Musical Meeting in the Mission House

Kristeligt Dagblad, 7th August 2001

The music meets you as you approach the former mission house in Ejerslev in north Mors. In the morning quiet all you can hear, apart from the music, is the sound of your own footsteps. Passing the small national flags at the entrance you are almost overwhelmed by the beautiful sound of the music. The young musicians are concentrating hard – this is the final rehearsal before their concert in Skagen church.

14 young string players, all girls, from Germany, Italy, Bulgaria and Denmark are practicing under the instruction of the German violinist, Jochen Brusch, who owns the house, which he normally uses as a holiday home. This is the first, but perhaps not the last, time he is holding a music course here.

The players are giving 5 concerts in all; as well as the one in Skagen they have played in Herning church last Saturday and the Octagonal Hall in Øster Jølby on Mors, while tonight they are playing in St. Mortens church in Randers, and tomorrow the 10 day tour ends with a concert in Løgumkloster church. The programme includes some of Johan Sebastian Bach’s and Antonio Vivaldi’s most popular works. The solos are played by 11 different musicians. To complete the ensemble, the girls are joined by the conductor’s brother, the professional ’cellist, Henning Brusch, and by the school and music-school teacher, Morten Stuhr on the double bass.

Most of the girls are 18 or 19 years old. Like Jochen Brusch, some of them come from the South German university town of Tübingen, where he is their teacher and where they also play in the youth symphony orchestra – which has on several occasions won first prize in a national German music competition. Others have got to know Jochen Brusch through his teaching and his concerts in their own countries.

A Privilege
Jochen Brusch thinks that boys of the same age as the girls attending this course are, generally speaking, not as willing to practice as much as girls are. Therefore, their playing is not as advanced, and this is the reason that there are no boys on this course. However, it is easy to make a virtue out of a necessity: female orchestras have "a charm all of their own" as Brusch says, adding that Vivaldi himself lead such an orchestra in Venice.

"For me this is an experiment", says Jochen Brusch, as he takes a break from rehearsals on the steps in front of the house. Meanwhile, inside, some of the girls continue to play, and their music blends in with his words.

- "The house is not really designed to accommodate 14 people, so there is one large mass of sleeping bags, mattresses, violin cases, music stands and personal belongings! The girls are really nice and friendly with each other. I think it is easier for girls to make friends than for boys. The other day, one of the girls said that the atmosphere was so relaxed because there were no boys around. As soon as both sexes are together, something or other seems to change the atmosphere."

"I have done my utmost to ensure that there is no competitive atmosphere here. Obviously not all of the 14 are at precisely the same level and I have been pleased to see that some of them help others who perhaps have problems with certain passages – they sit and practice together."

The course is hard work. They begin before 9.30 and continue until midday, when they eat lunch with the neighbour, Stine Kudsk. She cooks a hot meal for 20 people every day, 2 courses of traditional Danish food ("delicious"). Rehearsals continue in the afternoon and in the evening they play chamber music. The other evening it was a sextet by Johannes Brahms that glowed in the room, along with the embers of the fire.

Jochen Brusch would like his first "musical meeting" in Ejerslev for become a tradition. But he admits that this depends on the facilities being improved.

"I love teaching", says Brusch. "And to be a good teacher you have to love it. Sometimes one gets the impression that some musicians think their pupil take up their time and that teaching is so demanding. I regard it as a privilege to be handed on. It is possible to achieve a feeling of real mutual confidence with an individual pupil, when you are together for 45 mins. a week: there is a strong spiritual element in teaching."

45-year old Jochen Brusch speaks Danish almost like a native. His close relationship with the country began in 1974, when he applied to the violinist Anker Buch for lessons. He trained at the conservatories of Duiberg, Essen and Hanover and also has a solo diploma from the Royal Schoool of Music in London. From 1980 to 1986 Jochen Brusch was a member of the Herning Stadstrio and later he was concertmaster in Essen.

He gives concerts in many countries, including Denmark, and has recorded over 100 different works on his numerous CDs.

A Pleasant Surprise
This "musical meeting" is not just about music, but also companionship – in this impressive landscape "under the world’s biggest sky" as the Morsø author Knud Sørensen puts it in one of his poems. "It’s just great being here," breaks in 19-year old Anne Giødesen from Kolding. She has just finished her final school exams and is preparing to audition for the conservatory.

"We learn to play together. Our orchestra is more like a chamber orchestra than anything, and we really have to listen to each other and consider each other. A chamber orchestra is more revealing than a symphony orchestra. I am pleasantly surprised that the standard is as high as it is," says Anne Giødesen and continues: "I began playing the violin, but changed to the viola when I was 10 or thereabouts, and I have never regretted it – partly because it is a lovely instrument, and partly because not so many people play it. A viola player is always welcome!" says Anne Giødesen. 17-year old high school student Sofie Spanget Rasmussen from Odense is also preparing for the conservatory. She says: "I play a lot at the music-school in Odense, both in the chamber orchestra – which is a bit like this – and the "ordinary" orchestra. I too started on the violin, but chose to go over to the cello. My parents claim it was because I was a bit lazy – cellists sit down! But now the cello suits me best because of its dark sound – it sounds so warm and tender."

Most of the 14 girls lead very busy everyday lives and this stay in the tranquillity of north-west Jutland has made a real impression on them: the peace, the light, the starry heaven over the Limfjord – these they will always remember – along with everything else!