Capital of Culture: !Sing – Day of Song

One of the really large events of the RUHR2010 is the !Sing – Day of Song. I’m too lazy to use my own words to explain what that is, so I quote from the event’s website

The DAY OF SONG will transform the whole Ruhr Metropolis with a festival of singing. More than 670 Choirs with more than 23.000 Singers invite the citizens of the region to join them in song. On the weekend of 4th and 5th June, the message of the DAY OF SONG will be heard everywhere: Everyone is a singer, everyone can join in. The sound of singing will spread to the most unexpected of places: with !SING CITY, for instance, a singing convoy of ships steams down the Rhein-Herne-Kanal, und with !SING TWINS guests from sister cities across Europe join German choirs in Welcome concerts.
Festivities come to a climax on the evening of June 5th 2010 with !SING EUROPE, an extraordinary concert in the VELTINS Football Stadium in Gelsenkirchen, featuring Bobby McFerrin, The Wise Guys and The Bochumer Symphoniker joining up to 65,000 singers in an ambitious program ranging from folk songs to the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.

There are the few mentioned singers/groups on the stage (main stage + two satellites actually), but the main artists of this concert will 230 choirs with 7500 singers, who will be sitting on the field all around the center stage and who will be singing the kind of lead vocals. They’ll be singing polyphonically, which means they have been practicing these songs for the last few months or even longer. It’s a big concert after all. And it’s going to be televised even though it’s no live TV, but a recorded broadcast on Sunday evening.
I’d estimate that about half of the audience in the stands are choirs as well, who have performed in their hometown during the day or on the ships, and the sheet music will be handed out to everyone who wants to sing along. I’m not a singer except for rock concerts or hockey games where I can sing (or rather) shout with thousands and my off-key singing is drowned out by the rest. Or maybe I could sing if I’ve ever really learned how. I don’t know. I always feel like the timbre of my voice just doesn’t fit with the ones singing around me ;-) But I’m not there to sing anyway.

These 8000 singers of the field choirs need be taken care of before the show and during rehearsals, so there are a few large tents for them in the backstage area and that was basically the job I signed up for when I signed up for. Show them the ropes, lead them places, make sure the table are stocked with drinks and food. Basic catering and supervising stuff. During the first volunteer meeting on Thursday, during which the course of the next few days (rehearsal, dress rehearsal, concert show) was explained, the volunteer supervisor of my tent spotanenously assigned me for another job: volunteer in charge of one of the solo part field choirs. Because the field choirs do not only sing the lead vocals together on the field, some of them will be performing a song on stage as well.
It’s our job as these “special volunteers” to make sure that our choir will get from their seats to the right stage at the right time and lead them safely back to their seats after their performance. We were equipped with digital walkie-talkies, tiny earbud headphone and a small microphone to clip on my collar. I felt kind of ridiculous with that gear in the beginning, but I got used to it :-) And I already made a tiny mistake during the first rehearsal *headdesk* Well, not really a mistake, but I expected a cue for my choir much earlier than it was scheduled and when it didn’t came I frantically asked for my cue over the radio and the guy giving the cues was confused as well, until the next person on the line (because that channel is open for everyone working on this production during the production) reminded us that the cue is supposed to come a few minutes later. Oh well, that’s what rehearsals are for, right ;-)

It’s really, really exciting to be a part of that and to do a job I never even expected to do. What’s even more exciting is, that my choir is not any ordinary church or gospel or youth choir. It’s a signing choir. No, that’s not a typo. They are not singing. They are signing. Around 40 deaf people teamed up to perform two songs in their own language. On one side of each satellite stage there’ll be a choir singing the song and on the other side there’ll be a choir signing it. It’s really amazing and I’d love to write a longer post about how these kind of personal experiences are the reasons I signed up as volunteer in the first place. But I’m running out of time, because I have to get back to the arena in a bit.

For all the German readers: There’ll be a 30 minutes program about the day and probably preparation for the show this afternoon on WDR (17.20) and the concert will be shown on WDR TV tomorrow (Sunday) at 20.15.

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