It was an unusual transition on Monday - or was it Sunday? Time blurs when on the road. A frantic last weekend in Germany, with a concert in calm Rheda-Wiedenbrueck on Friday evening. Fast forward to early morning for quick escape via the Autobahn 2 hours up the road to Hildesheim to return hire car, check in Gasthof and be in time for Martin to play the concert in The Mariendom on Saturday morning. The almost guaranteed traffic jam never eventuated so everything went disappointingly smoothly (worst times make best stories later).
Although Martin had set up registrations on the Seifert organ in the Dom three days earlier, he was only able to walk in and start playing his concert with no warm up or chance to check that they had held - so a little stress on the old nervous system there. But again, all went well on this state-of-the-art instrument, and it sealed the organ's position as being one of the best to play that we know in Germany. Thanks, Hildesheim. We'll forgive you the cool temperatures. I still can't wait to return to Germany, in Schopfheim on July 26...
I am beginning to wonder if Interpol have been alerted about the 2 mad visitors who keep fleeing hotels far too early with bulging bags - in hands and under eyes - heading for train stations. It's us, chaps, so don't fret. This time it was to catch the train on Sunday morning to Frankfurt airport, fly to Manchester, hire a car, drive to Kendal in the lake District. Holidays! All 3 days! And the best weather that the UK has ever had to offer, in a sublime part of the country with a close friend. Scores 120% on my happiness chart.
But first the airport brouhaha. Security is one thing but chaos and treating travellers like so many headless chickens or bales of hay is another. Anyone who has flown will know this of course, and Frankfurt has never been an easy place to leave from, but Sunday was worse than usual. Chaos, lack of signage, clear instructions, and duplication of queues for queues for queues. Strange and extremely unpleasant and uncomfortable. Can it really not be better organised?
But we got there. And unlike unfortunate refugees and asylum seekers elsewhere, we had a place to go to, and were by contrast treated with kid gloves by comparison. Something to remember.
And now, our 4-week UK tour begins, after having been revived by the charms of Lake Windermere, Chapel Stile and Wray Castle. Have a look at Martin's concert schedule for June/July and come and join us; if nothing else we can always chat afterwards over a beer in the local pub. Ah, England!
Meanwhile here are some fond memories of beloved Germany:
* Ar'reet? : my translation of a northern greeting. Love it.
First stop, Wiesbaden
Apart from the obvious joys of touring in the northern hemisphere during our winter, reunions with friends and family, and the fun of concerts and music always somewhere, is the variety and spice of life.
Even in the short week which we have been on the road in Germany again, we have met various organs which have been so diverse they almost seem totally different instruments - which they are, I suppose.
Trying to shake off jetlag, Martin and I called in to watch an organ open day in the Wiesbaden Kurhaus. It was a chance for all comers to drop in and play, so we happily sat in as audience for a change. The Friedrich von Thiersch-Saal is gorgeous, and the instrument itself, a Steinmeyer from 1954, comes with a bright red detached console.
But there is little time to relax. Barely 5 hours later, with only 2 hours in which to explore the tonal resources, Martin is thrust back on the organ bench to play the second concert of the day - this time in Schlangenbad, about 20 minutes drive from Wiesbaden. Set in a beautiful forested area (and near the Wambacher Muehle - a famous mill museum), Schlangenbad means snake bath. Hmmm. I kept toes firmly out of any water. In contrast to the 4-manual Marktkirche, this little tracker organ has only 2 manuals and no sequencer (which means I have to keep awake and alert to help pull stops). The church is neatly and delicately decorated after recent restoration, and the audience almost seems to have had the same treatment. All very warm, friendly and well-behaved. (Trust me, this is not always guaranteed). The post-concert meal at the Mill by 10pm was hard-earned.
Moving right along, our next stop was down south; en route we called in to get some respite from the heat (no - not complaining. Just sayin') at the World Heritage UNESCO site of Speyer Cathedral. If you ever want a perfect example of Romanesque architecture, this is it. No chance to play the organ but it was simply enough to wander around the historic site and soak in the history. Besides, look at the climb necessary to get to the console.
Discovering little hidden charms between concerts is part of the fun, and Bretten was one such town, where we stayed en route to Bavaria (and snared a nice little warning from the authorities about parking - ouch). Half-timbered houses line the streets, and the town has an enchanting legend about a little dog (the Bretten Hundle) which was fattened on scraps when the town was under siege, then sent out to convince the enemy that the township still had plenty of food. Courageous dog, although I don't think it had much choice in the matter.
Then a welcome return to Muhlacker for the 5th time; such a welcome and a warm audience. It really does make a difference, so think about this when you are next listening to a live concert. It isn't like watching TV; the performer can hear (and sometimes see) you, and knows when you are paying attention and they know when you are getting restless, and they know when you are having a good time. That is the biggest buzz - when an audience leaves with smiles, chats, and even better, they want to know when you can come back again. To some, the word entertainment is an embarrassment, but we love the idea that people have enjoyed their time with Martin's music. To us, this is what it's all about, and if the audience have spent time and money to get to a concert, then we have a responsibility to make sure they are well rewarded. Seems they were. Thanks for having us back, and see you again in a couple of years, Muhlacker.
And on, amid the lightning and pouring rain, to Hanau, discovering the gem that is Aschaffenburg on the way ...
Jenny Setchell is an author and photographer who enjoys the quirky bits of life as well as music