On the road again
by Evan Wesley Currie
Most of us had a rather sleepy start this morning after returning home from Hamburg around 11:00 pm the previous night. We packed our belongings, cleaned our rooms and the kitchen, loaded the cars, and began to make our way to Leipzig. We were sad to leave our beautiful “Villa by the Sea” but eager to journey to Leipzig (where Bach spent the bulk of his career). For many in our group, including myself, this is our first musical tour of Germany. Naturally, we are eager for a change of scenery as we journey to central Germany today. Leipzig will become our new home base during our last week here. :( …yes, I’m a bit sad to think about returning home.
On our way to Leipzig, we made several stops in small villages that house some stunning and beautiful gems. The first stop was in the village of Seehausen at the St. Petrikirche. Here we met the local organist, Sophie, who manages and coordinates over 30 different church music programs in the town and surrounding area! The newly restored Lütkemüller (1867) proved to be ideally suited for early German Romantic repertoire. Many of my colleagues and I thoroughly enjoyed playing movements of Mendelssohn’s Op. 65 sonatas. The flute stops were a favorite of many, as they were perfectly voiced for the room. The adagios of the sonatas really took on a new meaning of beauty in this space. The action of the organ was quite heavy and stiff, making many of us re-evaluate our technique and use the full weight of our arms and body to play.
As we ventured off to our next stop, we struck up a conversation with some locals who generously offered fresh watermelon and snacks. Given that today was an extremely humid and hot day, we didn’t bat an eye at the invitation to eat some ripe, cold watermelon! I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of locals who speak English with such conviction and assurance (even though they would beg to differ). I was fortunate enough to converse with one of the locals who told me that this particular Saturday was “open civilization day.” On this particular day, the German government encourages the citizens of cities, towns, and villages to gather in public places and discuss ideas that enhance the cultural life, safety, and tourism of the city. It was such a delight to see many families and citizens of all ages gathered in the town square sharing food and thoughts. Their generous hospitality will not be forgotten.
When we arrived at our second stop of the day, Osterburg, it seemed as if we were the only residents in the village. We had a difficult time finding a restaurant — or any type of establishment — for lunch. Everything was closed and many of the citizens were not out in the streets. Maybe they didn’t get the “open civilization” memo…. The heat of the day didn’t help the feeling of hunger and isolation. Many of us forwent breakfast, as we desired the extra sleep and needed to pack. Therefore, a bit of “hangriness” started to set in as we walked the deserted cobblestone streets. Luckily, we found a small gelato shop that served wonderful gourmet paninis. After fueling up and resting for a bit, we ventured to St. Nicolai, where we each took turns playing on the Buchholz organ (1825, restored in 2013). Friedmann Lessing, the city organist, graciously allowed us to play this organ for much of the afternoon.
Before arriving in Leipzig, we made a third and final stop for the day in the town of Tangermünde. Here, we heard a brief concert by the titular organist (soon to retire) of the St. Stephanskirche, Christoph Lehmann. His program included works by Hieronymus Praetorius, Tunder, Hanff, and Weckman. Afterwards, we ventured up the wooden steps to the organ loft to play the historic Scherer organ (built in 1624 and restored in 1994). We then walked around this picturesque city and enjoyed some of the best gelato I have ever had from Eiscafé Moslehuer. If you ever get a chance to have Elderberry gelato from this place, your life will change forever. I kid you not!
With happy stomachs and tired legs from a long day of walking, we drove the remaining home stretch to Leipzig. Once arriving at our gorgeous apartments in the heart of the city, part of our group decided to have dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant just outside the door from our apartment (which is just a stone’s throw away from both the Nikolai and Thomaskirche’s). We adjourned to the roof top for a glass of rosé before we eagerly headed to bed.
Personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed our week in northern Germany. Although many of us researched and studied this particular repertoire during our years of private study, one cannot fully appreciate the repertoire/technique until we play such pieces on these instruments. It is a humbling and enlightening experience. One may not realize that the organs’ tuning, physical design, and stop lists are as varied as the personalities on this trip. For me, however, it is a joy to attend this trip with many colleagues and friends who I’ve met over various years of summer study programs. The shear thought of having this experience is starting to sink in, and I’m sure it will be treasured memory for many of us here in Leipzig!