Video Summary: Helmuth Rilling 2014 from the Teatro del Lago

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The Teatro del Lago has posted a video about the Academia Internacional 2014 and it gives a fantastic impression of the work we did on the St. John Passion, the lectures and concerts, and how much we were all moved by this experience.

The video shows clips from rehearsals, interviews with participants and audience members, and a few shots from outside rehearsal (and lots of laughter, of course!). And several breath-taking shots of the Lago Llanquihue and the Teatro del Lago, of course. Loads of music and shots of each of the 3 theaters we sang in.



A Love Letter to the Teatro del Lago, Frutillar, Chile

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Querido Teatro del Lago,

I had no idea how hard it would be to get to you, and it was worth every painful moment. First the 2 1/2 hour flight to Dallas, then 9 more hours to Santiago, where I had to wait all day (allbeit distracted by downtown Santiago and a delicious Peruvian steak lunch), so we could soldier on another 2 hours on a flight en route to Puerto Montt, where all of us, close to tears for lack of sleep, boarded a bus to ride another half hour to the hotel. Only to be given the news that we would need to travel yet another half an hour the next morning to get to you.

But you were calling to us, beckoning. And we obeyed.


You, on this happy spot, standing tall and welcoming us all in to your warm embrace. There has never been anything like you before! Your colorful exterior, your corridors reflecting the natural light and beauty of Frutillar and Lago Llanquihue.

Even in the first rehearsals it was clear that we would never again have an experience like this. To sit in such an acoustically live room and sing Bach all day...


The Ampitheater at Teatro del Lago; Photo by Juan Millán T.


...and to look past the piano, out the window at this...

Panorama LlanquihueW


You are almost more than I can bear.

And to think, you invited us all here, to Frutillar, from 12 different countries and speaking more than 6 different languages. You knew we would connect, we would make music, we would make friendships to last for years (and projects!) to come.

You knew we would love you!

We shiny, happy people:

Photo by Juan Millán T.


To sing the St. John Passion with Kathy Salzman-Romey and Helmuth Rilling during Holy Week--well, you have really out-done yourself! Maestro Rilling's intimate understanding of the Passion, how Bach wrote each piece, how he selected his motives, and created such drama reaches out from centuries ago and pulls our heart strings today. Only you can move us to such tears.


Ach Herr, lass dein lieb Engelein

am letzten End die Seele mein

in Abrahams Schoss tragen

den Leib in seim Schlafkämmerlein

gar sanft ohn einge Qual und Pein

ruhn bis am jüngsten Tage!

Alsdenn vom Tod erwekke mich,

dass meine Augen sehen dich

in aller Freud, o Gottes Sohn

mein Heiland und Genadenthron!

Herr Jesu Christ, erhöre mich, erhöre mich,

ich will dich preisen ewiglich!


Click here and scroll to #40 for a translation of this text.

Photo by Juan Millán T.


You are forever in my heart. And I can't wait to see you again!



P.S. This was only the first Academia Internacional Teatro del Lago, with new people and new projects in the future! Please see for more information on the world's southern-most opera house and to get more information on the 2nd year of this amazing Academia. You will not regret it!!

Highlights of Chile and the Academia International Teatro del Lago

on . Posted in Travel

Arriving in Chile last week was a pleasure and exciting because no man has schlepped me further around the world and to more places than Helmuth Rilling. He probably doesn't know that, he sees probably thousands of choral singers every year, but really, it's all his "fault." ;)

Or maybe I can give Kathy Salzman-Romey some of the responsibility for this, because she's a mastermind of choral creation.

When I lived in Germany and sang with the Gächinger Kantorei we went to Italy twice (once St. Matthew Passion, the other the Levin edition of the Mozart C Minor Mass or the Requiem, can't remember which), Poland for a night, Vienna for a night, and Israel--3 weeks. Because Maestro Rilling is an epic, one-man diplomatic mission between Israel and Germany. Eugene, Oregon, and now Santiago, Temuco, and Puerto Varras/Frutillar, Chile.

What happens when you travel, sing, and make music (in between meals, of course), is this:


You meet some of the world's most wonderful people (again).

Left:  Kendra Hawley, an oboist with the Santiago Symphony, and behind her one of my best friends, baritone Jacob William Herbert. Below him is Michael Carty, a wonderful singer who was also at the Festival Ensemble in Stuttgart for the Sandström Messiah. In the middle (top) is Bronwyn Thies-Thompson, a soprano from Canada (and my roommate). Below is Elisabeth Marshall, a soprano with whom I should have crossed paths years ago (or last summer at OBF when we were staying in the same dorm, but it never happened). Bottom right is Erica, a woman on a trip around the world after having faced life's greatest challenge--and she is a beacon of light. Thank goodness Jacob met her on the plane, and she invited us to leave our belongings at her apartment for the day--last Friday we all arrived between 6 and 8 am, however our next flight didn't leave until about 6 pm. So we went into the city of Santiago, dropped our things at her place, and toured downtown.

We were up on top of Santa Lucia when the cannons went off becuase, you, know, they fire the cannons every day at 12. There is no warning.


Except you feel the air moving across your legs before the sound comes and holy canoli is that loud!

Peruvian steak for lunch:


And then a sad good-bye to Kendra and Erica as we headed back to the airport to catch our flight & bus to Puerto Varas. Our one day together was a lifetime.

Puerto Varas and Frutillar are both on the lake Llanquihue (picture below). It's REALLY, REALLY GERMAN here, as Germans started a settlement in this area in about 1854. Go figure! But hey, if there wasn't any land, any money to be made, or any food, people usually went elsewhere. It's still the case. So here, the windows open and tip like in Germany, the plugs are the same (as well as with many other countries), there are Kuchenladen (cake stores) that sell German-style cake, and there are German autos all over the place.

There's always a little excitement on any trip, and this time it was being awoken at 4:45 am by a fire siren and then seeing this out the window:

PuertoVarasFire  PuertoVarasFire2


Luckily it was not nearly the size of the wildfire that has destroyed parts of Valparaiso, and I have no more details on this fire, however any fire is destructive and traumatic. The Teatro del Lago announced this week that the proceeds from our concert in Temuco will go to the relief efforts in Valparaiso. ♥

Click here to see the banner of the Teatro del Lago, which is a picture that shows how the theatre was built into the water.

OK and last but not least, what you've probably been waiting for. The view of the volcano across the lake from the Teatro del Lago.

Note the moon in the picture.


That's it for now, I gotta get ready for rehearsal. Love from Chile!

Go make music!

Happy Passover and happy Easter, everybody!


Argentina Concert Video Compilation - Bel Canto Chorus Tour

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A beautiful video compilation of two concerts from the Bel Canto Chorus South America tour last summer! The sold-out, standing-room-only concert in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mercedes and the concert in the Facultad de Derecho in Buenos Aires.

Here you can see how utterly packed both venues were and how receptive the audiences were. What a gift it was to be there and to sing for everyone--and what a big, beautiful surprise to find this video.



Video Report - Bel Canto Concert from Colonia, Uruguay

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While on tour with the Bel Canto Chorus last summer, we stopped twice in Colonia, Uruguay, and most of us fell in love with it. Old cars had been made into art on the streets, small artisans showed us their art and their wares, and we were welcomed with open arms. They even danced us through the streets to the restaurant after our concert there!

Ana Belen Tourin was at the concert in the Teatro Bastion del Carmen and recently shared this video posted to YouTube - the report itself is in Spanish, with plenty of beautiful singing in the video!

Thank you, Colonia, you are magnificent!



Making Magic in South America: Mozart, Moses Hogan, and Plenty of Steak - Part II

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There are certain ways that music touches us and one of these is when music becomes something more than sound and silence over time. Basilica_de_Guadalupe_in_MercedesIt happens when everyone lets go of their distractions, latches on to the group's motivation, and lets the music flow. This is what happened on tour in South America last month.

Three of our four concerts were sold out, the first one having been about 95% sold out. It's always something special and is a momentous goal achieved when a musician hears the words "95% sold out" or "sold out!" It's a validation of our work and an affirmation for our souls--the knowledge that there are so many audience members becomes a catalyst for even better music-making.

The concert in the Basilica de Guadalupe in Mercedes, Argentina was one of those concerts; it was standing-room-only, freezing cold in an old, unheated church and everyone was wearing multiple layers to stay warm (the choir and the soloists that is). Audience members arrived 45 minutes to an hour early, and the mayor and his wife were sitting in the front row. You could FEEL the vibe of the audience.

As the orchestra entered, the choir and the soloists, we knew the church was going to be full, but I personally wasn't prepared for it to be overflowing with people.

And as a mezzo, when that vibe is there, it's an extra comfort that the soprano is the first soloist to enter. It lets me get a peek at the audience before I'm standing right in front of them. This time I was really grateful for this convention, as the size of the audience took my breath away.


Every seat in every pew was filled with people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, people were standing and milling around in the back of the church, the transepts were filled with people sitting and standing, and people surrounded every column all the way to the back of the nave. I've sung in a lot of churches in the last decade and I had never seen a church that full.

So you can well imagine how potent that vibe was even before the concert began. Richard Hynson, our conductor, then began the Mozart Requiem and you could see the audience's ears perk. People two-thirds of the way back would pop up to see the orchestra play for a minute, then sit down again. As we soloists began our musical entrances, the gazes of a thousand people would shift simultaneously to look at the soloist who had just entered. You could feel the intensity of their engagement with us and their engagement with the music. It was palpable.

Mozart's Requiem is a very dramatic and moving piece of music all by itself. Add a huge audience, ready and willing to take a musical journey with you, a fantastic conductor and dozens of talented singers and orchestra members, and the music created will transport you to somewhere else. External thoughts and concerns simply disappear and there is a venerable time and space that gets created--where everyone becomes a part of the music.

I am endlessly grateful to have had this experience with the beautiful people I met in Mercedes who provided me with a memory to last a lifetime. We created that experience together. This is what music-making is all about.