It is in our hands how we invent new things, develop the tried and tested, and say goodbye to the outdated. Shaping tomorrow means feeling at home today without disregarding yesterday. And so we need to orient ourselves towards the actual circumstances, dealing prudently and responsibly with what is already there, and seizing opportunities to do things differently. Embracing the tradition of choral singing also means creating spaces for it in the present, and in the future. We, the Rundfunkchor Berlin, would like to take you with us into new worlds – worlds that we create in different ways, but always in cooperation. Because music not only creates links between yesterday, today and tomorrow, but also between people. It is the space between us that goes on resonating. And it is we who create it by responding to each other and attuning ourselves to others.
Gjis Leenaars and Hans-Hermann Rehberg
The Rundfunkchor Berlin is widely known internationally as one of the great German radio choirs. Characterised by an unmistakable sound – warm and radiant, rich and deep – we have a broad repertoire and can move effortlessly through a wide spectrum of musical epochs and styles. We enjoy an excellent international reputation and are welcome guests on the stages of this world. Concert tours in recent years have taken us to Australia, Asia, and South and North America, among other places, as well as to numerous European cities.
Founded in 1925 – known then as the Berliner Funkchor – the Rundfunkchor Berlin can look back on a long and eventful history. Over the years, the choir’s proﬁle has been shaped by conductors such as Helmut Koch, Dietrich Knothe, Robin Gritton and most recently, Simon Halsey. The latter presided over the choir from 2001 to 2015 and is still associated with it as its honorary conductor. Since the 2015/16 season, Gijs Leenaars, one of the most prominent representatives of a younger musical generation, has been leading the ensemble into the future as chief conductor and artistic director.
From large-scale choral symphonies to our transdisciplinary projects and sing-along concerts – on our website you will ﬁnd regularly information about current concerts, video trailers of our productions, and concrete dates on the programme.
If you would like to attend performances of the Rundfunkchor Berlin on a regular basis, you can take advantage of one of our various subscription offers: Whether it is the broad-ranging subscription »Choir & Orchestra«, which also includes our own transdisciplinary projects, or the subscription »Sing-along Concert Plus«, in which you will be offered additional concert highlights as well as participating in the popular sing-along concert – there is something here for everyone!
Our musical partners in the capital include the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Deutsches Symphonie- Orchester Berlin and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Together with these long-time companions, we have performed such diverse choral-symphonic works as Ludwig van Beethoven’s »Missa solemnis«, Giuseppe Verdi’s »Quattro pezzi sacri« or John Adams’ »El Niño« in recent years. In addition, there have been concert opera performances, e.g. of all Richard Wagner’s great operas together with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin or Verdi’s »Otello« with the Berliner Philharmoniker, as well as dramatic productions such as the recent version of Carl Maria von Weber’s »Freischütz« by the Catalan theatre group La Fura dels Baus in the Konzerthaus Berlin, or Johann Sebastian Bach’s »St Matthew Passion«, which we staged together with the Berliner Philharmoniker under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, in a dramatic realisation by Peter Sellars, in 2010. Over the years, we have also given world premieres and first performances of works by contemporary composers such as Brett Dean, Jelena Firssowa, Wolfgang Rihm and Hans-Werner Henze, to name but a few. Indeed, we regularly commission new works.
The Rundfunkchor Berlin regularly stages world premieres or commissions works from contemporary composers.
Would you like to learn more about the choir and its members? In our regular interview series »Auf ein Wort«, we introduce you to the people behind the Rundfunkchor Berlin in focused conversations and offer you special insights into the choir’s work.
Accompanied on the piano by chief conductor Gijs Leenaars, soloists from the Rundfunkchor Berlin present songs they have selected themselves. In conversation, they also provide insights into their personal relationship to these pieces and share interesting facts about the compositions.
Thanks to our history and origin, we have a special relationship with the medium of radio. The Rundfunkchor Berlin is a regular presence on the various frequencies.
Our numerous recordings make it possible to experience the full range of the Rundfunkchor Berlin at home. Our website provides an overview of recordings.
We stand for top-class professional choral singing at the highest level and exquisite listening pleasure – through the most varied of channels. The stage is our most important sphere of activity. But we also bring choral music closer to our audience in many other ways. As a radio choir, we can be heard regularly in the programmes of the public broadcasters. Over the course of the last few years, internet platforms and their new digital worlds have been added. There, too, we offer the full spectrum, from a grand performance to the more intimate moments of a chamber concert.
We are represented prominently in the Digital Concert Hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker, for example. In addition, we are constantly developing new formats especially tailored to the specifics of digital media, which are available on our website or our YouTube channel. For example, soloists from the Rundfunkchor Berlin present specially selected songs in our video series »Auf ein Lied« and perform them accompanied by our chief conductor, Gijs Leenaars.
We spend time in the recording studios on a regular basis. Our steadily growing discography and three Grammy awards speak for themselves. The most recent recordings include Anton Bruckner’s »Mass in E minor« and Igor Stravinsky’s »Mass« with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, or the choral works of Johannes Brahms with the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin. The latter recording, which won the Edison Classical Music Award in 2019, shows the broad range of Brahms’ choral compositions from choral symphonic works to a cappella pieces – and presents the Rundfunkchor Berlin in top form. Our recordings are a statement of this artistic self-image.
The consistent progression of choral singing is characteristic of the Rundfunkchor Berlin. This commitment to innovation is particularly evident in our transdisciplinary projects, which abandon the customary framework of traditional choral performances. Over the years, the Rundfunkchor Berlin has not only offered access to unfamiliar forms and formats with these regular projects, but has also earned a reputation as an innovative choir. In exchange with other musical trends and artistic approaches, choral music can be experienced in a completely different way: embedded in dramatic scenes, realised as an installation, or accompanied visually.
With our transdisciplinary projects, we open up new spaces for choral singing and anchor it – in a variety of ways – in a present in which the boundaries between genres and disciplines have long since become fragile and permeable. Regular exchange with other artistic approaches is based on a fundamental insight: Looking at the big picture, leaving the familiar behind and opening up new perspectives – these are some of the most important tasks of art. It is only when leaving the traditional paths and opening up new spaces by getting involved in other forms of expression or different artistic languages, conventions and musical universes that we enter truly new territory – and open a door to the future of choral singing.
With THE WORLD TO COME the Rundfunkchor Berlin realised a concert installation based on Ludwig van Beethoven’s »Missa solemnis« in the 2020/21 season. To create this ambitious and large-scale project, based on an idea by director Tilman Hecker and with guests from different musical worlds – Birke J. Bertelsmeier, Colin Self, Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, Moor Mother and Planningtorock – we developed a parcours through the old industrial halls of the Vollgutlager in Berlin-Neukölln and the adjacent Club SchwuZ, which had been closed temporarily in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. THE WORLD TO COME leaves European concert music and its institutions behind, just as it opens the traditional Christian narrative of salvation in the »Missa solemnis« to other narratives. Polyphony provides the guiding idea behind all this. It is interpreted here as a model for living together in a diverse and polyphonic present.
»LUTHER dancing with the gods« was produced in 2017 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The musical heart of this production under the aegis of theatre legend Robert Wilson consisted of four motets by Johann Sebastian Bach, which were brought together with music by Steve Reich and Knut Nystedt. Wilson combined these musical performances with theatrical scenes developed from Luther’s dinner speeches, addresses and other texts, focusing on the life of the Reformer.
With the »Human Requiem« based on Johannes Brahms’ »A German Requiem«, Jochen Sandig, together with a team from Sasha Waltz & Guests, designed a concert performance in which Brahms’ music is brought closer to the audience in a moving and intimate way. The separation between stage and auditorium is completely abandoned, musicians and audience mingle, and text, body, space and sound are directly connected. This production, which premiered in 2012, earned us invitations to international stages and festivals such as New York, Hong Kong, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Three times each season, the RundfunkchorLounge comprises a presentation of choral music embedded in the format of a hosted live show. Each time, the lounge, which takes place in silent green Kulturquartier in Berlin-Wedding and is hosted by the well-known entertainer Gale Tufts, is dedicated to a different theme – most recently, for example, to a study of the unconscious forces in late 19th century music, the role of strong women in music history, or the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In addition to the musical programme, audiences can expect atmospheric lounge sounds from DJ Malfatti and specially invited guests who discuss each topic. In an open and pleasant atmosphere, exquisite music, good entertainment and informative conversations combine to create a truly stimulating evening.
The active involvement of children, young people and music-loving amateurs is a central concern for us. Backstage and offstage, the Rundfunkchor Berlin also stands for accessibility and openness. The unifying power of singing together and a universal enthusiasm for shared music-making are the guiding principles behind our educational activities, our consistent work with young musicians, and our community projects. Our Campus programme for the promotion of young professional singers or diverse participation formats such as the sing-along concert, the Liederbörse, or the SING! project – the latter two are opportunities for school choirs and pupils – enable us to actively help anchor choral music in society and promote enthusiasm for it in as many people as possible.
For the Fest der Chorkulturen, which is organised in cooperation with INTERKULTUR, we invite selected amateur choirs from all over the world to Berlin from time to time so that they can sing with us. The aim of the festival is to present the global diversity of choral music to Berlin audiences.
One highlight of the concert calendar is our annual sing-along concert, which brings together amateur singers and the professional choir. Every year, more than a thousand singers gather to sing with us under the direction of our honorary conductor Simon Halsey. The moment when their voices resonate in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, always ﬁlled to capacity, is overwhelming. For a long time now, our sing-along concert has been held not only in Berlin but also in other cities, most recently in Budapest, Paris and Barcelona.
The Liederbörse is our sing-along concert for schoolchildren. Every year, around 1,200 pupils from about 30 school choirs come together to put on a colourful programme along with the Rundfunkchor Berlin.
Under the heading Campus, we offer a series of support programmes for ambitious young ensemble members: Within the context of the Academy, four students or graduates of singing are integrated into our rehearsals for six months and, after successfully completing the introductory phase, sing in our concerts. They are supported by a six-month scholarship, which is funded mainly by the Freunde und Förderer des Rundfunkchores Berlin e. V. The Schola offers a two-week intensive course, in which 20 to 30 young voice students are integrated into a major choral symphonic work as well as preparing a concert of their own. And in our Choral Conducting Master Class, aspiring conductors can take part in a one-week intensive course with the chief conductor of the Rundfunkchor Berlin and a top-class guest. The results of this course are presented to the public in a final concert.
In order to be able to present and develop choral music with all its facets and in new, innovative projects, we need your help – as well as your generous support for the implementation of our promotional projects. You can ﬁnd out how to become a member of our friends’ association and support the Rundfunkchor Berlin and its causes on our website or by contacting us at the following address:
Freunde und Förderer des Rundfunkchores Berlin e. V. Eva-Maria Baxmann-Krafft (Vorsitzende)
Postfach 08 07 06
Support is available for youngsters with our award-winning educational programme SING! The choir’s conductors and music pedagogues support teachers and educators from Berlin’s educational institutions so that they can teach their pupils about singing as an enriching and indispensable part of everyday life. The songs sung in this project often come from the children’s different countries of origin and are performed in different languages. Members of the choir accompany the SING! project as singer-sponsors, visit the children in their schools, and so offer insights into the life of a professional singer.