YNWa-Blog #12

Powerful choral music in Hamburg

An absolute highlight of our filming schedule: the Mozart Rooms, where Thomas Hengelbrock and his Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble give an exclusive performance of their impressive rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

When the summer weather is at its finest, the best route to the University of Hamburg from the city’s central railway station takes you across the Lombardsbrücke bridge with its view of the Binnenalster lake. Right next to the University is Hamburg’s old Masonic Lodge, where the Balthasar Neumann Choir and the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble are practicing in the Mozart Rooms for their season debut. The program includes Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Haydn’s Harmony Mass. We listen to the intense rehearsal for a few minutes, which is followed by a break, and the singers and musicians come streaming out. They will resume in another hour—enough time for Joachim Król and Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock to speak to us about the story behind the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and its musical quality. The team put the lights, camera, and sound equipment in place in the morning, so we can get started immediately.

A close partnership links Hengelbrock with Evonik: in 2013, he and his Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble began making guest appearances at Essen’s Philharmonie concert hall for Evonik’s Christmas concerts, where they rekindle the enthusiasm of employees and guests each year. It stands to reason then that his world-famous choir and orchestra are now working on their own version of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Once we’ve wrapped up the interview, the singers and musicians gradually return to their places. Joachim Król talks about our film project and the many highlights we have seen along the way.

We draw back to the corners of the imposing Mozart Rooms and wait, excited to hear a new rendition of this global hit, after having already heard so many versions of the song on our film-making tour. It begins with the quiet sounds of violins, followed by crystal-clear voices, which join to form an imposing orchestral piece. After the last note, the room is completely quiet. Breathtaking. “This is the most beautiful version,” says an impressed Joachim Król.

The enthusiasm is mutual: musicians and singers alike wait in line for a keepsake photo with Joachim Król. “We’re happy to be here and to have the opportunity to sing and play this wonderful song,” Hengelbrock agrees.

Evonik began supporting the research and dramaturgy work of the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble in January 2016. The group is named after Balthasar Neumann, who was not a musician himself, but rather a builder, urban planner, landscape architect, and entrepreneur. Underlying the name is an understanding of the world of specialization, and that understanding speaks to us as a modern specialty chemicals company—if you want to create something new, you have to look at the interfaces between many disciplines.

Stay tuned for the full version of the song in the documentary film "You'll never walk alone"...