I turned the corner during a June 24 walk through the center of Prague and immediately saw a large poster pasted on a city wall: Berkeley Community Chorus will perform Dvorak’s Requiem at the Rudolfinum that evening. Wow, I thought. Maybe more than a few friends and family will be in the audience for the last concert of our 2013 Eastern Europe tour.
A few hours later, busses deposited us at the Rudolfinum. We excitedly hurried upstairs to take our places on the stage of Dvorak Hall, where Antonin Dvorak conducted the Czech Philharmonic’s first public appearance on Jan 4, 1896. The first 100 singers quickly filled the choral seats. The rest of us stood in a large marble-lined corridor for about 30 minutes while our assistant conductor Derek Tam and the tour guides scurried to relocate the basses and tenors to make room for all the altos and sopranos.
I found a seat in an upper-most row, alongside soprano members of the Prague Chamber Choir that was joining us for the performance. I looked out to the 1,104-seat hall; it was filled to capacity. The expectation radiating from the audience matched our enthusiasm. Ming Luke raised his baton, the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences Chamber Orchestra played the opening notes and we began, “Requiem aeternam…”
The Czech singers had beautiful voices and knew the Requiem well. We stood together, bridging cultural and language divides through music.
Throughout, our soloists soared. When the final notes were played, the audience erupted in sustained applause. They stood, they clapped. A triumphant moment for the Berkeley Community Chorus.