemiological development and the minimization of the risk of infection with the coronavirus. It is important to find the fine line in between. «The matter is tricky. Ventilation, room volume, audience, type of song: All of these parameters should be included in the specifications, according to Bartsch zu »nd«.
For choir director Selke, the problem with a hygiene concept is not out of the world alone. On the one hand, he misses active support from the administration in the search for sufficiently large rehearsal rooms. On the other hand, says Selke, the Senate cares far too little about the artistic environment of the choirs. »Choir directors and pianists sometimes feel a little lonely – and of course also destitute.«