The week between Christmas and New Year often feels like a kind of limbo to me. The year is not yet over, but the excitement that has geared up during the preceding weeks has well and truly been expended in the excitement of feasting and good cheer.
After the guests have left and the loads of washing are done and drying on the airer, after the Boxing Day Nana naps have been taken (one must make use of the sky getting dark at 4.30 in the afternoon somehow) and an entire book read and finally after the Christmas leftovers have been eaten leaving only bananas and chocolate fudge in the fridge, I find myself in a state of reflection. It still feels a little too early to write a list of New Year’s Resolutions, but with the threat that I will be back in the United Kingdom in only two weeks my mind is happy to wander and wonder over the past year and particularly over the three months I have spent in Germany.
In short I have loved it. The opportunities granted to me by the Finzi Trust have provided me with the most freeing experience of my life and given me the space to regenerate and reinvigorate my artistic practice.
Often as I have ridden home along the bike paths in the middle of the night I have reflected upon how strange it is to feel so free in Germany, particularly in Berlin, a place that just over 20 years ago with stories of the Stasi and the Berlin Wall was viewed as the antithesis of freedom. This is a town that wears its scars:From Checkpoint Charlie to Potsdamer Platz to the Brandenburg Gate you can follow the line of the Berlin Wall as bricks cemented into the street, en route you pass the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe designed by Peter Eisenmann. Berlin is a town built for 5 million but now only inhabited by 3 – leaving it with less a feeling of emptiness and more a feeling of space. From my short experience the people left in this space seem to have an energy to create a new city that is diverse and tolerant, that is keen to move on while acknowledging the past.
Berlin seems to be full of metaphors for regeneration, it is attempting to rebuild itself to recreate some of its former glory but many of the rebuilt buildings combine modern styles of architecture with remnants of the original, sometimes partially destroyed, building. The best example of this for me is the bombed out church on Kufurstendamm – at first glance you wonder when they might rebuild the structure, but upon closer inspection the Church and Bell Tower have been rebuilt around the half destroyed original – incorporating the scars of the past into the function of today.
What better city could I have come to in order to regenerate my singing. The time and space I have had here has enabled me to challenge my old ideas regarding my technique and repertoire away from the pressures of London. Like the church on Kufurstendamm I have a new structure for how I sing that looks and sounds different. In stretching the metaphor I like to think it is more solid than the old one and will be standing strong for some time to come. On a personal level this freedom to shake off old habits and accept and integrate something new has given me a flexibility I did not think I had and with that has come a sense of possibility that I know will sustain me through my next transition and beyond.