Singing Across Borders

I left my music folder! The bus is…what corner?

What beer garden? Who is conducting tonight?

Dinner at 10:30? White sausage, white asparagus!

The FUUSN choir’s eleven-day tour in Southern Germany was a mix of anxiety about managing a new hotel, city, and singing partners every other day, and fascination at the lush greens and nested red roofs of the countryside and the vitality of the city neighborhoods where we stayed. The choir traveled to Frankfort, Munich, nearby Freising and also Stuttgart for combined concerts with church or community choirs and spent three nights at our major destination of Ulm for the first assembly of Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists from across Europe.

Over the preceding two years, our music director, Anne Watson-Born, built connections with choirs and conductors in each city. In Stuttgart, Anne and the local conductor of the German-American Community Chorus took turns conducting the combined choirs. In free hours between rehearsals and concerts, we scattered to museums and markets. In Stuttgart, Judy Zacek and I headed for narrow streets of the old neighborhood of Jews and vintners. We mostly saw school children playing.

Eighty percent of Munich was destroyed in World War II. That city rebuilt stately buildings, while Stuttgart rebuilt a sleek glass and steel industrial city. Compared with our metro systems and Amtrak, the trains from Munich to Stuttgart and Stuttgart are startlingly new and clean, all rebuilt since the war. The visit to Dachau, full of clusters of young people listening to a teacher/guide, reminded me of how deeply Germany is reflecting on its past.

The theme of “Faith without Borders” vibrated through the Ulm Assembly. Young families and a distinctly older generation of Unitarians were present. The first people I spoke with were a French woman from Paris, a Scottish minister from Australia, and the president of the European Unitarian Community, who is from New Jersey. In speaking about diversity in the Netherlands, keynote speaker Prof. Manuela Kelsey commented that people have “network of roots,” not a single ethic or religious identify. Rev. William Shultz, president of the UU Service Committee, has seen the worst of atrocity, yet finds hope in the diminished incidence of violence in the world and in our human capacity to learn.

European singers joined the choir at morning services, and FUUSN sang a full evening concert. The EU President called us “stunning” (We’ll take it). Our choir members also gave workshops: Anne on singing, Bob MacWilliams on ways to play guitar, and Jacki Rohan and Judy Zacek on the Unitarian and Universalist Service Committees’ work in Germany during and after the War. The final evening, Bob MacWilliams, Jacki, Jim Cook, and Natalie, from the Dedham choir formed a rock band with German musicians and we danced—all ages and countries—to rock classics (yea “Sweet Home Alabama”!) till the wee hours.

Our music brought a common language to the faith gatherings. –Cathy Morocco