When au pairing in a tiny village in deepest Bavaria last year, I threw myself into the musical spirit and joined the local Catholic choir. Below is an experience I had that was straight out of The Hobbit.
You know those moments that you can just feel you’re going to remember for the rest of your life? This evening I had one of those.
I went to my first choir rehearsal in the village church, made up predominately of over 60s who speak the deepest Bavarian, something I still only just understand; I guess the English equivalent would be trying to decipher a Glaswegian after he’s had five pints. The rehearsal began with one of the sopranos handing out birthday invitations that consisted of a date and a time overlayed over a giant image of her own face. We sang about the Virgin Mary in anqiquated German, and made fun of the basses.
Through a mixture of misunderstandings and excessive politeness I ended up in the village’s only pub with a few of the more senior members of the choir, completely to ourselves save for four pensioners playing vigorous Scharfkopf (the ultimate in Bavarian card games) and an aged barman. We sat on benches at a long wooden table and ate white sausage with bread; I concentrated very hard to decipher the conversation, laughed a lot about English food, and was regaled with facts about German cities and Bavarian stereotypes. And then when we had finally become the last people in this tiny hamlet pub, and the bar was closed and almost all the lights extinguished, everyone suddenly fell silent and exchanged knowing glances. With the one remaining light in the bar bouncing off of our beers and keeping everyone’s faces in shadow, they suddenly all began to sing.
It was the most surreal thing. They sang in perfect harmony, songs from the middle ages about knights’ quests and lost love, hunts and hearty feasts, and lots of other things from the Bavarian golden age that were lost on my English ears. They looked each other in the eye, swayed and gesticulated, and the barman didn’t even look up from his newspaper. At the end everyone clinked glasses and said goodnight and went on their merry way home by auto – despite being about three times over the legal limit. I hope we do this every week.