Text: Uwe Gernert - Photos: Helga Behr, Uwe Gernert

39. International Drehorgelfest BerlinFrom Friday, 6th Juli to Sunday, 8th July the 39. International Drehorgelfest Berlin took place in the capital of Germany. For me this is the paramount event for organ grinders in Germany and undoubtedly there are a lot more people thinking the same way - this year Christa Hohnhäuser as the head of the organization committee was proud to welcome some 170 organs again and nearly 200 participants from 12 different nations.

The festival started at Friday from 12:00 p.m. with the organ grinders already present at that time to be presented live on the stage and giving the public a first impression of what they could expect during the next few days. Most of the international friends already were at Berlin at that time so we listened to a potpourri of outstanding performances even on the first day with grinders (and 'grinderesses') from Estonia, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany. The evening on Breitscheidplatz saw lots of people dancing to live music.

Text: Uwe Gernert – photos: Helga Behr and Bruno Leoni

Let me tell you again about the fair we´ve been invited to for several years now: just in contrast with last year's really bad weather conditions this year's 24th participation of organ grinders on the fair showed up with a grey but dry morning and temperatures around 20°C. The weather cleared up throughout the day and the fair had lots of visitors.
Bruno Leoni invited some 20 players to show and play their instruments to the public. After a warm welcome by Renate Ulrich (one of the organisators of the fair) and Bruno, we split up in groups of 2 or 3 grinders and circulated the whole area.
The public interest in organs is still high in Switzerland and we had a lot of good conversations with interested folks about our organs, how they function and how to become a grinder. The grinders started playing at 10:00 h in the morning and ended up at 16:00 h. Afterwards we had our usual meeting at the beertent "Dorfplatz-Beizli" and were invited by that place's landlady Esther for a meal and some drinks.
If you´re around in Switzerland at the time of LUGA, just drop by and listen to all the different types of organs Bruno invites because of their differences, every time a well chosen mixture. Besides that you´re able to experience typical Swiss stuff like "Säulirennen" (a pigs' running contest) or St. Bernhards dogs and their puppies.

Watch a selection of photos.

LUGA Luezen (CH) 2018

Text: Uwe Gernert – photos: Bruno Leoni, Peter Bützer, Uwe Gernert

laufenburg2017As I told you on the last year´s occasion of hela, Bruno Leoni, responsible for the organ players at that traditional fair and trade fair in Switzerland, invites all players personally. This year there were 32 organs present. After the bad weather on the last occasion this October did it´s best to give the grinders a warm welcome - sunshine after the morning fog was guarenteed and this gave all of us a lot of audience. After breakfast in Restaurant Castillo, which is offered for free by all of the Sponsors and Silvia Blaser, secretary of the festival´s committee and owner of "Hotel Bahnhof" and the speech of Raffael Blaser, president of the OC the grinders were sent out to their locations all over the fair. From 10:15 h we had a happy grinding with lots of spectators and some good conversations with a bunch of organ-interested people in the audience. This year´s service at the church was accompanied by Esther Studer and Christian Schuhmacher who are part of the best Swiss grinders playing synchronously on mechanical organs - sad they had no chance to join us for our breakfast while they were "on duty" at the holy mass and we had no chance to listen to them there!

At 15:30 h the players gathered at the market place in the old town for a concert of all makes of the organs. The lined-up organs and their players were introduced by Bruno and the Vice President of the hela festival´s committee, Mr. Roland Kaufmann gave a warm goodbye to the participants followed by dealing the "wage" for them, a big pretzel from the local bakery Maier and a big "Thank You" to Laufenburg Tourist Information and all other sponsors of the festival. Bruno presented a selection of the organs of the different kinds – there were at a total 30 different instruments from 16 organmakers present, with some of them self built - and asked the listeners to give a good ear to the difference of sound of the various makes which reached from a small American-made roller organ over a 45-key barrel-organ built by Bacigalupo at Berlin in 1912 up to newer organs of Raffin (Ueberlingen) make. After storaging the organs in their cars and a big good-bye to those leaving at that time the rest of the grinders met again at a restaurant to share their experiences.

Next year hela will celebrate its 70th anniversary and the organs will participate for their 30th time. We´re ready to go for it, Bruno!

Watch the photos of hela here!

Text and photos: Uwe Gernert

einsiedeln2017For the 13th international organ festival at Einsiedeln we travelled to Switzerland on 12th August 2017.

Our friend Peter X. Bürgisser (www.drehorgel-schweiz.ch) had again invited some 30 organ grinders way before the festival. After the morning coffee at hotel "Drei Könige" Peter asked the grinders to get together into groups and decide where to play. Under blue skies the groups of grinders afterwards spread out to places all over the town and under best weather conditions grinding started on 10:00 h.

The traditional service in the monastery´s church "Maria Assumption" at 11:00 h was accompanied by three organs and their players, namely Peter Bürgisser, Cyril Schulthess with their Raffin-instruments and Martin Zumbach with his self-built barrel-organ "Violinopan", an instrument of high class and precision-built in the traditonal way. Martin for sure is one of the last persons in Europe to make barrels for organs.

After the service, which was attended by a lot of the grinders but also pilgrims from all over the world, we continued to play on the streets again. We may talk about a tradition when telling You that the lunch break was sponsored again by hotel "Drei Könige". After the lunch break the grinders spread out again throughout the city. The public interest was quite high this year and we had a lot of nice talks with interested people about the function and technique of the organs

Since this year there was a so-called "Völkerfest" at Paracelsus-Park (a meeting of different cultures from Africa, South Europe up to Britain), the presentation of all organs and their grinders was integrated in the fest.

Every organ grinder and the instrument he was playing was introduced by Peter Bürgisser and there were a lot of people around to listen. The synchronous play of the two Bacigalupo organs I mentioned the year before took place again, this time with 3 musical pieces on new barrels arranged and pinned by Martin Zumbach - an amazing listening experience again.

After the demonstration of the organs the grinders had their usual get-together at the nearby hotel before leaving for their hometowns.

Next year's festival will take place on 19th August 2018 - You´re invited to have a look at a wonderful town with a world-known monastery and a lot of organs again.

Check out Uwe's photos here or by clicking on the photo above.

Text and photos: Uwe Gernert - thanks, Uwe!

Swiss festival at its 20th anniversary - Internationales Drehorgelfestival Thun - 15th/16th July 2017

thun2017 1The 20th International Organ Festival at Thun, Switzerland, took place during the weekend of 15 and 16 July 2017. The motto of the festival was "Wir jubilieren" and for the members of the association this jubilee started with the inscription to the festival on Friday. As usual the organs could be stored in the townhall´s basement "on owners' own risk". Friday at 16:00 h the annual gathering decided to leave everything as it was, concerning the board (organisation committee, "OK") and its functions. Afterwards all members were invited to a boat trip on the lake of Thun after that AGM. One of the rare Swiss Shanty Music Choirs (https://www.shanty-chor.ch/) had a show on the boat while we were travelling on the lake of Thun for a 3-hour-trip. Since weather conditions were more than invitating we had a great trip with an excellent dinner, a very fine and a humorous speech from a member of the town council, Mr. Peter Siegenthaler, who is responsible for town safety and social matters and this made a good beginning for all the members. The dinner was offered to all members by the festival sponsors.

Saturday morning saw all of the participants with happy faces since the weather was fine and no rain was to be expected. As usual the participants were asked to split up into groups and organize themselves at the places the groups decided to go to for grinding.

Text and photos: Uwe Gernert

Like every year (the participation of barrel organs at the festival goes back for 23 years and Bruno didn´t tell me how long he is in charge for the festival), Bruno Leoni invited some twenty organ players to the LUGA festival. This fair/trade fair is held annually and as a tradition of the fair the last Saturday is the day of the barrel organ. Bruno invited 20 players of which 19 were on site. Unfortunately weather conditions weren´t very good: the organs had to be unloaded during heavy rain, but from the beginning of the show at 10:00 h up to 15:00 h the weather cleared up and the organs could be presented to the public in open with great resonance. As usually on those occasions in Switzerland the organ players were split up into groups moving around over the whole area to give the public the chance to listen to different kind of organ styles and music at one place.

The players usually meet after their daily work at 16:00 h at the festivals beer tent ("Dorfplatz-Beizli") for the "z`vieri" but due to weather conditions this year the meeting of the players began a little bit earlier. Esther, the landlady of the Dorfplatz-tent was kind enough to invite all of the players before 16:00 h and Hans Ueli Lehmann and Markus Bölsterli (http://www.oergelimaa.ch/) played some pieces for barrel organ synchronously (Famous: "Die Post im Walde" http://www.oergelimaa.ch/var/m_1/16/168/24301/993800-20%20Post%20im%20Walde.mid?download - click "open" to listen) for the whole public in the tent.

Since my partner and I played beside the "Dorfplatz" all day through we were also invited to play some of our tunes in the tent. In spite of the weather conditions we had a lot of fun and if you´ll be in the area at the time of LUGA being held, drop by - beside the rest of the show there are a lot of interesting organs and players waiting for you.

Text and photos: Uwe Gernert

From Friday, 30th June to Sunday, 2nd July the 38. International Drehorgelfest Berlin took place in the capital of Germany. Thanks to the "Internationale Drehorgelfreunde Berlin" and especially to Christa Hohnhäuser ("Jubel-Jette") for the perfect organisation of this paramount event of the German "Barrel-Organ-Year"!

The programme this year differed a little bit from the years before, because Axel Stüber, the last remaining builder of original Berlin street organs in the hometown of the street organ tradition, celebrated his 40th anniversary of the founding of his business. So on Friday from 11:00 h the stage was open to all organ players who were available from that time. The celebration of Axel´s jubilee was ended shortly before the players had to break up for the next event.

Since his anniversary was reason enough for Axel to invite the organ players on Saturday for lunch, the well-known "get-together" in the Berlin Zoo´s restaurant was on Friday evening after the sign-in. For that reason the opening of the festival by the mayor of Berlin-Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf was not on Breitscheidplatz in front of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church but in the Zoo´s restaurant. That Friday in Germany was characterized by a historical decision of German´s parliament: the complete equality of same-sex partnerships is reality in Germany from that Friday on. Since the mayor Reinhard Naumann lives in legal partnership with his friend, the laudatio was not only organ-related and a lot of the auditory had a ball for that decision.

As all of you will know, Breitscheidplatz was the place of a terrorism attack before Christmas. Thilo-Harry Wollenschlaeger and his team as the long-term organisator of the podium and the beer and wine stands on place did the best to secure the surroundings and we all hope he will do that in future. It´s not self-evident someone´s doing the things as usual after an attack like that standing for the additional costs.

The grand parade on Saturday morning when the Kurfürstendamm is reserved for all kinds of barrel organs was prepared from 10:00 h in the morning, when the participants started their walk from Breitscheidplatz to the gathering point for the defile at Bleibtreustreet. Since this year's festival saw more than 180 participants (and some 170 organs of all proveniences) the way forth over the Ku'damm was a party for itself - the way back was a public attraction as usual. The defile was held from 11:00 h to 12:00 h and was headed traditionally by a horse coach where Reinhard Naumann and Margot Wolf, the eldest playing 'organ grinderess' in her 102nd year, found their way to participate. Margot is still with us and I can´t imagine a festival without her beeing part of it - as long as I can tell Margot again invited the smallest grinderess, Barbara Bürgler from Switzerland to share her using the coach.

Text: Uwe Gernert / Photos: Bruno Leoni

My friend Bruno Leoni is responsible for organizing the organs presented on that festival for 28 years now. The participants are invited personally. hela is a mixture of traditional fair, volksfest of the local assocations and trade fair with regional exhibitors. The old town of Laufenburg is blocked for traffic throughout the festival and a pedestrians paradise. Traditionally on the market on Sunday there will be shown barrel-organs throughout the old town-center. Bruno invited around 35 organplayers of which 33 where present. After a good brunch the players were divided into groups of 3 or 4 organs and were sent out to their places. I already told You about that concept on other Swiss occasions: it gives wide room to talk to people interested in the organs and for the public it´s great to have the chance to listen to more than one organ at a certain place. The grinders did their best to entertain the public even if the weather conditions were not as good as expected. The shown organs reached from small American reed organs up to a late Raffin-organ built in 2015. Peter Bürgisser and Cyril Schulthess were invited to accompany the holy mass at the townchurch. Just in time for the planned presentation of all organs on the marketplace it began to rain heavily at 16:00 h. Sadly this presentation had to be cancelled but we hope for the next years event to present the organs to the public again. The usual get-together was held afterwards in a restaurant on place.

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