Text: Uwe Gernert - Photos: Helga Behr, Uwe Gernert
From 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.
After last year's "drowned city" due to the heavy rain this year Berlin was as dry as it could be (the town major asked the inhabitants of his city to water the trees in front of their houses) and the temperatures even at night time stayed over 20 degrees and everybody felt quite good about those excellent weather conditions. Over the 2 1/2 days there were more spectators than the years before. Breitscheidplatz in the heart of Berlin was patrolled by security guards which was very welcomed by visitors and the organ-players, nobody did loose a purse or his mobile phone at the occasion as happened the years before. The catering on Breitscheidplatz as usual was organized by Harry Thilo Wollenschlaeger, who also was responsible for the festival in respect of the authorities.
On Saturday morning the Kurfürstendamm is reserved for a parade of all kinds of barrel and roll organs. This as every year 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. Lots of tourists and Berlin inhabitants already watched this strolling to the gathering and the grinders did their best to entertain them. The defile was held from 11:00 h to 12:00 h and was headed traditionally by a horse coach with the district´s major of Berlin-Charlottenburg Reinhard Naumann and Margot Wolf, the eldest playing 'organ grinderess' in her 103rd year.
After that parade the grinders entertained the public on Breitscheidplatz, around the memorial church and the streets around. All of the participants had to show up on stage and were introduced to the public by Christa Hohnhäuser. This is a very attractive part of the festival because people interested in organs can hear a lot of different instruments right there on stage.
In the evening the public was animated to dance to sounds of the 50ties with the band "Cool Cats", while most of the grinders made a boat trip on the "Tegeler See" as a surprise-trip.
On Sunday the well known concert in the memorial church was presented from 15:00 h by Kurt Hohnhäuser. It consists of 20 classical and modern pieces done by interpreters from around the world. As every year, the pastor of memorial church, Martin Germer welcomed the artists and all of the visitors very warmly. His speech was about friendship between different people and was warmly appreciated and in fact grinders from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the U.S.A. played works from Strauss and Händel to Pachelbel and some popular titles and the visitors were invited to sing some of the titles afterwards. Thanks again, Kurt for moderating in your humorous manner!
The international festival ended officially at 18:00 h on Sunday, 08. Juli 2018. Afterwards, a lot of friends found themselves a place to discuss further matters. We´ll be back next year and can truly recommend a trip to the capital of Germany to this event.
You can watch Helga and Uwe's photos of the event via this link or just click on the photo above.
Markus Bürgler uploaded a nice video of the event on YouTube: