We arrived at the Frankfurt International Airport as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as jet-lagged travelers can be, looking forward to a fantastic week ahead at the International Music Institute Darmstadt. Usually packing for a tour not only involves your traditional travel items- layered clothing, sleeping masks, power outlet converters- we also need to think about concert clothes, music, stands, instruments and equipment. But this was no ordinary tour. In preparation for Karlheinz Stockhausen’s masterpiece, Mikrophonie I, we had suitcases and suitcases full of percussion, implements, and the works. Unfortunately, traveling internationally with so many crazy instruments isn’t a “smooth sailing” guarantee- and, sure enough, Alex Lipowski waited for his suitcase in the bulky luggage for over an hour only to learn they weren’t sure exactly where the suitcase was. So one big suitcase lighter, we headed out to the shuttle, feeling a slight setback, but with high hopes for a smooth and successful week.

It was like deja-vu, standing in the cold rain. We were reminded of this very scene four years ago when we all wondered why we didn’t include more warm clothes and waterproof materials in our packing strategy. Eventually we got to the hotel, dried out, warmed up, got some rest and food, and now we were really ready for a great week!

It felt good to be back. We saw so many of our friends from ensembles all over the world as well as composers. We heard some fantastic concerts right away and then we began our rehearsals the following day. Speaking of reunions, rehearsals for Steven Takasugi’s Sideshow were first on the agenda. It had been several months since our last performance and it was great to get back into it. You know how there are some good friends that you may not see all of that often, but you’re always able to pick up where you left off with them? Sideshow isn’t one of those friends. It’s a dear friend for sure, one which we have invested in and committed to fully, but that first rehearsal felt pretty strange. It became familiar quickly however.

The following day was our dress rehearsal for that evening’s concert: Stockhausen, Diels, Ferneyhough, and Aperghis. The dress went well, and we were excited for the show. Centralstation has a 500 person capacity, but that was exceeded well before the start of the show with people in the aisles and sitting on the floor in front of the stage. The program for this concert was a special one for us. It was a very appropriate one because Darmstadt was celebrating its 70th Anniversary, so it was an honor to present such a war horse as Mikrophonie I – the groundwork for tradition there as well as a place for departure from that tradition, paving the way for new voices. Then we played works by the giants of today, Georges Aperghis and Brian Ferneyhough as well as the talented young composer, Natacha Diels

After an exciting concert and a good night’s rest, it was time to gear up for Sideshow. This concert, at 10:30 pm, was also sold out and full of listeners and spectators, many of whom were experiencing Sideshow for the first time.

It’s a privilege for us to perform this repertoire and feel honored to bring it to the audiences at Darmstadt. And to Darmstadt, thanks for being a place that has celebrated tradition and sparked imaginations for the past 70 years. May there be many, many more!

Elizabeth Helgeson
President, Talea Ensemble