Friday, September 15, 2017

The Adventure, Part Four: June 26 – July 13, 2017 - The Wedding and the Village

This summer I had the rare opportunity to be part of a Czech wedding in Brno, Moravia. My friends, Lucie Šilerová and Martin Pešl, asked if I would be willing to play the organ for their 7 July wedding. I had originally gotten to know them when Lucie came to the CSPS Hall in St. Paul in 2009 to examine the Sokol music and theater archives, Since then, the three of us have had a number of adventures together, both here in Minnesota and in various parts of the Czech Republic.

The wedding was going to be held at the Church of The Holy Trinity (kostel Nejsvětější Trojice), in Brno-Královo Pole. The church was built in 1375 and remodeled in Baroque style between 1760-1777. The organ, however, was built in the 1950s during the communist era, when the church was not given access to quality building materials to construct an organ. There is a fund-raising campaign in place to raise money to replace the organ, but in the meantime, I was told the organ was not being well maintained and I could expect some things to not work. It was also a larger organ (3 manuals) than I had played since I was a student 50+ years ago. So I knew I was going to need a substantial amount of time to get used to the organ and find ways to make it sound its best under the current conditions.

Being an integral part of a wedding is simply something not available to tourists, so this was both an exciting opportunity to get more acquainted with Czech culture, but also an extreme challenge to see if I could function adequately on an instrument I was not familiar with and overcome the language barrier with my limited Czech.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

June 27, 2017 - Plzeň

Frankfurt to Brno with a stop in Plzeň and dinner at the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

Only photo I took in Germany in a traffic jam on the autobahn. This gym offers not only Zumba classes, but also pole-dancing.

Memorial honoring the American soldiers who liberated Pilsen from the Nazis.

Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, Plzeň

Main square in Pilsen.

Pilsner Brewery. Urquell means "original source" and this is that source.

Dinner stop on the 9-hour drive from Frankfurt to Brno.

Traditional "liquid bread" to start a first meal here. 
Tastes 4,550 miles fresher (distance from Minneapolis to Pilsen)

Goulash and 3 kinds of dumplings.

July 28, 2017 - Brno

First day of organ practice.

I arrived in Brno ten days before the wedding, and the first week spent about four hours every day working on the organ and figuring out how to get the best possible sounds out of it. I had a chance to work on my travel independence, as I took the tram back and forth to practice, and also went exploring and shopping on my own in Brno when I wasn’t at the church practicing. The layout of Brno is not simple and there is a complex system of trams and buses covering the city and outlying areas. 

Breakfast of Champions - Sachertorte and cappuccino.

Shopped for lunch today. Getting more independent again.

Off to organ practice - first view of the church.

View from the organ loft.

The organ loft.

Individual chairs for each monk when it was a monastery. They each had a carved bust above identifying whose chair it was.

Lion decoration carved at a time when no one here had seen a lion, only read descriptions, so its more like a dog with long hair.

The baroque altar - 1700s

I had to memorize this pattern of switches to know what to turn on and off, since I didn't understand the Czech labels.

 My new home for the week. Two hours today, three more early tomorrow morning, then more to be arranged later.

Brno organ festival from this spring.

Mass schedule at the church.

June 29, 2017 - Brno

Mostly work at the organ today


The private entrance to the organ loft.

Out the window on the stairs.

The staircase.

Part of the double mirror system that allows the organist to see the altar area, since otherwise the organ console blocks the view.

Early morning light through the east windows.

Five hours without access to water made me thirsty at lunch. I'll bring a water bottle with me to practice tomorrow!

Lunch menu- won't be returning here!

Cherry recipe to try at home.

On a walk to the old city center.

Becherovka lawn chairs at the city park!