Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pure joy

Happy Sunday. We attended church at the SELK church in Magdeburg which was quite different from the church in Dresden but the people were quite nice and glad to have us there. After church, we had coffee and cake, then made a quick stop by the Magdeburg Dom for Katie and Chris to see. Then it was back to Manfred’s flat to take a much needed nap, then time to get ready to head back to Niederndodeleben where the choir was practicing. Once they finished, there was a short demonstration by the organ builder about what he had done to renovate parts of the organ, then there was a short church service to dedicate the new CD. This was all followed by coffee, cake and champagne in the courtyard. Once this was done and everyone was back in the church, I gave my recital. Overall, I was quite pleased with it. This was followed with more cake, coffee, wine, and beer in the courtyard.

This was great fun and we stayed for HOURS talking to the wonderful people there and listening to them sing everything from folk songs to lullabies to Schubert. I could not have possibly been happier and am pretty sure that I experienced a little slice of heaven today. When this was all done, Chris, Katie and I all piled into the back of the small car so we could take a lady home, then went back to Manfred’s house where he made us dinner of kartoffel puree and some sort of sausage (which I passed up) and tomato slices. It was a most fabulous day and I couldn’t have possibly been happier.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

A day full of goosebumps

Since today was Saturday and Manfred didn’t have to work, he joined us for some sightseeing fun. We had breakfast then headed to Harbke to play the organ there. This organ (II/21) was a Fritzsche-Treutmann organ (1622/1728) in the St. Levin Castle Church and it was love at first sight. I could not get up to the balcony fast enough!!! The lady met us and told us about the organ, which was very kind, but I must confess, I didn’t listen as carefully as I should have because I was so anxious to play. Once I got up to the balcony I played and played and played. There were some solo stops that were so gorgeous my heart nearly stopped. I was going to play an hour, but ended up playing far longer than that and felt like it was only a few seconds. When we were done, we bought some CD’s and went to the garden to see the ruins of the castle, but my heart was still pounding from that organ!!! 

 We saw the oldest ginkgo tree in Germany and got a leaf to take home. We enjoyed ice cream in the garden which was wonderful.

Then we moved on to our next destination: Marienbon. This was an old boarder crossing and now houses a museum that we went through. It was very strange and a little eerie to go through and it is so hard to comprehend how different Germany was then. Manfred shared stories of his memories of going through here to go visit his sister in West Berlin. 

After this we went to another place to see part of the wall that still remains. From here we headed once again back to Niederndodeleben for one last practice, which was great. Then we went out to dinner and a few of Manfred’s friends joined us. We had a great time, then headed back home to bed.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Recital preperations begin!

Today we woke up and headed to Niederndodeleben so I could practice. I got there and practiced for four GLORIOUS hours. I was totally in my element and relaxed into the music and listened to the wind and all that good stuff. Chris graciously spent time getting to know the stops since he will be pulling stops for the recital. I could have stayed and played all day, but didn’t want to overstay my welcome so we headed home by late afternoon. We took the train no problem, but then the tram broke down. Why not. So, we walked the rest of the way to Manfred’s, went to the grocery store, and had dinner. Manfred was working late but when he got home we sat up and talked a bit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

More organs!

Today we left Erfurt to visit another organ, this time in Mulberg. We took a 9 minute train ride and were supposed to have a 3 minute break until getting on the bus, but the train was 5 minutes late so we missed the bus and had to kill an hour till the next one came. It all worked out OK, though, and we got to the cute little city in plenty of time. This organ was a knock out. This was a romantic organ and would have been PERFECT for Mendelssohn, but I forgot all my Mendelssohn at home, which I was quite upset about. Needless to say, I still had a grand old time and was in high heaven.

After playing for a significant length of time, we headed back to Erfurt, and then went to see both the Severikirche and the Dom.

Then we dragged our luggage to the train station to head to Magdeburg. This was a 2 ½ hour train ride on a FULL train so we stood the first half hour. Never was I so happy to get off a train. Manfred met us at the station and we headed back to his flat. Then we walked along the river to go out to eat to a restaurant that he took Heidi and I to last year. We enjoyed a meal together and talked for a looooooong time, then headed back to his house and went to bed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bach, Mendelssohn, and street musicians.

Today we woke up and went back downtown and spent some time in St. Thomas. Someone was playing the organ and it had a cipher. We walked around the church and took some more pictures and I stood by Bach’s grave for quite awhile just enjoying being so close to one of my all time favorite heroes.

After this, we went to the Mendelssohn Haus where we saw the room where he died, his death mask, a lock of his hair, and many of his watercolors. This guy was one talented dude and I would have loved to know him in person. From here we traveled on to Arnstadt and hiked to Bachkirche with all of our luggage and it was hot outside! It was well worth it (and well worth the rather extravagant organ use fee I handed over) to play this organ. The action was unbelievably heavy but the organ was amazing. I should have packed the oxygen. These organs will just get you every time.

After we left we went back to the train station with all of our luggage and took a train to Erfurt where we checked into our opera hostel where we found a tuba hanging from our ceiling. We wandered around downtown but couldn’t go inside anywhere because it was all closed so we enjoyed a meal outside sitting around a table on cobblestone streets listening to the various street musicians, including accordian and guitar. Also, they lit our candle and it was just very European feeling. Plus anyway, I ate the whole pizza. See pictures below for proof.


Monday, July 4, 2011

A 4th of July spent in the country I love....

I can’t think of a better way to spend the 4th of July but in Germany! Instead of sweltering heat and humidity and loud fireworks, I enjoyed a nice upper 60’s day in Wittenberg and Leipzig. Perfect! So we woke up and enjoyed the continental breakfast provided by the hotel we stayed at. It was German style, of course, with rolls and jams and every kind of cheese you could possibly imagine. Also soft boiled eggs, cold cuts, and juices and fruit. Once we had competed eating we set out to see the city. I had seen it last year, but it never gets old. It makes me a little sad to think that the interior of Castle Church is not how Luther would have known it, but none the less, it is pretty awesome to be in the church that Luther was at and is buried in. Unfortunately, the door was under construction/ restoration so we could not get by it, so I’m glad I took my picture next to it last year. The Marty statue is still gone, too. I Guess I’ll just have to come back someday. If you want to see Wittenberg pics, go back and read my old blog entries. I’m just to lazy to post more pics of Wittenberg here.

From here we boarded the train and rode an hour to Leipzig. As withWittenberg, I had been here before, but coming back again doesn’t take the awe and wonder out of the experience. I mean, who in their right mind could EVER stand so close to Bach’s grave and not get chills? In any case, we checked into our hotel…. The Holiday Inn right across from the train station. It was a fabulous location and price, but a very American hotel, particularly the bathroom. I mean, just look at this bathtub.
While I was a bit disappointed that it was so American, I can't complain because all we will do here is sleep and shower. So once we dropped our stuff off we went downtown to check out the churches and the sights. We didn’t have a ton of time, but we all did some major shopping at the gift shop and saw the big Bach outside.
Then we went and grabbed some dinner and returned to St. Thomas church for a concert. It was so full we had to sit in the very back and I realized more than ever why things like bells at the elevation or use of incense were so important back then. While I could hear perfectly (more on that later) I could see NOTHING and felt really disengaged. Ah well. The acoustics in there are amazing and of course there were no microphones used. I HATE microphones and avoid them at all costs. Anyway, Even in this huge church that seats over 1000, sitting in the second to last row, you could hear EVERY note from the string quartet. The music was delicately carried up and through the room, yet easy to hear and so expressive and full of emotion and depth. Then, there was this choir from the USA. You could hear their words, but I wasn’t particularly fond of their musical selections or style. Ah well, it was still a great experience to go to a concert there. After this, we went off in search for food, and found some we did…..
Now now, before you get all excited, chill out. Those who know me didn’t REALLY think I’d be drinking beer, did you? I assure, you, I did not do any drinking. Chris had bought 2 bottles and we had all bought a bunch of pastries to take back, and Chris and I got ice cream and of course had to document the ice cream. Katie couldn’t easily juggle the camera, beer, and pastry bag, and Chris couldn’t manage 2 beers and an ice cream, so I ended up holding one. HA! Makes for a good picture, anyway.

Once back in the room, Katie and I tried our Berliner Pretzels which were sort of a cross between a doughnut and a funnel cake. OH MY GOSH. SOOOOOOOO yummy! And so now it is late and the day is done, and tomorrow will rise to further explore Leipzig.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Marty, here we come!!!

Today we attended church at Dreieinigkeitsgemeinde in der St.-Petri-Kirche. This was a SELK congregation and there was a woman who kindly sat with us to translate the sermon. The rest of the service we could follow simply because liturgy is liturgy regardless what language. I love liturgy. I loved hear the hymns in German and I loved the real church bell and organ. I could live here.

After this, we traveled in the driving rain to Wittenberg and checked into our hotel and discovered the clothes in the bottom of the suitcases were wet. As if we haven’t had enough stuff go wrong this trip. Oh well, can’t complain too much. I got out the hairdryer and we dried all the clothes that way.

Then we wandered the town of Wittenberg and went out for Pizza. Since it is Sunday, most things were closed, so we just wandered outside, but did take a peek inside Castle church. I get chills even though I’ve seen it before. Then of course, we had ice cream and we had a party with marty in the plaza.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Prague Blog

Today we went to Prague. Although the day started very stressfully (getting the wrong train ticket and then almost missing the train….) we finally made it and while it ended up costing more than anticipated, it was worth every koruna. We took out 1,000 of them and spent that in a flash. It felt strange to see such large numbers pop on the register when we bought stuff! We went across the Charles Bridge which was HUGE, packed with tourists and had a zillion statues. From there we went to the Prague Castle. While there, we visited St. Vitus Cathedral which was huge and amazing with the most gorgeous stained glass. This cathedral was so big that it had over 10 altars inside! Plus there were graves all over and a crypt. I was TOTALLY in my element there and verging on giddy. I love love LOVE cathedrals and the history and mystery and all of that. LOVE! We also went in the castle itself as well as the basilica of St. George. I could have stayed 10 days here. It was all full of European goodness. Seriously. This would most certainly be on my list of top five favorite cities in Europe and I hope I can go back one day and spend more time. Rather than rambling on and trying to express with words what I’m experiencing, I’ll let the pictures do the talking. It was a VERY windy day, so we struggled to get pictures of us looking halfway decent. HAHA. (Don’t worry… when we got home, we found ice cream)

Gate to Prague Castle

Castle guard sporting his shades

St. Vitus Cathedral

View from the castle

Street musicians

Delicious traditional Prague something or other, called Tredlnik

Statue in front of museum of King Wenceslaus. Yes, THE King Wenceslaus!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Silbermann and Strawberries

We began today with some wonderfully delicious Amerikaners. One of my favorite treats here ever. YUMMY.

Then we headed to Nassau so I could play another organ. (Silbermann, II/19) When we arrived, we saw a man in the tower ringing the bell because it was noon. I loved this quaint little town. It was the sort of little town how you would imagine Germany was years and years ago. It made me wish that I was born in Germany several hundred years ago. I could just eat it up. It makes me so so happy to be in these little towns. I can’t even describe it. Anyway, the elder came and let us in and I played for 90 minutes. The pedal board was WIDE and of course no low C sharp. With every organ I play, I can feel my understanding grow and I get more confident in my abilities as an organist. It still is so overwhelming, though. You just get this sense of awe and wonder and feel so inadequate to be sitting on a bench where hundreds of organists have played and you feel like you are becoming one in a long line of organists through the centuries. It’s very humbling and there is this sense of responsibility and the weightiness of it all that settles on you. These organs are DEEP. Even after playing 90 minutes, I had only scratched the surface of all this organ has to offer. I felt like I was living a part of history and the music just came to life as I played it. This music fits so well on these organs. It’s music the way music was meant to be done. Golly. I can’t wrap my mind around it.

After this we drove up the road to the Silbermann museum in Frauenstein. This was chocked full of history and while it was all in German, I could figure some of it out. AND there was a little Silbermann positiv that looked so familiar. Then it dawned on me. We its twin in the crypt of the Bremen Dom. When I went over to read it, I confirmed that this was in fact the case.

When we got home, we went downtown again for more ice cream. And since there was no vanilla at this place, I had to pick out something else, and in honor of Kevin and memory of my first trip to Germany, I ate strawberry. Don’t faint.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Honey, I'm home!

Unlike yesterday, the weather today was not so nice. Chilly, windy and rainy. We didn’t let that stop us from having a good time. We first went to a church in Grosshartmannsdorf. Silbermann organ, II/21. Everything around me disappeared and I just ate up the time with the organ. In fact, when Katie showed me some pictures she had taken, I didn’t recognize where they were from. I had been so mesmerized by the organ I had forgotten to look around the church.

Once finished with this, we ate lunch at a little place and went on to the St. Nikolaikirche in Langhennersdorf. The church, like so many in Germany, was built in sections as they continued to add on to make it bigger. The oldest part dates from the 13th century! It was wonderful and old and had that good smell to it. It was cold and damp inside and I felt so at home there! The organist met us there and while he spoke only little English and I only little German, we got along just fine and it was a delightful time. He led me up these wonderful old stairs to the organ. Hildebrandt, II/21. I played and the organist pulled stops. It was glorious. This organ makes my top 10 list without question. It was intense. These organ builders were truly genius. It is unbelievable. Can’t even wrap your mind around it. And I played this one…. I’m back at it. My touch came back, I listened and controlled the wind and it left me speechless (which is rare!). It is amazing to me how I can be so at home at a place I’ve spent relatively little time in. I just feel so at home with all these organs!

After all this excitement, we wandered the city of Dresden, took a million pictures. Oh, and of course it goes without saying that I ate gelato!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Joys of Dresden

Today was a beautiful warm and sunny day in Germany. We woke up early, said our goodbyes and boarded the train and made our way to the great city of Dresden. Once there, we picked up our rental car and checked into our hotel, The Mezcalero. It was a little strange to walk into the room and feel like we are in Spain. “Bano” was printed on the bathroom door, and I must confess, Spanish is the last language I wanted to see. I’m still trying to figure out German, for crying out loud. Anyway, it’s a nice little place at an amazing price and in a great location. After we were settled, we drove out of the city to the Wegscheider organ workshop. We sat in the garden waiting for the owner to arrive and when he did he and his apprentice from North Carolina showed us around. It was one of the most amazing experiences ever. It’s so wonderful to be around people who understand and value good instruments crafted the way they were zillions of years ago. They had a little positiv organ that they let me play. I was in heaven. The trackers came from below so it was unbelievably sensitive.

Then the boss sat us down in his office to chat, which was wonderful. He asked what my interests were and where I had played, etc. etc. When he told me about a nearby church that had meantone, my eyes popped out of my head. He laughed and said he hadn’t been there in years, but still had the key and “come. We must go if you have time.” Um, hello! I ALWAYS have time to play German organs… especially meantone. So we drove a short way to the Kirche Wilschdorf and I played awhile. No C# in the low octave and out of tune reeds, but the rest was wonderful. It felt sooooooooo good to be back on such an instrument. Good to have feeling under my fingers and be able to connect to the instrument. Where you aren’t sure where you end and the organ begins. I was a bit rough and out of practice (after all, I don’t have instruments like this to practice on in the States) but I knew it would come back quickly.

From there we went to the hotel, changed, and went to see an opera, which was modern so not my favorite, but still good. Once it was done, we walked back to our hotel enjoying gelato and the warm summer European evening. I laid in bed a long time, unable to sleep because I was just too full of joy!! Organ workshop, playing an organ, gelato, being in Europe…. Sigh. It’s that deep joy that wells up inside of you until you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and you think that surely you must be living in a fairy tale. Except you are living real life, and life couldn’t possibly get any better.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Germany, take two

We enjoyed a leisurely morning in Chicago on the 27th, but we SHOULD HAVE BEEN WANDERING THE STREETS OF BERLIN!!! We went back to O’Hare and got on a flight that thankfully made it all the way to Frankfort, then made our connecting flight to Berlin where we landed at 8:30AM on the 28th. HURRAY! We walked to the SELK church where we were staying, left our stuff and walked around looking for a map and Starbucks. We met up with another college friend, James, who is studying in Berlin for 2 months this summer. We met around 2:00 and sat around talking and then went downtown and visited lots of tourist attractions. Then, Manfred called and met up to join us. We all had ice cream and walked around the city a bit more. After that, we sat outside along a river and visited while the guys enjoyed a beer, Katie enjoyed a glass of wine, and I enjoyed good conversation. Manfred then got on the train to head home and Katie, Chris, James and I headed to see the Berlin Dom, which I also saw last year.

We didn’t go in, but it is still amazing to look at from the outside. By this point, we were feeling the effects of jet lag and arrived back at the church around 11:00 and were in bed by midnight. It was that strange feeling of total exhaustion. I left Chicago at 2:30, didn’t sleep on the plane, arrived in Germany and spend a jam packed day touring. And, must I say, it feels so good to be back. So very, very good. Now I just need to get reacquainted with these old historic organs and life will be perfect.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Destination.... Chicago?

Today was the day I have been waiting for since I landed back in America last June. Today I was going back to Germany. Or so I thought. This year, I am going with my friends from college, Katie and Chris. We all met at the air port. No problem. We checked our luggage. No problem. We got our tickets. Small problem: they mixed up our seats and my vegetarian meal. They resolved that, thank goodness. We got on the plane and waited for the clear. Big problem: the flaps weren’t floppy and they had to repair them. Two hours later we were given the go ahead and took off. An hour or so later, we were in the air. HUGE PROBLEM: one of the motors quit and they were operating off a generator. They told us we would be returning to Chicago. We got back to O’Hare and needed to land. Biggest problem of all. See, since we had a full tank of fuel, we were overweight to land. So, as Chicago neared all I could see was the flashing lights of ambulances and fire trucks on either side of the runway “just as a precaution”. It was a hard landing. Hard as in you could feel the thud of the land and wondered if we’d stop before plowing through the airport. Hard as in this meant no Germany for me today. We rebooked for tomorrow and headed for my parents house for the night. So, I’m still in America, and not too happy about it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

One Week

In one week, I will be boarding a plane and going back. I cannot sleep at night. The music is running through my head without stopping. Yes, I'm going back.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Exploding with joy

At long last! OK, OK, so I knew before I even left Germany last June that I would be returning sometime the following summer, and I've been working in earnest on preparations for this year's trip, but it never quite feels "real" until you have tickets in hand. Well, I bought tickets just after midnight. It's real. I'm going back. Ever since I clicked on the "finalize payment" button, I've been on a total high, unable to sit still much less fall asleep. And now, as it is nearing 8AM in Germany, I think perhaps a phone call to a dear German friend is in order to share this news before I simply burst with excitement.

There will be much dancing in Trinity's music room tomorrow. In part becuase I'll probably be more wiggly and off task than the kids, and in part becuase my heart is so full of joy it's overflowing and I just can't help but do a little happy dance. :)

4 months, 11 days and counting....