Text and photos: Uwe Gernert
The 36. international Festival of the Barrel organ at Berlin is history! Beginning on Friday 01. July 2016 with the inscription and the official opening by the mayor of Berlin-Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf at 18:00 h on Breitscheidplatz in the centre of Berlin at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It again was an extraordinary event. After the opening ceremony the fest started - without organs but a dance band playing songs of the fifties and sixties for the public. The "event of the event" part one is always the grand parade on Saturday morning when the Kurfürstendamm is reserved for all kinds of barrel organs. The defilé is held from 11:00 h to 12:00 h on 1 km of the "Ku´damm" with more than 120 organs. The defilé was headed traditionally by a horse-coach where the district-mayor of Berlin-Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf Reinhard Naumann and Margot Wolf (Willy Jacops gave her the title of the eldest organ player of the world as you could read on MM´s website some time ago) in her 101st (!!!) year. She is still grinding her organ and is still going strong.
All organ grinders got a lot of public this year and fortunately during the hour of the defilé it was not raining. The rest of the Saturday the organs played on and around Breitscheidplatz for the public but weather conditions could have been better. "Jubel-Jette" Christa Hohnhäuser as the organizer of the festival introduced organ players from all over the world on stage the whole Saturday and Sunday and explained the different organs. Christa this year welcomed about 150 organ grinders from 13 countries. Amongst those was Shibaraku Asakusa from Tokyo and two grinders from Chile with "chinchinera" Olga Carrasco who did an amazing job on her drums to the sound of Manuel Ivan Melo´s barrel organ. Manuel still manufactures barrel organs in the style of Frati from Berlin in Santiago. All other players had more than enough listeners until late in the evening. On the evening the whole grinders-family - at the Berlin fest You may take the word "family" for real - had a dine-out at the Berlin zoo.
Drehorgelfest Berlin 2016
Sunday arrived with much better weather conditions and the organs were played all day long under the applause of the public. Sunday also was the day of the classical concert with barrel organs in the memorial church itself. The pastor of memorial church, Martin Germer, welcomed the artists and all of the visitors. The 14 classic songs from Verdi, Händel, Chopin, Mozart and other artists where played on noteband- and even barrel organs; Shibaraku from Tokyo played Chopin on a cardboard-playing organ and Martin Zumbach from Switzerland played a song by Mozart which he arranged for his own-made 36-note-barrel organ. The programme was humorously presented by Kurt Hohnhäuser and lasted one and a half hour.
The international festival ended officially at 18:00 h on Sunday, 03. juli 2016 but there were a lot of things to discuss and also a lot of drinks to have after the official end. We strongly recommend a trip to Berlin next year!