A magical thing happens at 3pm on summer Sundays in Berlin, Germany. In Mauerpark, one of the many public parks in the city, in the amphitheatre aptly nicknamed “the Bearpit” a man named Joe puts on Bearpit Karaoke the most epic karaoke afternoon you’ll ever see. The Bearpit amphiteatre sits as many as 2000 people and there are always folks standing at the back, around the sides, and all the way around the platform at the front that acts as the stage. Joe provides the speakers, the computer, the microphone, and acts as the enthusiastic and incredibly supportive emcee.
I discovered Bearpit karaoke last year when we visited Berlin the first time. We sat and watched and laughed and sang-a-long for a few hours. I said to Michael, “I want to perform!” We agreed we would come back the following Sunday and I would try my hand in the Bearpit. Cut to the following Sunday (the day after the pride parade), and we were too hungover to get out of bed! I was so upset, but knew that the next time we were in Berlin, I would finally have my chance.
“I want to sing”
That brings us to July 8, 2018. Michael and I squeezed into the seats of the Bearpit, and awaited Joe’s arrival. When he did arrive, he set up the stage, and sang Copa Cabana to get the crowd warmed up. He reminded the audience that this gig costs money, and he sent a pot around to collect donations. One at a time, people’s hands shot up in the air and he selected people from the crowd to come perform. There is no list here, no sign up sheet. To perform you just have to be chosen! Each time a singer finished, I threw my hand up in the air, hopeful he would see me. Michael suggested I just go over to him and tell him I want to sing. So, I did! I put €5 in his donation pot and said, “I want to sing.” He laughed and asked what I want to sing. I told him my song and where I was sitting, and he nodded.
After the guy who sang “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles, it was my turn! Joe pointed at me and I made my way down to the stage. While he queued up the song he asked me a few questions: What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you in Berlin? I answered each one and then told him I was here last year and didn’t get a chance to sing, so now I’m back. He asked if I went to Canada and then came back. I answered, “No, I’ve been traveling around Europe in a van for the year!” “You’ve been living in a van for a year?! By yourself?!” he asked. I shook my head, no, and said, “no, with my lover.” The crowd burst out laughing. I pointed to Michael in the crowd. Joe told him to stand up! He did, then he waved and the crowd erupted with applause!
The song was ready. Joe said, “Ok, Beth from Canada, ready?” and handed me the microphone. I remember when I was a kid, nervous to perform, my singing teacher would say, “butterflies in your stomach are good, as long as they are flying in formation.” I smiled. My song began, “Somebody to Love” by Queen. Of course, my voice shook the first few lines! I was standing on a stage, just me, a microphone, and 2000 people! I looked over at Michael, who was smiling bigger than I’ve ever seen. I forced those butterflies to fly in formation, and I channeled the only person who could possibly help me get through this song: Freddie Mercury.
It’s all a bit blurry.
I remember belting out, “I get down on my knees, and I start to pray, ‘till the tears run down from my EYES!!!!” I remember when the instrumental began, I grabbed my air guitar and played it like I’ve never played it before. I remember during the chant, “find me somebody to love” I got the audience to join in! I killed that final note, and the audience stood up and broke into thunderous applause. I somehow managed to stay standing on my gelatine legs, my heart pounded in my chest, tears stung my eyes. I just stood and looked at the people in front of me. Then I curtseyed…weird choice.
Today I learned…
Today I learned what people mean when they say, “I can’t even” because I just can’t. It was such a rush to be up there, to finally have the chance to sing my favourite song in front of this incredible crowd. I stood watching the people at the end, and filed it away into my memories. I never want to forget the feeling of all those shiny, happy faces, beaming down at me, cheering and hollering.
Check out the Bearpit karaoke facebook page here!
Looking for more things to do in Berlin? Look no further, check this out!