Day 4 of Pipedreams Tour (Neuenfeld, Buxtehude & Steinkirchen)

Joe Vitacco in the back of the bus selecting audio for today's blog

Day 4, Wednesday, May 11, 2011:


Today we left the Hamburg Renaissance Hotel and had an interesting situation with our bags, as the hotel has arranged for only two porters to bring down everyone’s bag. Needless to say, we left a bit late, but all the baggage made the bus. Next we drove west, with our eventual destination destination being the North Sea city of Norden.

But before leaving the Hamburg area, our first organ was in Arp Schnitger’s own church, the Pankratius-Kirche in Neuenfelde. This church almost became a runway for Airbus, but Airbus was no match for Thiemo Janssen, a determined organist who started an international campaign to save the church and this very important pipe organ. So the story of David and Goliath, or the organist that takes on one of the biggest companies in the world, has a happy conclusion! The audio file posted on this page includes a comprehensive demonstration of the Neuenfelde instrument, played and narrated by Sergej Tcherepanov. I was very moved to see Arp Schnitger’s grave in the floor of the church. I have visited the graves of Cavaille-Coll and Ernest Skinner, and now Schnitger. It leaves you thinking of the profound contributions these people have had to the history of the organ, and wondering what would have happened if something had not sparked their interest in the pipe organ.

Then we drove quite a way to the town of Buxtehude, which is almost something out of a fairy tail. In the center of town is the Petrikirche, or St. Peter’s Church. Construction of this Gothic church was started in 1285 and it was consecrated in 1400. The current organ is a Furtwaengler built in 1859 and still essentially original. Sergej Tcherepanov gave a demonstration which is posted as part of this blog. Afterwards we had lunch on our own and I had a sampling of some fantastic German beer.

After this we drove further west to Steinkirchen, a town with a 28 stop, two manual Schnitger organ built in 1685 (the year of Bach’s birth!). The keyboards on this organ are original Schnitger keyboards. The organ was restored by Beckerath and it sounds great to me, but one of the church members complained about the tuning system, picked during the restoration, which he thinks is not authentic enough. But it does allow more of Bach’s music to be played effectively, and recordings by E. Power Biggs on this organ made ‘history’ when released in the USA. But it seems that they are having another builder retune the organ in an older temperament. Wonderful organ, beautiful church.

The final instrument of the day was a short drive away at the Marienkirche in Gruenendeich, by Dietrich Christoph Gloger, built in 1766. We were told a good story about how the money was raised to restore this instrument. The church had been working at raising the money for some time, until a member of the church retired, sold his business and then called the church and asked the exact amount needed and wrote the check. After a short organ recital the group sang “Ein feste Burg” in its original rhythm, appropriate
since we were in a Lutheran Church. Oddly after this my request to sing “Tu es Petrus” was rejected. :-)

Then we drove 2 hours to Bad Zwischenahn for dinner at Ammerlander Gaststaette on Zwischenahner Meer, a lovely setting. The dinner and the venue were wonderful. After dinner we all paid our drink bills and headed to our 2nd hotel in Norddeich, the Faehrhaus.

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2 Responses to Day 4 of Pipedreams Tour (Neuenfeld, Buxtehude & Steinkirchen)

  1. Fr. Vincent Long says:

    What an extraordinary trip and experience you must be having. I envy you! Thank you for what you provide for us by way of great recordings you produce.

  2. Allen Dreyfuss says:

    I stay with friends in Buxtehude nearly every summer since 1997. My friend is an official of that church and I personally know the regular organist, Mr. Gundlach. [He is retiring after many decades of service.]

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