Interview: Markus Wiskirchen, Choral tenor, Cologne
Cologne Central by spacejulien via Flickr

Interview: Markus Wiskirchen, Choral tenor, Cologne

Markus Wiskirchen is a member of the 80-strong KölnChor one of the most well respected amateur choirs in Germany. With up to 5 large scale concerts a year, Markus has an active schedule of rehearsal perfomance, but was kind enough to take time out to tell us a bit more about his life in song.

Photo of Markus Wiskirchen
Markus Wiskirchen, Choral tenor

How did you get into singing?

I imbibed it from my infancy. My family used to sing all the time and still does: at birthday parties, at home, in choirs, on stage at Carnival events, even while water skiing. When I was 10, I joined a boys’ choir and sang with them until my voice broke.

Tell us about your favourite song.

There are too many favourites, but one is particularly special to me: Mozart’s “Ave Verum” . When we performed it with the boys’ choir in a church some people started to cry silently. It’s a touching piece, I don’t think they were simply moved by the pure Soprano voices of little boys.

Who or what is your biggest musical influence?

My parents by just practicing it, my piano teacher by introducing me to different styles of music and several choirmasters who gave me the theoretical background and good vocal formation.

Tell us about a recent concert you performed in.

On January 19th 2008, in Cologne’s Philharmonic Hall, we sang Händel’s “Messiah”, the version for big orchestra from Sir Eugène Goossens. Our choir was accompanied by the “Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie” from Koblenz.

Last year the KölnChor was the choir in the epic Lord of the Rings Symphonie by Howard Shore in the Cologne Arena – that was quite an experience!

Are you a professional or semi-professional singer or is it more of a pastime?

I am definitely a semi-professional singer because it is so much more than a pastime. Preparing for a concert means weeks of practice with the choir and at home. Sometimes we have more than five concerts a year which can be really exhausting – but it’s worth it.

What else do you do in your spare time?

I like to go sailing in the summertime, and I enjoy cooking all year round. I used to take part in a singing circle where we performed medieval music with 10 people but had to quit it because of a lack of time.

Do you have a top tip for getting the most from your voice?

Relax your cervical and maxillary muscles and don’t forget you have a diaphram to assist you! A good warm-up is always important.

Have you had any professional training?

In the choir a professional voice trainer shows us how to use our voices efficiently and how to keep your maxilla, lips and tongue flexible.

Do you have any tips for pre-performance preparation that help steady the nerves?

I find that a warm-up with the other 80 guys gives me a real boost of self-confidence before the performance.

Tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? Why do you choose to live where you do?

I was born 50 kilometers away from Cologne in a small town called Rheinbach. After secondary school I applied to university in Hamburg, Freiburg and Cologne to study politics and history. I accepted a place in Cologne so that, apart from two trimesters in Budapest, I could stay near to my birth place. Cologne is a good place to live for me. As well as the great tradition of Cologne Carnival, it’s got the bustling metropolis atmosphere without being too crowded.

What do you like about Your Accompanist accompaniment tracks? How do they help you?

They help to you to focus on your own voice by exercising at home. The piano is essential because it gives you a context for your singing.

Find out more about the Koeln Choir: