Lux aeterna - A Music Festival for the Soul

The fourth edition of the »music festival for the soul«, which is held in the city’s brightly lit concert halls and churches, takes place in February 2019. For a good three weeks, some 25 events offer music to help the listener escape the greyness of a Hamburg winter and also tries to answer some profound questions.

What am I living for? Is there a higher sphere of existence, possibly even a god? What happens after death? In a time when many people are dependent on their smartphone and feel abandoned by society, in a time when big political issues seem insoluble, such questions are more pressing than ever.

Eternal Light

The dark and cold month of February seems an ideal time to reflect on intrinsic values. Many people are looking for inner peace, for ways to soothe their stressed soul. The »Lux aeterna« festival aims to respond to this yearning for spiritual experience – with music. The Latin title translates as »eternal light«. If you direct your steps to the enticing open doors of Hamburg's churches and concert halls, you will encounter sounds that illuminate us from within, music that speaks to us on a special, subconscious level.

From Olivier Messiaen to the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus

The legendary whirling dervishes from Damascus seek their way to Allah in dance: the constant circular movement symbolises a spindle that connects the Earth with the likewise revolving cosmos. In the 13th century, the dervishes were followers of the Sufi mystic Rumi, who advocated a philosophy based on love: he believed that Man can only find the way to God via true love. A comforting message, to be sure. Jazz composer Christophe Schweizer transports Rumi's teachings to the present day: he has set a selection of Rumi's finest poems to music, and performs them at the Elbphilharmonie together with vocal artist Almut Kühne.

For French composer Olivier Messiaen, music was not just a sequence of beautiful sounds, it was also the gateway to a different world, a heavenly sphere. »You speak to God through music – and He will answer you in music« – these words are sung by an angel in Messiaen's opera »Saint François d’Assise«. And elsewhere he calls for »true, that is, spiritual music«.

Contemporary Music

Spiritual music can also be found in the oeuvre of contemporary composers: Georg Friedrich Haas's »in vain« works with interwoven microtones and overtones that enable us to focus on the tiniest things in our surroundings. Mindfulness is the key word here. The effect is enhanced by the fact that parts of the concert will be given in complete darkness.

Intimate Family Prayers and Large-Scale Settings of the Mass

Obviously, a festival with eternal light as its theme must include Johann Sebastian Bach, be it in the shape of intimate »family prayers«, featuring songs he wrote for his wife, or of his great B Minor Mass. Franz Schubert's Mass in E-flat major is very different in character: the strict liturgical text is set to monumental and bold music. Sylvain Cambreling performs it with the Symphoniker Hamburg and the Europa Chor Akademie Görlitz at the venerable Laeiszhalle. The festival also includes jazz sessions, dance performances at Kampnagel, and concerts with orchestra and for children.

As was the case at the previous three festivals, the forthcoming »Lux aeterna« is not confined to the Elbphilharmonie and the Laeiszhalle: it includes churches and other locations all over the city. This is made possible by the constructive cooperation of the major Hamburg orchestras and by longstanding partners such as Kampnagel. They all help translate infinity into music. Musica aeterna.