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.

After the parade it started to rain but the grinders were nearly sure to expect bad weather conditions after Thursday before brought up to 80 liters of water per m2. The show went on despite of that without mourning: Christa welcomed 170 organ grinders from 17 countries and on Saturday and Sunday mostly all of the participating organs could be seen on the stage. Even under the bad weather conditions the whole show attracted a lot of visitors from Berlin and the rest of the world. 2 groups found special interest: from Chile there was one group of barrel organ grinders with 4 guys with their drums ("Organilleros y Chichineros Lizana") which found enthousiastic response from the audience. The other group "Comparsa Juan y Rosa" had an organ and some more instruments which they played with virtuosity. Some of the visitors found that their really professional show was too long.

Weather conditions were as bad as they could be: there where only lucky moments up to an hour without rain but the participants didn´t hesitate to pick those "lucky moments" and played with their organs on the streets nearby and on the Breitscheidplatz.

What would that festival be without the concert in the memorial church? On Sunday, 15:00 h Kurt Hohnhäuser presented in his already well-known houmurous manner 17 classical pieces done by interpretes from around the world. As everey year, the pastor of memorial church, Martin Germer welcomed the artists and all of the visitors very warmly and remembered that music is one of the things why people are getting toghether. Interpretes from Germany, Switzerland and Japan played works from Strauss and Händel to Pachelbel and some popular titles, the visitors were invited to sing (or hum) with the interpretes. Thanks, Kurt, for that unforgettable moments!

The international festival ended officially at 18:00 h on Sunday, 02. Juli 2017. After the festival is before the festival and so a lot of participants decided to have another get-together in a nearby pub to discuss the matters …
We strongly recommend a trip to Berlin next year!

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