Thursday, June 30, 2011

Once a Year Day


When time permits on some of the bus rides to the next city we will often have a chance to stop off and do some touring along the way.  In between the drive from Minden to Genk, Belgium we took a two hour detour in Cologne, Germany.

The Cathedral in Cologne is the most visited site in all of Germany and before the completion of the Washington Monument was the tallest building in the world.  Check out wikipedia’s entry here for more information.

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Exterior (with construction!) and interior shots


The REAL reason I was thrilled to go to Cologne, however, was that I knew my friend Jamison was living there and we could have our yearly get together in some random city.  The last time we met might you might remember we were ghost hunting in Watseka, Illinois.  I’m hoping for somewhere in South America in 2012… ‘cause if the Mayans are right we might as well be where all the hubbub is.

I took the opportunity to catch up over lunch and walk around the city a bit.  Apparently Mark Twain was in town doing a book signing for the latest release of his autobiography. 

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Get it little Mark!


Two hours isn’t exactly a lot of time to explore anywhere so after lunch we mosied on back to the station where the bus was located.  Along the way we did have a chance to explore “Lover’s Bridge,” where couples will inscribe their names on a lock and put it on the chain link fence that runs the length of the bridge.



Jamison making the only pose he knows how to


It was certainly sad to have to say goodbye so quickly but seeing him was certainly a boost to my spirits.  Until next year!!!!


Oh how I wish I had on real clothes in this picture (as opposed to the fake Blue Lake ones)


Artist: Richard Adler and Jerry Ross/ Album: The Pajama Game

Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers


Typically the Brahms concert is the last performance in each town but in Minden it was the orchestra concert that was the final event.  Instead of being held in the Dom it was located in the same church where the quintet performed the previous Sunday and where our host father is the priest.

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Sabrina and I are thinking about starting up a second hand flower shop with all the lovely bouquets we have been getting for the performances!


Another amazing reception was held afterwards, but the real party occurred afterwards.  Our house crew took the opportunity to explore Minden’s night life and grab a couple of drinks out of uniform and (most importantly) away from the KINDERN!  We also did this on our first night but had to behave during the interim in order to stay  in “performance mode,” which will explain the change in attire between some of the pictures.  Y’all know how much I love a good costume change but I’m not crazy enough to change in-between bars.

First night:

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Here comes troooouuuubllleeeee! (Adam, Mahogany, Mark, Eric, Brian, Sabrina)


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Mahogany, Brian, Sabrinta


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It’s okay because Sabrina’s husband is also named Eric.  That’s how it works, right?


Last night:

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With a special guest appearance from Zack!


Even though Sabrina and I decided to go out we still had to call it an earlier night than those crazy orchestra kids under the guise of being responsible but mostly because we were dead tired.  The stars were out in all their glory that night and on our way home we decided to lay down in front of the church tower and stare up at them for a while.  Even though I knew it would turn out horribly I still took a picture…

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… sadly you can only see one of them


It was such a wonderful change of pace to be housed with members of the orchestra for once and our host family was a duh-ream!  Here’s one final parting shot from “the entertainment group!”


Front: Adam, Eric, Brian, Mahogany, Mark.   Back: Sabrina and Joseph!


Artist: ZZ Top/ Album: Tres Hombres

Dear Mr. Music Critic


Unlike the (basically) sports hall in which we performed the Brahm’s in the last city, Minden pulled out all the stops—and almost 1,000 concert goers—for their leg of the tour. 

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Get it Johannes!!


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Exterior shot of the Dom and interior shot of a rehearsal (100 piece orchestra and 250 in the choir!)


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Sabrina and I with maestro’s Carole Ott and Thomas Wirtz


Unfortunately, the Brahms soloists are given only a thankless task. Only two movements take part for the baritone, and the soprano comes in even just one movement.  Joseph Roberts baritone sang an expressively and sensitively balanced "Lord, teach me yet" and "For here have we no continuing city" with an excellent understanding of the text and diction. With compassion and yet comforting heard "You now have sorrow" from the mouth of the lyric soprano Sabrina Laney Warren.

Both were, despite the brevity of their performances, a great pleasure and thus contributed significantly to the quality of a musical experience; they will be long spoken of even outside the borders of Minden and rank therefore as pearls in the track records of both the cathedral music and the Christ Church and Thomas Wirtz, one of its cantors.

~Review from the Minden newspaper (for the full link in German with pictures, click here)


As is apt to happen after a concert of this magnitude, a very lovely reception was held in the courtyard area of the dome!

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Perfect end to a perfect evening :)


Artist: Murderer’s Row/ Album: Beer Fueled Mayhem

Tuesday, June 28, 2011



Our fabulous host mother in Minden asked us when we first arrived if we had any specific requests as far as meals were concerned, and after all of us basically said whatever she wanted to serve we would be happy she responded with something along the lines of: “Well, I know you will be getting a lot of wurst and potatoes and sauerkraut and other typical German food on your trip, so how about one day we make a meal inspired by our many mission trips to Tanzania!?!”

As there was much chopping and preparing to do we all chipped in and helped with the cooking process.  At one point Eric was slicing the peppers and as she passed by I yelled “SMILE FOR THE BLOG”… and this is what I got:

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I decided to take the same approach with the zucchini, whereas Adam was a bit kindlier to his carrots:

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Why they let me around the children I’ll never know


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Adam, Eric, Brian, Tabea (our host sister), Frau Krupper, Mahogany, Sabrina, Mark


Artist: Toto/ Album:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Churchyard Entertainment


Our second stop on the tour took us to Minden, Germany, where I was lucky enough to be housed with not only Sabrina, but with the wind quintet from the orchestra as well.  The priest from the Mariankirsche and his family have a large apartment on the top of the parish house next door and were able to accommodate many of us at once (though I’m not quite sure they knew exactly what they were getting into!—by the end of the stop they just kept referring to us as “the entertainment group” *sung and waving hands*)

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The church with a view from their vineyards and the interior space


As we were being housed by the priest, the wind quintet had the opportunity to perform during the service this past Sunday.

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L to R: Brian Dunbar, flute; Mark Cooney, oboe; Erik Grunkemeyer, french horn; Mahogany Dudley, clarinet, Adam Farmer, bassoon


(Mind you, this is taken from my phone and the acoustics being what they are from the side)

Artist: Meredith Monk/ Album: Book of Days

Fitter Happier


I didn’t get a chance to take too many pictures during any of the performances (one of the reasons is that written permission is required to put up any photo of campers and it’s nearly impossible with the waves of Blue Lakers that can be seen in the background).  However, here are a couple of shots from the series of concerts in Stassfurt and nearby Aschersleben, where the orchestra concert was held.

It’s generally customary for the committees of the towns to have some kind of snack for breaks in-between rehearsals and concerts and Sabrina and I grabbed a large bottle of coke for our dressing room.  It wasn’t until we got upstairs that we noticed perhaps it wasn’t the most sanitary of soda bottles:

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Coca Cola—Now with even MORE minerals!!


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Sabrina and I with our conductor, Maestro Beate Besser


After the Brahm’s concert there was a lovely reception and I made sure to snag a picture with my host parents, Frank and Brigitte:

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And finally, I loved these steps in the concert hall where the choir had their performance.

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“Theater is the fitness center for senses and emotions.” ~George Tabori


Artist: Radiohead/ Album: OK Computer

Think Pink!


On the third day in Stassfurt Frank took me to Magdenburg, the capitol city of their state.  Upon arriving into the city we parked next to the Johanniskirche (St. John Church) and took a tour, climbing, if I remember my German correctly, about 45,000 steps (give or take a couple of thousand… my brain and my thigh muscles seem to disagree a bit on the accounting.)

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The church and its mildly mostly creepy door


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Two views of the city (and the Elbe river) from the top of the tower


But don’t just think this 1,206 year old (unlike the number of stairs in the St. John Church, this is not a hyperbole) city is stuck in the past.  One of the highlights includes this crazy group of buildings.

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Magdenburg is also home to several notable scientific and musical personalities!

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Otto von Guericke, inventor of the Magdenburg hemispheres and the physics of vacuums… and housewives everywhere cheer!


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The “Magdenburg Rider”, who I didn’t read anything about but I’m sure Sarah Palin would agree he was most likely warning the British that the Americans were coming


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The city is also the birthplace of composer Georg Phillipp Telemann! Here’s a taste:



Artist: Ira and George Gershwin/ Album: Funny Face

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Darkness Descends


After our quick stop in the previous town we headed out into the nearby Harz mountains.  Frank had told me we were going there but I had no idea that also meant we were going to be taking a tour of the gorgeous Baumann’s cave (Baumannshöhle).  I’ve always wanted to go spelunking and I’m pretty sure this is as close as I am going to get.

Discovered in 1563, the Baumannshöhle is the oldest show cave in Germany and one of the oldest in the world.  Unfortunately photo’s are strictly verboten but I got a couple in the main building before the entrance.

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Entry way and diorama


One of my favorite parts of the cave system is the names they have for the different rooms: Candlestick Gorge, Paradise Point, the Palm Grotto and Goethe Hall.  The latter of the four was named for one of the caves most frequent (and famous) visitors, German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  An artificial lake has been made in the center of the chamber and a stage built for performances and weddings… so cool!

As there were no chances to take a picture I managed to pilfer one from the interwebs:



To say pictures were forbidden is a bit of a stretch, though because there was one room where the park system had a camera set up.  Mind you, this is a picture of a picture so forgive the quality.

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Frank and I, third row from the front on the far left


After leaving the caves we were a little higher up on the mountain side and I took a quick picture of the local scenery.

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What a horrible life I lead…


On the drive back to Stassfurt we stopped and ate some lunch at a roadside food stand near in the Harz Mountain National Park.

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I don’t know why I look so crazy.  I think at this point I was thinking: “I could reeeeeaaallly go for some napkins about right now.”


Artist: Laura Marling/ Album: I Speak Because I Can

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How Lucky Can You Get


The second day in Stassfurt Frank took me to a nearby town (I don’t remember the name of the city, sorry!) to do a little sight seeing.  In the thirty to forty five minutes it took to get there we drove by three castles… you know, just like in Texas.  Except instead of castles it’s usually    .

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In walking through the streets of the town we passed by a metal shop and stepped in for a second.  The forger was working on a weather vane (I think) for one of the nearby buildings!

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With a lucky horse shoe made by the metal worker


A further walk into the heart of the city led to the main plaza, at which this perfectly Germanic building was located.  Frank informed me that people come from all over the country to get married here.  Umm… no wonder!

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Frank and I

And don’t even THINK you were getting away without another picture of a church!!!!

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Artist: John Kander and Fred Ebb/ Album: Funny Lady