Adelaide Festival 2018 Review: Human Requiem


Photo credit: Adelaide Festival


What: Human Requiem

Who: Rundfunkchor Berlin

When: March 14 – March 18

Where: Ridley Centre, Adelaide Showground

Tickets: Friends $99.00, Concession $85.00, Under 30 $40.00

Details available here

Note: Bags and purses are not permitted in the performance space. You will be asked to remove your shoes when entering the performance space. During the performance you will stand, move and sit on cushions. Please dress comfortably.


Upon arrival everyone has to check-in their belongings and remove their shoes. We walk into a large hall, where we find other members of the audience standing around in clumps, waiting around patiently with anticipation. The blinds close, the lights dim, and the sound of a piano softly plays from a corner of the room. Suddenly, an eruption of voices resound throughout the room in song. The singers, now revealed as secretly inserted ‘audience members’, begin to pace around you, creating real-life ‘surround sound’, and you find yourself completely immersed in the performance.

Presenting all seven movements of Johannes Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Rundfunkchor Berlin is, without a doubt, an exceptional choral group. Every member’s voice effortlessly hits every note, and they know their parts off-by-heart. Essentially everything that is characteristic of a great choir.

For the audience, the choral group creates an unparalleled experience through different concepts of audio presentation. For each movement they provide a different way for us to encounter the music. Not only are they constantly in motion, but we, the audience, are also shifting with them, being organically manipulated with the progression of the movements. I have a great admiration for the conductor, Gijs Leenaars, who, throughout the performance, had to continually conduct members from four different choral sections who appeared to be wandering aimlessly around the room, at random.

This style of performance obviously does not allow for the use of a full symphony orchestra, as would traditionally be presented. However, the single piano, staffed by four hands, compensated for the lack of ensemble, and its roaming platform was effectively manoeuvred throughout the concert.

A couple of reservations: I felt the room was slightly overcrowded, and ultimately the experience would have been more enjoyable if there were twenty people less in the room. In this way, I would not have to crane my neck around others to see what is happening on the other end of the room. Also, the room smelt distinctly of feet! Rather unfortunate, but it is part and parcel of sharing the experience with others in such an intimate way.

Throughout the night I kept wishing that I understood German, as it would have allowed me to appreciate the requiem ten-fold. However, the quality of music that was experienced is of a calibre that can speak to ones’ soul, and move you to tears. I highly recommend you get your hands on some tickets if this is the kind of show you appreciate.

Rachel Wong

4/5 stars

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