As I write this, I’m on a train travelling from Frankfurt to Paris Est, from one meeting (more of a “convention”) to another meeting (more of an “orientation”). I think it will always feel strange to be able to travel to another country in fewer than four hours.
This past weekend, I attended the European chapter of, perhaps ironically, the American Guild of Organists’ (AGO) Fall meeting in Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany. Indeed, my first trip to Germany was not only for an organ event, it was for an AGO event! (I will enter my own name into the drawing for the most “nerdy” 20-somethings of 2015.) Even more ironic, the instrument featured for the weekend was a 1930 Skinner (Op. 823) installed by Kleis in 2008!
What a way to visit Germany for the first time. I flew through Brussels, admiring the fantastic bakeries and cafés at all of these European airports and the lack of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts (although both of these may be found in Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnohf!). The first difficulties arose when I landed in Germany, discovering that I had absolutely no 3G and no maps. I had hoped to visit the early instrument museum in Frankfurt, since I had several hours before I was expected in Ingelheim. However, after successfully navigating my way into the city and discovering the Historische-Museum, I was unable to find this particular exhibit. Let me know if you’ve had better luck than I, as it sounds fascinating!
I did go to the Historisches-Museum and, along with the mere two other visitors I saw while there, explored some of the more unusual and seemingly random collections of items I have seen (although that château in the Midi-Pyrenées might rival it with the mammoth’s tooth!), which included porcelain pots, medieval armor, some paintings, and coins.
Through some broken English and even more broken German (on my part), I procured a map and wandered to the train station, successfully buying tickets, finding the right train, and arriving in Ingelheim am Rhine, which lies about an hour’s train ride west of Frankfurt.
Perhaps two-dozen people attended the meeting, hailing from places like the Finland, France, Germany (of course!), the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Poland. These are some of the kindest and most generous people I have met and I look forward to seeing all of them in the future! The two recitals, played by Johan Hermans (Belgium), Giorgio Parolini (Italy), Carston and Iris Lenz (Germany), Christa Rakich (USA), Fabrice Muller (France), Pawel Wróbel (Poland), and Agnes Goerke (Germany), really showed off the instrument in unusual ways. Coming from such diverse musical and cultural backgrounds, each player had unique ways of singing through the beautiful organ.
On Saturday, following an excellent lecture by composer and organist Bernard Sanders on the “Rise and Fall of E.M. Skinner” (unofficial title), we all packed up and went to a place that really could only be found in Germany: an Organ Museum. The Orgel-ART-Museum in Windesheim (20 minutes from Ingelheim) houses dozens of historical and copies of historical organs, pianos (fortepianos), and two harpsichords. All of these instruments can be played (although none were in very good tune). Needless to say, we made quite a lot of noise, both harmonious and not-quite-so harmonious, exploring the exhibitions!
After yet another astounding weekend full of meeting new friends, seeing and hearing beautiful instruments and musicians, and visiting a corner of Europe I have never before seen, I’m headed to the Fulbright orientation meeting at the Centre de conferences ministériel in Paris, which will occur tomorrow. Perhaps it’s time for another visit to the music store, La Flûte de Pan!
For my first trip outside of an airport in Germany, I definitely discovered a few things:
-knowing German chorale tune titles does not prepare one to try to travel through Germany and try to speak the language
-apologetically telling the very nice café waitress you don’t speak German will only result in her speaking more German, even more quickly
-the German word for “turkey” sounds exactly the same as a very strong French swearword
-train tickets are rarely checked and everybody seems to trust each other, even to the extent where they leave bags unattended while going up to get a cup of coffee!
-passports don’t seem to be needed while travelling by plane within the EU, although all airline carriers say that they require them
-“mit Musik” means “with onions,” with the implication being that the raw onions make music in your mouth… hours later. Thankfully, I did not try anything “mit Musik”
-pizza in Germany is very inexpensive and quite good
-Germans seem to eat a lot of cake
-I need to learn German.
If you think of somewhere I should try to visit, whether music-related or not, or some instruments that I should see, please leave a comment or send me a message: firstname.lastname@example.org!