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Pipedreams Tour Organ in Altenbruch, Cappel, Neuhaus an der Oste in Germany

Day 8 – Sunday, May 15, 2011

A more relaxed start this morning, we weren’t required to be on the bus until 10:30am, a welcome change that allowed us to catch up on some sleep. We drove a short distance to Altenbruch for the 11am Lutheran Service, arriving just a little late.

As there was no back door, we walked in the FRONT DOOR, in front of everyone! Baptisms

were scheduled that morning, and the first several pews were filled with families and young children who must have wondered what was going on as our group of 40+ arrived. The Minister, who had been warned ahead of time, warmly greeted all of us and spoke some English during the service for us. It was a thrill to sing hymns with this historic organ built by Klappmeyer. I have included some of the hymns in the audio files with this post. We didn’t have a chance to play this organ, but we heard it put through its paces in the service.

Next we visited the famous 1680 Schnitger organ installed in the church of Sts. Peter & Paul in Cappel.  I remember as a 10-year-old borrowing an LP recording from the Brooklyn Public Library that featured Helmut Walcha’s performances on this organ. It was a thrill to hear it live today. The organ was brought here in 1816, purchased second-hand by proud villagers for their church, a real bargain for them.

The church is in the middle of farm country, and while walking to the church I heard what sounded like an out-of-tune Skinner Tuba Mirabilis.  I stopped dead in my tracks, attempting to figure out the source of the sound. Then I heard it again. It was not coming from the church but from the surrounding forested area surrounding the church. Did someone have a Skinner house organ in Cappel? Not likely. Then I figured out what it was…a cow. A very loud cow! I could imagine doing a recording here and having to do a retake due to mooing.

Upon entering, I was greeted by several members of the parish. Then I turned around.  In the balcony, just as I remembered from pictures, stood this incredible, richly carved case, decorated in gold, utterly beautiful. The fascinating thing about this organ is that it was largely forgotten in this little country church and, as a result, is one of the best preserved
Schnitger organs in existence, essentially all original except for the altered temperament.  The tin facade pipes survived WW I, and were not confiscated  for the war effort because they had oxidized to a dull gray color and looked like lead.

The sound of the organ is fresh and crystal-clear. I was very happy to hear Sergej Tcherepanov play Bach’s St. Anne Prelude, as this brought back memories of first hearing that piece played on LP by Helmut Walcha. Before we left we quickly organized a group photo.

The last church of the day was in Neuhaus an der Oste. This church has an organ built in 1745 by Dietrich Christoph Gloger, renovated in 1791 by Johann Georg Wilhelm Wilhemy, and restored by von Beckerath in 1972. The organ is in a modified mean-tone temperament and we enjoyed a short recital by Sergej Tcherepanov. As we left the church a service was about to begin and the tower bells were ringing.

This was an early night and we had dinner on our own. I joined several other people on the tour and we had a nice evening together, drinking wine and having pleasant conversations.

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