Three weeks into my Berlin adventure: the golden leaves of Goethe poems have all but fallen off the trees making my bike rides slippery and perilous and the excitement of seeing jugglers and fire-eaters on my approach to the Sigerssäule has been replaced by the sadness of seeing 3 or 4 prostitutes that line the same road on my return journey. The golden light that bathed the beginning of this journey has been replaced by a perpetual grey and I have it on good authority that this colour is with us till March (long after my scholarship has run out and returned me to London – which also sports a fetching grey coat till Easter).
Of course this was to be expected. Having moved to London from Australia in mid-2002 I have already lived through many a claustrophobic winter while longing for the high heat filled skies of my home. The excitement of a white Christmas has long since warn off and while I don’t want the Christmas of my childhood where it was too hot to bake a turkey (but the attempt was made regardless) I do dream of being under a high wide sky, near a salty rough ocean sharing bowls of stonefruit and shelling buckets of prawns with the people I love. I know very well the feeling of not quite being homesick, but being sick for the people I’m missing (this little turn of phrase is I think lifted from the Finn Brothers song “Homesick” or from a song by the front man from Men at Work – I can only find the Finn Brothers track…but maybe someone out there can help me out with the other one):
Yet I am still here in Europe still following my dream of being a singer and not ready yet to leave and trade all the culture and learning I am experiencing here for a high wide sky. The people I love are in almost daily contact via email and skype keeping me up to date with news from home and reminding me that I am in their thoughts and giving me the strength to keep struggling and striving to find my voice as a singer and as a person – letting me know that although I must do the work of finding my voice alone they are supporting me on this journey.
And of course I am not really alone. I have a wonderful and supportive mentor in Liane Keegan, who knows too well the compromise of wanting to achieve in opera and realising this is not possible if you stay in Australia. I also keep meeting other artists who are not from Germany and who are here for the same reasons I am, to find their voices in the art forms they love.
These meetings with other artists almost always fell serendipitous and remind me why I am here.
Last weekend I had an email from a singer-friend in New Zealand who encouraged me to see a cabaret in Berlin being performed by an Australian she had studied with in Queensland (really how did we survive before the internet?). Like so many things connected with this adventure I have been having in Berlin, this turned out to be another serendipitous event.
Montmorensy and the Montmorensy Orchestra sang songs that had tears of recognition running down my face and into my glass of Weißweine, particularly when he sang about moving to Berlin and living by himself for the first time in his life and realising that his Basil plant was the only living thing in his apartment aside from himself and as this was now his only family he would have to look after it well (I sighed as I realised I did not even have a basil plant).
I laughed in recognition as he sang of the difficulties of being in a new country and knowing no one, but going religiously to sit in an internet cafe with a dozen other people in the same situation who connected not with each other, but with a myriad of friends through the internet.
My favourite moment was when he compared the songs of the German crow and the Australian crow. Both birds have distinctive, but very different cries, the Australian crow sounds like he is crying out “Art, Art, Art”.
It took the sound of an Australian crow and an Australian boy from Grafton (my mother’s home town) to remind me why I am here in Germany far away from the high wide skies and the noise of the birds that fly in them. I am here for Art, Art, Art – and for the moment that is enough.
Please head to Montmorensy’s myspace page to hear “Crow” and other songs that somehow mix an Australian sense of humour with a German sensibility: