Text and photos: Uwe Gernert - thanks, Uwe!
The 12th international organ festival at Einsiedeln in Switzerland took place on 14th August 2016. As usually it was perfectly organized by Peter X. Bürgisser (www.drehorgel-schweiz.ch) who had invited 28 organ grinders way before the festival. We gathered at hotel "Drei Könige", facing the world famous monastery, at 09:00 h and Peter asked the grinders to vote for one of the places where as usual 4 to 5 organs play together. For the visitors this grouped setup makes it a nice experience to walk through the streets of the town while having the opportunity to listen to more than one instrument at a place and for the grinders it´s a lot more fun because they don´t have to wait too long to play another piece of music again. The groups of grinders spread out to be at their places at 10:00 h.
Peter also organized a service in the monastery´s church "Maria Assumption" with two organs playing classical and religious music at 11:00 h – as Einsiedeln is a widely known pilgrims’ site, the church was crowded not only by the organ grinders but by an international public. Shortly before the lunch break at 13:00 h Frater Basil blessed the organs in a short ceremony in front of the basilica. Lunch and beverages where sponsored by hotel "Drei Könige" and offered for free to the participants. From 14:00 h to 16:00 h the organs spread out again throughout the town playing for the public.
Shortly after 16:00 h all grinders met again at Paracelsus-Parc near the monastery for a presentation of all organs and Peter introduced each organ and player by name and residence. Since there where 27 of the 28 organs present, every grinder was advised to play only "one turn of a barrel" (ca. 1 minute) of his tune; the synchronous playing couples where allowed to play a complete melody. At the occasion of this presentation I´m sure I witnessed an act which I doubt has happened since the early 1930’s when the last so-called "Pass-Organs" where built ("Pass-Organs" are identical organs/barrels built for synchronous playing): there were two 38-key-"sister organs" of Bacigalupo Sons around (owned by Edi Niederberger and Ueli Temperli [www.drehorgelverleih.ch]) with subsequent serial numbers 3273 and 3274 who left the Bacigalupo shop in the 1920’s. One stayed at Berlin, Number 2 was sold to Vienna and they both were sold to Swiss owners not so long ago. Both organs were restored throughout their career in the 1960’s, respectively in 1995 by Alfred Geweke from Bielefeld who also arranged some new barrels for them. On those new-made barrels there was only one tune which was exactly the same on both organs. Edi Niederberger on his own one and Cyril Schulthess on Ueli´s Baci gave it a perfect try: the two barrel organs were played synchronously. How many experience those two players must have to do that job, everybody who ever tried synchronous playing (even on roll organs) will know. Listening to that was an experience I´ll never forget for sure – sadly I couldn´t record that gig, but Edi und Cyril promised that this wasn´t the last time they were going to perform it.
After the presentation the grinders and their partners had the usual get-together with beverages and good conversation and some more grinding on three Bacis and another great barrel organ made and played by Martin Zumbach who also arranged and handmade the barrels for this "Violinopan".
I personally think the festival is one of the best occasions for visitors to hear a lot of different kind of organs and to talk to the grinders who proudly and profoundly will explain the function of their instruments. Suffice it to say that only mechanical instruments (barrel or roll) have the chance to be invited! The 13th festival will take place at 20th august 2017 at Einsiedeln – give it a chance if you´re going for a Swiss journey!