36 Years of the Heidelberg Madrigal Choir

JUBLILIAR SPEECH
of Werner Schubert

 

MADRIGAL:
Did you know?


 

 

 

 


Gerald Kegelmann, the founder

In the first 33 years of its existence, the Heidelberg Madrigal Choir under its founding conductor, Gerald Kegelmann, became a significant voice in the town’s varied musical life; and it remains so under its new conductor, Michael Sekulla.

Kegelmann, who studied both religious and school music as well as German, taught from 1975 until 2000 at the Heidelberg-Mannheim Music conservatory, and served as its rector from 1986 until 1997. Kegelmann’s widespread contacts, and the fact that a number of the choir members in the early years were associated with the Heidelberg-Mannheim Music Conservatory, gave the choir the advantage of being in touch with developments in the world of performers and composers: as a result of connections between teachers and their students, the choir was able to perform with a number of artists who later became famous. Composers such as Myriam Marbe, Claudio Santoro, Hans Vogt and Violeta Dinescu entrusted the first performances of new works to the choir and its conductor.

As its name implies, a major emphasis is placed by the HMC on secular as well as sacred choral music. This reflects the interests of the singers and of the audience. Much thought goes into the design of the concert programmes. Concerts focussing on particular themes lead to surprising juxtapositions of familiar and less-familiar works, particularly in series extending over longer periods of time, such as the performances of different settings of the St. John Passion (from Lechner, Schütz and Bach to Arvo Pärt), the settings of the Song of Solomon from various epochs, and the programmes based on ‘Nature in Music, Music in Nature’ and ‘Evening and Night’. Concerts including musical rarities have resulted in CD productions such as the recent ‘Music Inspired by Goethe’s Faust’.

Its musical adventurousness and its unconventional programme structures have not only secured for the choir a faithful audience of interested listeners in Heidelberg but also made it a welcome guest outside Germany: for example at choir festivals in Cuenca or Turin, in exchanges with choirs from Barcelona and Miskolc, or on concert tours to Austria and Iceland.

A further notable activity of the choir was in the ‘Heidelberg Culture Fair’, which has been held in the Castle Gardens under the choir’s aegis several times since 1986. This event presented numerous artistic attractions, both musical and non-musical; it appealed to a wide audience and incidentally provided an opportunity to welcome back numerous former members of the choir.

 

Gerald Kegelmann

studied religious and school music at the Music Conservatory in Heidelberg, and German at Heidelberg University. From 1975 onwards he taught choral conducting and training at the Heidelberg-Mannheim Conservatory for Music and the Performing Arts, and served as its rector from 1986 until 1997. He has undertaken concert tours with a variety of choirs to Italy, Ireland, France, Spain, Austria, Canada, Russia and the USA (among others); and he has been invited as Guest Lecturer and Guest Conductor to Brazil, Portugal, Hungary and Russia.
2004 was of special significance in the history of the Heidelberg Madrigal Choir, since Gerald Kegelmann finally laid down his baton in November of that year: the year in which he also celebrated his 70th birthday. In recognition of this, the programme for 2004 included a special retrospective in the form of a ‘Choir Night’ recalling some of the highlights of 33 years of concerts, and a concert tour to Russia. Gerald Kegelmann took his leave of the choir and its regular audience on November 14th, at the end of a concert featuring both the premiere of a new composition and a performance of Brahms’s German Requiem.