Day 13: Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland!
It was with a heavy heart that we departed Germany on the morning of June 9th. Five of us were headed home to New England, Brandon was off to Milan, Noel to Amsterdam, and Laura to Stockholm. Although summer adventures are forthcoming for all of us, little will compare to the transcendence of the past two weeks. For our final blog post, we all have written short reflections about the trip.
David von Behren
Spending the last two weeks in Germany has been an experience that has changed me as an organist, listener, and person. Playing the same keyboards as J.S. Bach, Franz Liszt, Felix Mendelssohn, among other "greats" has given me an unparalleled viewpoint in interpreting German Baroque/Romantic music. Traveling with the members Boston Organ Studio has been out of this world; they are some of the kindest, funniest, and most passionate I know. These past two weeks in Germany have inspired me to pursue an opportunity for long-term study abroad in the future. I am so thankful to Christian Lane for organizing this, to our donors who helped sponsor this study experience, and to everyone else who made this possible.
Noel de Sa e Silva
I am so grateful to have been a part of this trip. The organs we saw sounded and felt completely unlike the ones we know back home; I still remember what it was like to hear the flutes at St Thomas in Strasbourg for the first time, or how I felt sitting at the Hildebrandt organ in Naumburg and knowing I was hearing the same sounds that Bach once heard. Although I didn't know enough pieces to take full advantage of all the organs we played on -- I had no Liszt for the organ in Merseburg, no Mendelssohn, no Reger, etc -- the others did, and it was incredibly rewarding to share in their excitement and to listen to them play these pieces on the instruments for which they were composed. And in addition to the music we shared with each other, the time we shared away from organs was just as memorable. I will never forget our meals together, or our sunset canoe rides, or our solemn visit to Buchenwald and our collective effort to understand our experience there. It's been barely over a week since the end of our trip, and I already miss all my travel companions. I have so many people to thank: the organists we met, for their time, knowledge, and generosity; my fellow organists on this trip, for the music they shared and the memories we made; our donors, for making this trip possible; and especially Chris, for organizing this trip and bringing us all together.
This trip was brimming with moments when I felt overcome by joy, and within which I would never have wanted to change a single thing -- walking with incredible friends through the cobbled streets of Rysum after having just played one of the world's oldest organs; falling asleep on each other's shoulders as we drove through the German countryside from one breathtaking monastery to the next. Every day, we played spectacular instruments that prompted us to reconsider the paradigm with which we approach our music. I come away from the trip mentally stimulated and enthused, albeit physically exhausted. I will always be grateful for this journey that Chris created for us.
The last couple of weeks have been indescribably breathtaking in so many ways. I had been looking forward to this trip all year and it was more incredible than anything I could have imagined. The organs that we got to experience were fantastic. It was a dream come true to be able to play and hear the organs that Bach, Liszt, and Mendelssohn, among countless others, played on. I learned so much and the trip changed the way I hear and play organ music. The experiences we had were priceless. Being able to spend time with and get to know our wonderful group of traveling organists was so much fun and there are so many memories that we made together that I will cherish forever. We are so grateful to Chris for creating this incredible trip for us.
There is no real substitute for playing an organ that Bach, Liszt, or Mendelssohn played, touching the keys and stops they touched, and hearing their own works through the same pipes they once enjoyed hearing. It fundamentally changes the way you hear, understand, and appreciate their music. Add to that the amiable company and instruction of gifted organists, and you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you could never forget and for which you are truly grateful.
These past two weeks have been perhaps the greatest of my life. It is the first time I have left the us, and I look forward to traveling abroad again someday. As an organist, the experience was tremendously informative; as a prospective organ builder, the sound was awesomely inspiring. Perhaps more important than the instruments were the people on this expedition. One could hardly ask for better companions than these—not to mention how kind each local person we met with was. I will treasure the memories made this summer in Germany forever.
For me, after almost 20 years playing the organ, I was eagerly looking forward to finally having a chance to see, hear, and play historic instruments in Europe. Throughout the two weeks spent in Germany, we saw instruments from three very distinct schools of organ building, divided geographically. The southern, central, and northern German organ builders from the 16- and 1700s had very different aesthetics. Reading about these styles in a book is one thing, but actually hearing the characteristic sounds described in organ history and design texts puts a real 'face to the name,' so to speak. It was a most enjoyable trip and I look forward to the next one!
Although I grew up in South Germany and am a sacred music student, I had never before visited the organs in North Germany. In my studies, I had learned that the organs of the predominantly Catholic South were traditionally used for entertainment, whereas the organs of the predominantly Protestant North were used in a more traditional liturgical setting. This theoretical knowledge became a lived experience on this trip, giving me a lasting understanding of how Germany's complex history has influenced the development of sacred music. After playing North Germany's baroque organs, I can use my knowledge of historic performance practice not only in academic contexts, but also to actively influence my performance of composers like Buxtehude. From the South to the North and from Gothic to Romantic organs, the trip was always a great time. The incredible, and sometimes intense, days of music were made even better by the chance to share the experience with wonderful people.