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Day 7 Pipedreams Tour of Organs in Weener, Stapelmoor, Dedesdorf, Germany

Day 7 – Saturday, May 14, 2011:

After several pleasant nights in Norden/Norddeich, we departed this morning with our ultimate destination Cuxhaven, also on the North Sea coast, and the Strandperle Hotel. This time, most people brought down there own bags so as to minimize confusion with the hotel porters and keep us on schedule for our visit to the Ahrend Orgelbau (organ building) Company.

There we met with Hendrik Ahrend, son of founder and master-restorer Juergen Ahrend. Hendrick now owns the firm, having taken over its direction about five years ago.  He talked about what it is like to run the firm and how his father, once he decided to retire, managed an efficient and painless transition. I was very impressed with the generous amount of time Hendrick took to show us the woodshed, woodworking shop, and pipe shop. One of the most telling statements he made was about his father’s restorations being “best educated guesses” from the information that existed about the Schnitgers and other organs of that period. I also was very impressed with the organization and cleanliness of Ahrend Orgelbau.

After leaving the Ahrend shop, we traveled a short distance to Weener to hear Winfried Dahlke play on the 1710 Schnitger organ in the Georgskirche, an organ restored by Juergen Ahrend in 1982.  It may be the very last organ in the region to be built with free-standing pedal towers, a design typical of Schnitger organs and others from his ‘school’.  Unfortunately, only six original Schnitger stops remain after numerous alterations in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The splendid organ case is painted in a rich red
and the instrument is tuned in Werckmeister III.

We next visited the Organeum in Weener, an educational facility dedicated to increasing awareness of the rich historic organ heritage of the region and the music appropriate for it.  Established by Harald Vogel in 1997, the Organeum is housed in an elegant 19th century villa, and boasts a remarkable collection of various keyboard instruments (harpsichords, chamber organs, pedal-piano, harmoniums) used for special classes.  You can discover more online:  Here we enjoyed an
excellent lunch and took the opportunity (again) for a group picture in the adjacent garden.

After lunch we visited a tonal/mechanical replica of the Clicquot organ in Houdan, France, built for the Reformierte Kirche at Stapelmoor. It has a convincing sound and was created through a collaboration of organ builders Bartelt Immer (from Norden), Reinalt Klein (from Leipzig) and Frenchman Claude Jaccard.

The highlight of the day was a meeting with Harald Vogel at Sankt Laurentius in Dedesdorf. Michael Barone had first met Harald when one of Barone’s Oberlin cronies, Randy Bourne, spent a year with Vogel as Harald’s first American student.  Barone visited Randy and Harald in the summer of 1971, and has kept up the friendship since.  He and Harald Vogel were very happy to see each other again; you could tell this was the meeting of old friends.

Herr Vogel gave a very interesting lecture about the organ and the story of Arp Schnitger which I was given permission to post on the below blog. I never realized that Schnitger was so entrepreneurial, the extent of his exports, or how efficiently he used less expensive woods in non-critical components and carvings to make his organs less costly.  The Dedesdorf organ retains its original keyboards, which are made of snake wood, very dark and lustrous. Vogel pointed out that the main mixture on the first manual was
‘homophonic’, only to be used only in full organ as accompaniment to hymn playing, or as a solo stop, but not for playing contrapuntal repertoire. The mixture that would be used with the principal chorus in contrapuntal music on this instrument is the Sesquialter.

To conclude our day, we had a long drive to our new hotel in Cuxhaven.  Many of the rooms at the Strandperle were quite amazingly spacious (some actually rather lavish suites) and we had a terrific dinner in the hotel right across from the North Sea.

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