The hall shakes during the rehearsals

The hall shakes during the rehearsals

Jorg woltche takes a deep breath. Then he raises his hand, opens his mouth and sings out loud: "come to me, my god!" He indicates the pitch of the melody with his horizontal palm, which bounces up and down on the imaginary staff lines. Children from three to seven years old sing along powerfully. Also, when he suddenly switches to english: "kumbaya, my lord!" The church music director at the erloserkirche in bad kissingen is probably one of the most distinguished gospel choir experts in protestant bavaria – especially when it comes to young talent.

"We'll do the kindergarten version first", says woltche to his choir assistants. Nadja liehr, alexandra jany, valerie and angela stichler sit with the gospel sparrows, so the gospel spatzen, as the smallest in the bad kissingen gospel choir universe are known, in the circle. They nod, and woltche takes a firm grip on the keys of the small piano in front of him. "God's love is so wonderful", the children sing at the top of their lungs, the classic children's and family song. After a short verse, woltche switches back to english and sings "rock my soul".

There are now many gospel choirs, up and down the country. Some are good, others are ambitious or striving. But it's always about that special feeling that classical church and church choir music is arousing less and less, especially among younger people. "I love cantatas, says musician woltche, who leads a church chamber orchestra in bad kissingen: "but many people today are musically socialized differently." Even before his time in lower franconia, in schleswig-holstein, he first came into contact with gospel: "ever since then it hasn't let me go."

Friday choir lesson for the smallest children lasts 45 minutes. That's short – but intense. In between there are movement songs, there is clapping, gesticulating. And they are already rehearsing how to move on a stage. "Spirituals and gospel are holistic music," he explains, says woltche. People move, clap, choreograph, bard, and sing. "It's a great, all-encompassing experience for the singers and for the audience," says, the church musician finds. He is sure that gospel music has brought people into the church who otherwise would not come, or only rarely.

It's just before 4 p.M., the second choir group – the "gospelkids" – is about to start from eight to 16 – gathers in the church hall. The oldest of the spatzen also sing along here in an alternating phase. Now everyone can read, sheet music is also handed out and pieces are rehearsed on call. With this age group the work is more intensive, woltche lets the children and teenagers sing specific passages to improve intonation. When the boys and girls sang the "irish song of blessing", it was a great success he is almost a bit flabbergasted: "there is so much voice. Really great."

But in addition to all the musical education, it is also still a church offering. Als woltche with his "gospelkids the spiritual "joshua fit the battle of jericho he also goes into the content of the biblical story. "You have to understand what you are singing", he explains. And you have to "live" it on stage. Together with the choir assistants, the children study the "gospel step" one in which choristers move on the stage. They clap in the backbeat on two and four as well as the first choreographic elements. Eight-year-old dorothea has been coming to rehearsals for about three years: "I like to participate here because singing is my passion." For them, the sometimes tough rehearsal work is no problem" – finally, the artist's reward beckons at the end: the applause of the audience. "I have also sung in the regent building", she says proudly. Nine-year-old mona has also been a member for several years: "it's great that you can show your feelings when you sing here." One of her favorite songs is "rock my soul", because it is a "wild song about god is, she explains.

This enthusiasm of the singers lasts for decades. There are a whole handful of young adults who joined woltche's choir as toddlers and are still there today. About 22-year-old markus wondra. In 2001, his parents sent him to the choir, partly because his mother was in woltche's rough gospel choir, the "kissingers, join in. Wondra has remained. For the community, but also for the singing.

Wondra is part of "praising, the choir for 14 to 27 year olds in the bad kissinger erloser church. The ensemble tours regularly not only through the deanery of schweinfurt, where woltche also holds the position of deanery cantor, but also through the german-speaking countries. They were last on the road in allgau at the end of august. What the 56-year-old choir director does with the teenagers and young adults has a semi-professional level – the leap from the "gospel kids" to "praising is enormous and even audible for a musical amateur.

Pastor christel mebert has been the first pastor in the congregation since 2011. She appreciates woltche's work very much: "these are not just choruses that perform somewhere, they are part of our congregation." Mebert is not surprised that such a lively gospel choir has sprung up in the comparatively small spa town: "with 7,000 members spread over 280 square kilometers, we are a huge community – jorg woltche can draw from this pool." Although, of course, anyone who is not a member of the church congregation can and may sing along as well. Woltche knows most of the "praisingers" for years – and they know it. During rehearsals, he is clear when something doesn't work out as planned, but always fair. But above all, he has a lot to praise. "I do this because of such great music", he says if something has worked out particularly well.

The enthusiasm of the church music director has also had an effect within the family. His daughter katharina has also been singing for years, currently with "praising, where she also performs as a soloist. "I was never forced", she says with a laugh. Despite the stress of work and other commitments, it's important to her to stay involved, she says. "It's fun, it's about god – but not only that, it's great music", she says. And it's professional: "I know of only a few choruses where every singer has his own microphone. That's great!"

When the gospel choirs from bad kissingen are on the road, they always have a whole mountain of technology in their packs. A rough room in the basement of the community center is filled to the ceiling with mixing consoles, cables, microphones and more. "Without the many helpers who always assist us with transport, logistics and set-up, we would not have been able to cope with it", says woltche, turning around and reaching into the keys of his piano. 

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