Sunday, May 30, 2010

Church and some observations...

We woke up earlier today because it was Sunday. We had an identical breakfast to yesterdays, and then headed off to church. It was a new building, but very nice.
Prior to the service there was a service of confession and absolution. Then, we celebrated the divine service. This of course, was in German, and my Lutheran pride loved it and swelled up a bit. I felt more Lutheran than usual, hearing the service in the mother tongue. Cool thing is, even though I didn’t understand everything, I understood large parts because the rhythm and pattern of liturgy is the same no matter what language. Here, they do not shorten hymns as many US Lutherans do. Here, they don’t skimp out on the number of hymns. Here, there is no Marty Haugen. Here, the propers are not just spoken. Here, the children’s choir does not sing in unison, and they do not sing sing songy childrens music. Here there are no “Twinkie Tunes with Ding Dong Theology” to quote the great Dr. Carl Schalk. Here, the pews are not empty. Here the pews are not padded with sound sucking material. (They are solid wood). Here, the bell doesn’t ring for just a few seconds before church starts. Here, people don’t show up dressed the way they look during the week. Here, there were no thick packets called bulletins. No way. This was high church and today we did Liturgy the way Liturgy was meant to be done. We sang a total of 10 hymns, some with 11 verses (and yes, we sang all 11). The pastor chanted EVERYTHING. The hymns all were from the 1500-1700s and were all sturdy and sing-able. The people were all dressed in their Sunday best. The people fully participated and truly were reverent and it was obvious they take their faith very seriously. The childrens choir sang sturdy chorals in parts, and unaccompanied. The cross, Word, and Elements were all brought in during the procession while we sang an entrance hymn. Here, communion was without a doubt the high point of the service. There was no rushing to get out in an hour, and no corners were cut. Even though the church building was new, only about 30 years old, they invested in a real organ. No speakers. No electro pneumatic junk here. And of course, the pedal board was perfectly straight, because here in Germany, there is no such thing as AGO. THANK GOD FOR THAT. Here, they know how do to do things right. They know how to do things well. As I sat on that hard pew listening to the service and taking in the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and feelings (total sensory… love it!!) the liturgical nerd in me was just in pure blissful happiness. Why can’t more American Lutheran churches get it right? For serious. Drives me nuts. The service here was amazing. Spectacular. Unforgettable. Worshipful. Mountain top experience. I have never felt so connected to my heritage as I did experiencing this service. Experiencing a Lutheran service is something I did not get to do the last time I was here. I am pretty sure I was on cloud 9 million. It couldn’t have gotten any better unless good old Marty himself would have been sitting next to me. OK, OK, OK, OK. I will make a confession. Being the Liturgical nut that I am, I did notice a thing or two about this service that were not so great. But then, I suppose even though Germany FEELS like heaven, it is NOT heaven, and there is NO perfect Liturgy in any church on Earth. To have the ultimate perfect liturgy, I’d have to die and go to heaven. No church on earth run by sinful humans could ever do everything right. The Liturgical mishap/error/unfortunate choice at this service took place immediately after the communion hymn. It was at this point that the organist burst out in an organ improvisation on the communion hymn. Why is this bad, you ask? Was it not common for even Bach to improvise on hymns? Of course. But in this unfortunate circumstance, the organist took this wonderful cantus firums and turned into a jazz circus. Seriously. I’m not kidding. He took this hymn and played it jazz style, overkilled the poor I-IV-V7-I chord progression, and made it sound a little like circus music. I’m certain both Bach and Luther would be rolling in their graves. This was a young organist and maybe he just was getting ansty or maybe he forgot to bring along his Orgelbuchlein this morning. I’m not sure. In any case, Heidi and I sat there red faced from trying to contain our laughter. We didn’t dare look at each other. I suppose looking back there could have been far worse things, and it wasn’t necessarily bad or sinful, but it was just very out of context for this service. After the service, I talked to the pastor who introduced me to the organist and then I got to play the organ. I was soooooo happy. True, this was not a historical organ, but none the less, Germans just don’t build bad organs. They build them REAL with tracker action and straight pedal boards.

The keys felt like velvet under my fingers. I could actually feel what I was doing and had a ton of control over the sound. It was a little organ (pedal with 3 stops and 2 manuals, each with 5 stops plus coupler, tremulant, and pedal pulldown) but so much fun to play. In fact, the pastor had to come drag me out of there 30 minutes later when the congregation was ready to eat the meal and I was still playing away with a goofy smile plastered on my face. After the meal, we got a quick picture with Rose Marie, our host, since there was someone there to take our picture.

Then, we went home to change, then took the train and went to a museum. This museum contained lots of exhibits on ancient Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It was pretty sweet. After this, you guessed it… it was time for gelato. YES, this was Sunday, a day of rest. But I don’t think the good Lord meant it as a rest from Gelato. It was delicious, and I got very happy. Maybe a little too happy. I think Heidi was embrassed to be seen with me. Just see for yourself how happy gelato makes me...

We people watched while we ate the stuff, then walked around an open air market, walked along the river, then found a café with internet access where I could update the blog over a deliciously bubbly apfelschorle.

Other than the Liturgy, there are other things in Germany that Americans could take a lesson from. For one, this is a very dog friendly place .More so even than the yuppy puppy trendy places in the US. Dogs are allowed on the busses, trains, in stores, and even in the restaurants. That being said, I will also have to make the disclaimer that in general, German dogs are much better behaved than American dogs are. And I can’t forget the concept of carbonated water. Why don’t we do this in America? It’s genius. On the trains, we have been frequently entertained by classically trained musicians who go from car to car singing or playing. It is a far more pleasant experience than being on an American train next to some teenager with headphones so loud you could hear the music all the way from China. It goes with out saying my thoughts about ice cream. Americans just can’t make good gelato. Also… you may recall the bike lane incident from last year? One would think I would remember this. But alas, I once again was walking in the bike lane this year. I am somehow subconsciously attracted to it, I think. I am happy to report and I am still alive and well despite this. If America adopted such a practice of bike lanes, I wouldn’t be so out of practice when I came to Germany to visit, and America would be a greener place .

While the majority of things done in Europe could be a great lesson and model for America to strive towards, some practices are probably best left in Germany. One example would be the Ukrainian woman at church who enjoyed her pizza covered with chocolate chip yogurt. Another example is the high smoking rate. Also, the next time you find yourself walking into a McDonalds or gas station to use the bathroom, count your blessings. Here in Germany, bathrooms are VERY hard to come by and when you are so fortunate as to find one, you have to have pay. It's the pay-per-flush system here. I don’t particularly enjoy flushing my souvenir money down the drain just because nature calls.

I’m telling you, Germany is an experience. And even for the bad things, it’s just all part of the experience. I’m pretty happy about being here. And I’m already thinking about where in Germany I will go next summer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


After sleeping in a bit, we went downstairs for breakfast. No scarffing Cheerios here. No sir. We had the traditional German breakfast of hard rolls and cheeses (even Brie!) and jams and spreads. The table was FULL of choices and it was hard to decide what to eat. We took quite a bit of time to eat and talked a lot while we ate. After this, we headed into the city where we took a boat tour of the city as well as a on-off buss tour where you could hop out and take time at the various sites. From the bus we saw part of what is left of the wall, the Bradedburg Gate, museum island, various embassy buildings, the Deutche Bahn (the largest train station in Europe), and lots of other things, including the Berlin Dom. We got off the bus to get a better look at the Berlin Dom and decided it would be worth the money to pay to go inside. I’m so glad we did, especially since it is Lutheran and my guy Marty was perched high in the dom. :) When we walked in the door, we heard the organ. I hadn’t expected to hear it, but someone was practicing. This Sauer organ was beautiful, and I was rather jealous of whoever it was practicing it.
We looked around the main sanctuary. The chancel was amazing.
Then we went to look at the small chapel and then down to the crypt, which was massive and of course full of coffins of all shapes and sizes. It was super cool, but I didn’t take any pictures since that would be disrespectful, even though I REALLY wanted to take pictures. There were tiny coffins of babies and children of kings and queens as well as different German royalty from history. Some of the graves dated from the 1500s and the tops of the coffins were sagging in the middle because they were so old. I just love old graves. It is so cool to be so close to history. After several hours of doing the tourist thing, we found a gelato stand. I was pretty happy with this. We got home about 8, had dinner (a vegetable and potato dish) and went to bed. I must confess, I’m getting rather anxious to get to an organ that I can actually play….

And, Jayme and Megan, feel free to yell at me and tell me what to do different with all those buttons on my camera. . I know you're dying to. :)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Travel back to the happy place.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the waiting area of the Heathrow airport. British Airways is on strike, so we got bumped to the next flight on standby. If we don’t get on the flight, we get to spend the night in London. I very much want to get to Germany, but a night in London wouldn’t be a bad deal. Our flight from Chicago to here was fine. We had to sit at the gate for 30 minutes due to 6 late people, but once they arrived, things went perfectly smoothly. No turbulence, thank God. The trip felt much faster than last year; perhaps it is because I knew better what to expect this time. I even slept for about 5 hours on the plane. It is currently 8:50AM Indiana time, but 1:50PM here where we’re at. I’m not nearly as exhausted this time as I was last year…. I recall feeling like a total zombie when we arrived and was in a daze as we trained to our hotel. For now anyway, it’s like I’ve been in this time zone forever. Perhaps I am just living in the wrong country. :)

Now, I finish the entry several hours later.....

After several long hours in the airport, they were able to get us on a flight. That was the good news. The other good news was that these kind Brits served us tea and “savoury snack”. Which ended up to be pretzels and dehydrated celery, yum yum. The bad news is that we didn’t get to Berlin until 7PM, so we were starting to get pretty tired. The woman who is hosting us met us at the gate holding a sign that said “Heidi and Emmy”. I must confess, I’d seen people in airports with signs before and always thought that was cool, and I nerdily enjoyed being the one on the sign this time. Rosemarie introduced herself to us and greeted us warmly and we took 2 bus rides back to her place. She is probably in her 60s and very kind and gracious and so easy to talk to. The German people are so unbelievably friendly and we were quite surprised when she showed us her apartment, then told us ours was upstairs. Yes, she has a little apartment upstairs for guests, so Heidi and I have a mini kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom area… AND it has a super sweet balcony. Not gonna lie. When I saw the European light switches and toilet I got pretty excited. The stuff here is just so cool. I got even more excited when I felt the slightly crunchy line dried fresh towels because of course hardly anyone has a clothes dryer here. After we got settled, we went down to her apartment for some dinner. She served us some traditional potato soup and also some sort of sausage, which of course I didn’t eat. Her eclectic decorations made me feel like I was in a world museum, and we learned over dinner that she has done quite a bit of traveling…. To India and Israel and Africa and the US just to name some., so the things in her house are souvenirs from all of her world travels. Also, she hosts travelers pretty frequently. After dinner, she asked us if we had gotten enough to eat. When we told her we had, she said “Good, then it’s time for the ice cream.” Well we certainly did not argue that one and soon the dinner conversation continued over bowls of cherry amoretto ice cream. After this it was about 10PM here and we were exhausted so we went up to bed. I then wrote this blog entry (Which I will post as soon as I can find a hot spot) in the bed which has no top sheet (These Germans are so smart… what’s the point of top sheets anyway?” and big fluffy duvets. Yay Germany. Yay for being back. Yay for good food. Yay for the organs that will son come. Yay for it staying light until crazy hours of the night. Yay for being ecstatically happy and in the most wonderful place in the whole world. I’m on cloud 9 million. And the minute my fingers touch some old keys and my feet get to dance on a short octave pedal board and my ears hear that glorious meantone I’m pretty sure I will plain drop dead of sheer happiness.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Less than 24 hours and I think I'll actually make it!

The last month has been an absolute whirlwind. A graduate recital, a school music festival, a graduation, a move, a road trip to set up classes for my next degree, end of the year grading and prep for next school year, learning new music for Germany, tying up loose ends and taking care of final preparations for the music camps I'm running this summer, getting ready for a new puppy.... plus all the normal life stuff like grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning. I must confess, there were a few times where I thought perhaps I had finally been too ambitious, taken on more than I could handle, bitten off more than I could chew, been too ambitious with life goals. I wondered if it would all get done in time, and I was mildly panicking a few days ago when I was still in boxes and not able to find the things I needed to pack for Germany, such as passport and organ music. My sheer insanity (or stupidity as the case may be) had me wondering if I'd ever make get things done and be on that plane back to the happiest place on earth. A few very late nights and early mornings, (after all, sleep is highly overrated, especially for an eccentric musician) a few phone calls to friends, a few slap happy moments, a few tears, a lot of hugs and goodbyes from my kids, and a whole lot of chaos later my suitcase is packed and tomorrow at this time I will be somewhere over the ocean. I can't believe it. Last summer it seemed so far away, and now it's here. I am so excited, I may not get any sleep at all on the plane. I may drive Heidi crazy. Good thing she's used to it. :) Armed with a stack of amazing music and organ shoes, my new camera that I still don't entirely know how to work, my tiny computer, and passport, I'm ready for a few weeks of mountain top experiences. Look out, Germany. The unstoppable Emmy and Heidi will be there soon. I hope they got the memo and stockpiled the gelato. Because I plan to eat it all.