Music for beer parlors in the Basilica of the Eberbach Monastery

The Alehouse Session – the basilica of the Eberbach Monastery an unusual location for the show/Photo: Ansgar Klostermann

The performance of “The Alehouse Session” at Eberbach Monastery should have taken place in the cloister of the monastery, weather permitting. But rain had prevented that and so it took place in the basilica. Somewhat unusual for the place,  that percussion and drum perfectionist Helge Andreas Norbakken at  first and as a start of the show took a sip from his beer bottle.

But thank goodness
quickly came the ingratiating, quiet, atmospheric tones of viola and violins, accompanied by the chirping and round flights of a pair of swallows above the stage, which must be at home in the basilica.
The Norwegian ensemble Barokksolostine was founded by Bjarte Eike, Norway’s leading baroque violonist in 2005. The ensemble gathers artists of high soloistic level . Since its beginning, Barokksolistene has performed as an ensemble at various festivals in Europe. For example, at jazz festivals, Stockholm Early Music Festival and BBC Proms. At the Rheingau Music Festival The Alehouse Session gave performances in the years  2015 and 2017.

A  room and a few benches were enough to open an Alehouse

The origins of alehouses lie in the early Middle Ages, when everyone brewed their own beer who could afford the necessary utensils. Ale, unlike beer, was made from malted barley, without the addition of hops. Herbs served as bittering agents. Ale was drunk at any time of the day because the alcohol content was low. Brewing was the task of women in those days. In addition to housework, the `brewsters’ or ‘alewifes’ made the drink to sell at the market, for example. A household did not need more than a room and a few benches to open its doors as an alehouse. In London alone, it is estimated that there were about 1,700 locations in the 13th century. “In the countryside at that time, travelers often found rest and refreshment in monasteries, and the parish house of worship was a place of gathering, communal celebration and conviviality,” one can read in the program fllyer. When in the 16th century, in the wake of the Reformation, the church became a place of seriousness and austerity, and many abbeys had to close their doors, the alehouse would have become increasingly important for hospitality and village gathering.
After 1800, the situation of alehouses has changed permanently. Higher standards of living raised demands for offerings and amenities, and Victorian womankind also wanted to frequent pubs. The alehouse  evolved into the public house, which is still part of Anglo-Saxon pub culture today as the “pub.”

So the location for the show of “The Alehouse Session” in the Basilica of the Eberbach Monastery as part of the Rheingau Music Festival was not so unusual after all, when one learns about the Alehouses in the Middle Ages. Even then, travelers found rest, refreshment and entertainment in monasteries, and even then, churches were a place to celebrate and socialize together.
Barrokksolistene offered an impressive and rousing show that evening. To admire were: Bjarte Eike -violin, Miloš Valent – violin, Per Buhre – viola, Steven Player – dance & guitar, Fredrik Bock – guitar, Johannes Lundberg -contrabass, Hans Knut Sveen – harmonium, harpsichord & vocals and Helge Andreas Norbakken – percussion.

Johanna Wenninger-Muhr

The Rheingau Music Festival offers concerts from classical music, jazz, but also world music and pop until September 5.

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