Imagine a time, a warmly lit café, the sounds of the common people talking, laughing. There are ladies there, dressed in their finest and in the distance, you can hear the sounds of music, instruments tuning. A concert is about to take place.
On a deeper level, imagine societal norms being challenged. A cantata, where the protagonist is a woman who didn’t want to give up her love of coffee in order to settle down with a husband. Or a concerto, created for the harpsichord, an instrument that had only ever accompanied the other instruments taking the center stage in a solo. This was Leipzig collegia musica at Café Zimmerman.
The setting for Morning Has Broken, Leipzig in the 1700’s, forces us to connect the past with the present. Margaret Humphrey, violinist, points out that women were not allowed to attend coffee houses like Café Zimmerman unless a music concert was being performed. Furthermore, they were not allowed to play the violin because a woman baring her wrists was risqué. Humphrey notes the progress of women in music, but states that we have a long way to go to realize the potential of women as conductors and composers.
Paul Boehnke, harpsichordist, draws our attention to the first harpsichord solo performed in that time. He notes that there is speculation that the harpsichord is representative of the common people, peasants and serfs, and that much like the harpsichord the common people go unnoticed in the background while taxed with the responsibility of holding everything together. The harpsichord solo switches the focus and changes the narrative by highlighting and showing gratitude for the role of the common people. Boehnke recognizes the continued struggle of the people and goes on to say that whether classical or hip-hop, it is art and music that allows us to express the things we cannot express in words—that the details may be different, but the human experience is the same.
The concert Morning Has Broken, is the creative work of artistic director, Matthias Maute, who was inspired by the song, Morning Has Broken, published in 1931 with lyrics written by Eleanor Farjeon and then popularized by Cat Stevens in the 70’s. Maute has created four sections in the program, one for each meal of the day, and of course a mid-day coffee break, with the notion that meal time is something everyone can relate to.
Although the layers of this concert are many, it is these two points of reference that encourage the audience to relish in the shared experience of music and the simple joy of being together again after a long and difficult time.