The first concert of the newly formed St. Michael’s Choir was held in June 1998, at which time the choir had 70 members and had only been around for a month. It wasn’t long before around 90 singers came together under the direction of Church Musical Director Prof. Christoph Schoener, church musician at St. Michael’s, continuing and renewing this tradition in church services and at concerts.
Many members of the choir have had voice training, with voice lessons offered to participants on a regular basis.
This ultimately made it possible to establish the ‘St. Michael’s Choir – the Small Choir’: a portion of the choir is active outside the usual rehearsal hours particularly for projects in historically informed performance practice as well as demanding a cappella pieces.
In addition to Johann Sebastian Bach’s two famous Passions – his Mass in B minor and Christmas Oratorio – as well as the Messiah by Georg Friedrich Händel, St. Michael’s Choir’s repertoire includes Elijah and Lobgesang by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein, the Golgotha oratorio by Frank Martin, Prague Te Deum and the Jeremiah opera by Petr Eben, the Deus Passus oratorio by Wolfgang Rihm, Gloria by Francis Poulenc, requiems by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Giuseppe Verdi, and a German Requiem by Johannes Brahms.
Musical partners involved in the choir’s performances include the St. Michael’s Orchestra, comprising members of the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Johann Christian Bach-Akademie with its concertmaster Ingeborg Scheerer, and vocal soloists such as Christiane Oelze, Emma Kirkby, Elisabeth Graf, Bogna Bartosz, Ingeborg Danz, Christoph Prégardien and Andreas Schmidt.
Around six Bach cantatas are performed every year during services at St. Michael’s, as well as motets by Bach, Brahms and Mendelssohn, and a cappella pieces by artists ranging from Schütz to Poulenc.
The annual performances of St Matthew Passion (German: Matthäus-Passion) by Johann Sebastian Bach on Palm Sunday and Brahms’ Requiem on the evening before Totensonntag are an integral part of cultural life in Hamburg. More than 10,000 people usually attend the performances of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at St. Michael’s on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Advent.