In the summer of 1989 the Washington County Chorale toured Germany (our director’s birthplace) & Austria. The most amazing place we saw was the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines, a sort of cross between Disneyland and a working museum. It was quite an adventure to dress in miner’s overclothes and careen into the heart of the mountain on picnic-bench-cum-cable-car, dodging rock walls as the bench veered left and right. “Back to the salt mines”, indeed!
Our first performance was slated for the Sunday mass in Worms Cathedral, much-damaged in WWII, but rebuilt to its original gothic form. Many of us had never sung in a gothic cathedral before, and eagerly awaited the experience. Jet-lagged and unrehearsed, we filed into the cool, stone building and took our places. The structure seemed light and floating in contrast to the dark, ponderous buildings I’d seen in photos – the effect of vast spaces of floating stone can’t be conveyed through film.
Then we sang…and the floating stones breathed our song back to us. I’ll never forget that first uncanny impression that the building itself was a huge instrument built to resonate to our singing…that our voice was its voice. We were not strangers here, or tourists, or even performers. We were friends, come home after a long absence.