Biodiversity meets music – 7th meeting in Stolberg/Rhld. (Germany)
Day 1 – 08/05/23
After we knew the evening before that all the groups had arrived safely, we were looking forward to welcoming our familiar and as yet unknown guests at the Ritze. With coffee and biscuits we had time to welcome all the groups individually. After a few words of welcome by Dr. O., the official programme began, which was to be characterised by many joint rehearsals for the final concert on Wednesday. And so the first rehearsal was already integrated into the welcome speech, as the guests were asked to open their gift box and use the egg shaker for the song Iko Iko, which we were going to play on Wednesday to open the concert. A funny polonaise of all participants through the whole hall developed – our first joint rehearsal!
Since, according to initial projections, almost 230 people (not counting a dark figure) were involved in the project, we then tried to produce the same number of cranes in an origami workshop, widely the symbol of luck, health, wish-fulfiller and divine messenger to heaven. The cranes were further complemented by sea turtles and other animals in the course of the meeting and displayed as decoration on the heaters on the wall side of the assembly hall – an impressive “spectacle”.
At the same time, there was an opportunity to exchange and talk in a relaxed atmosphere playing games – Dobble with English terms is great fun – the SDG Game (sustainable development game) or having some coffee.
After a joint lunch in the school canteen, the second workshop began for the pupils, in which seed bombs were to be made from regional seed mixtures. The seeds were formed into balls with soil, red clay and a little water and dried in old egg cartons until the next day, so that they could be distributed at suitable places in the city during a planned tour of Stolberg or given to interested locals. Most of them enjoyed the somewhat “dirty” handiwork very much, and a considerable amount of seed bombs were produced.
In the afternoon, the first rehearsals for further songs of the programme took place in the school’s music rooms. While the Erasmus Song (by Leonard and Anh-Xuan) was rehearsed in room A 0.7 under the direction of Max and accompanied by some of the teachers, a second group met in room A 0.6 to rehearse the pieces Bella Ciao, Count on trees and other pieces designed mainly for clarinet, guitar, mandolin and violin together with Giovanni, Pino, the Italian students, Markus and the guitar group of our school.
Afterwards, the Mad Teachers, the teachers’ band of the Ritze, together with the instrumentalists of the partner schools and the pupils rehearsed some more pieces like What have we got, Hard to handle and The Weight.
After this eventful and exhausting day, everyone was looking forward to the barbecue that some students and their parents had prepared together with Sabine Hark. We were lucky with the weather, the sun was shining, it was warm and we could end the day with barbecue, salads and a cold drink in a chilled atmosphere. The students enjoyed themselves with a round of table tennis, other ball games and international exchanges. The teachers also enjoyed the evening until the guests gradually left for their accommodation in Aachen and we also went home after a short clean-up.
Day 2 – 09/05/23
The next day, which also included joint activities into the evening, we met in Aachen at the Elisengarten at around 9.30 am. We were again lucky with the weather because it did not rain. The pupils from the partner schools were divided into mixed groups and were assigned pupils from Stolberg, who explored the city with them using a Biparcours app, which took them past the most important sights in the city. The teachers walked together through the city centre, past numerous fountains, the cathedral, the town hall and the Karlsbrunnen to the Hof, telling Aachen legends and tales. Time flew by and we all met up again at the Elisenbrunnen to travel back to school together. We arrived in time for lunch in the assembly hall, so that we could fortify ourselves first.
After lunch, some of our students and teachers led the guests through Stolberg, to the castle and into the old town. On the way, the seed bombs were distributed on suitable areas, stuck into wall cracks or given to locals. After their return and a break, we met for another rehearsal in the afternoon. This time the songs No dudaria and The nightmare of Persephone were on the programme. Since all the equipment was brought on stage, the rehearsals all took place in the assembly hall. The Mad Teachers already tried a sound check, but this turned out to be difficult because some of the equipment was still needed for the concert of the pupils’ big band “Crack Field Stompers” and was not yet available.
Here, too, time went by very quickly. Anyway, we went to dinner together in the Copper Pavilion opposite the town hall at 5 p.m. – unfortunately it started raining heavily. The restaurant had only reopened a few weeks ago after the flood of the century in Stolberg in 2021.
After dinner, the programme still included a visit to the concert of the Crack Field Stompers in the Münsterbusch youth centre, to which we actually arrived on time after a short bus ride, contrary to expectations. After the break, we had the opportunity to get all the Erasmus activists on stage and perform the Erasmus song. Great! The “premiere” of the Little Owl song was also a successful surprise. Thomas Horbach’s practical music course had taken the call of a little owl and a bass line by Dr. O. and composed their own song and improvisation from it – including the little owl, which “supposedly had moved into a music track on stage” and was played in via a pad.
Unfortunately, our guests had to leave for Aachen at around 9 p.m. and therefore had to leave the concert earlier. Again, a big hand to the Big Band for once again a very successful concert with the possibility of also having set up a place for the Erasmus project in the concert.
Day 3 – 10/05/23
On Wednesday we met again having an open start with coffee and biscuits, so there was enough opportunity to “arrive” at school. Groups who still wanted to rehearse had the opportunity to do so on the stage in the auditorium. Other students enjoyed their free time by playing social games or ball games in mixed groups, more origami crafts or exploring Stolberg on their own or together with our students. One group prepared model ecosystems and modern biomonitoring methods in sealable plexiglass containers, which were equipped with oxygen and carbon dioxide sensors and transmitted the measurement data to an app on a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection.
After lunch in the assembly – we had currywurst, a typical German dish – we all went through the programme again so that everyone could note the order of the songs. Afterwards, final changes were made to the programme and it was copied together with the lyrics for us Erasmus participants and the guests of the concert to sing along. A final sound check was done on stage, and then the first guests arrived.
At around 3 p.m., Dr. Bettscheider, our headmaster, opened the closing ceremony with a few introductory words, before Dr. O., as project coordinator, opened the exhibition with a speech. Furthermore, he also took stock of the whole project and thanked all those involved in these last days of the project, but also in the eventful meetings at the partner schools and for the cooperation during the whole project period. The closing words, however, were spoken by the students, in this case those from Jelgava, who gave a summary of the project in their own way in a film.
Afterwards, the visitors had the opportunity to take a look at the exhibition and to talk to the project participants. After the concert, there was more opportunity to do so, as the performance of a Sevillana by the group from Seville was the prelude to the final concert. Everyone was looking forward to performing the music they had worked on together over the last few days. Peder from Trondheim and Zoë (Q2) skilfully led through the programme in English and German, and first explained the meaning of the word concerto (to compete, to join together) and the intention of the project “Biodiversity meets music”: All of this world shall be a place for you and me.
And off they went with the teacher band “Mad Teachers”, which was complemented by international members, and Iko Iko, which was rewritten as a welcome song. Picking up on the theme of this last meeting, the band then struck Irish-like notes with the song “What have we got”, which was also rewritten on the issue of the loss of species and the destruction of nature.
Now the group from Monopoli took over the stage when the students, together with Giovanni and Pino, performed the songs Antidotum Tarantulae and Tarantella and made a modern reference with Spiderman. Then, Bella Ciao for the climate and Count on trees, two songs rehearsed together with the guitar group and all the singing students and teachers from all the partner schools, were performed. No dudaría – I wouldn’t hesitate, which was rewritten by Ana and translated for us by Alicia and Antonio, was also performed “virtually” via video by those students who could not travel to Stolberg. The group from Kissamos then passionately performed the song The Nightmare of Persephone and the Cretan dances Maleviziotis and Sirtaki, which made some of the students from the other groups sit up in their chairs and rush onto the stage to join the dancers.
Then it got crowded on stage, because just like the night before, all Erasmus participants joined in the Erasmus song “All of this world” on stage – one of the many highlights of the concert. The diversity of the concert was also shown by the joint singing with the audience, because with Alle fugler små de er, the students from Trondheim sang “Alle Vögel sind schon da”, a traditional German folk song – the whole hall joined in the verse in German.
Afterwards, the international Mad Teachers took over the stage again with the songs Hard to handle and The weight, which were rewritten to fit the issue. As we were the only partner school that still “owed” a traditional dance from the region, a delegation of the Besemskriemer Gressenich, a carnival formation in which Nora (Q1) dances, performed as a surprise. Fittingly, the Mad Teachers played Superjeile Zick, which is also often heard at carnivals, before the concert ended with Always look on the bright side as a positive look into the future – and we had a lot of applause!
After this successful, varied concert, which was a lot of fun for all performers, musicians and guests in the audience, all participants received their certificates from our students. In the evening, we arranged to have dinner together at the Magellan in Aachen, so the partners took the next bus/train to Aachen to freshen up and recover from the concert experience a little bit.
René Ostrowski, Project Coordinator
Photos: M. Leuchter (8a), H. Schröter-Kolewa
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