Falling in Love with Leipzig


I learned music before I learned to speak. We always had music on in our home, and often, it was classical music.  My first career choice was musician, although my utter terror of performance made that career impossible (I thought) along with my mother’s extreme unwillingness to have a piano in the house.  (I eventually learned more than 12 instruments before I was 20, but piano only after 40.)

Still, I was blindsided today by my reaction in Thomaskirche where Bach served as cantor for 27 years.  He was in charge of the church music throughout Leipzig.  Anyway, his grave is now in the church, although it wasn’t originally. And there is, of course, quite a monument to him there.  But standing in there, thinking about that music—

Well, when I saw the memorial to him on the floor of the altar, I thought how insignificant Bach’s grave was.  Unlike most artists—most people, really—his grave is not what he left behind. The man is still utterly, vividly alive, in his music which gets played around the world each and every day.

I spent a long time in the church, then went across the street to the Bach Archive and Museum.  I could move in there.  Here I am, fifty years old, and I finally realized what other career I could have had in music.  I could have been a music scholar.  I would have been extremely happy doing it—not that I hate my job now.  I just had never realized how many other side professions there were in music that did not require any performance at all until today.

Fascinating what you learn about life when you travel.

I was so moved by the music and the displays that it was a good thing that I was alone.  I teared up visibly at one point and the lady next to me skittered away as if I had just sneezed on her.  I felt completely overwhelmed by these two places, and twice I had to sit down to calm down.

I had planned to see many things, but I got stuck on Bach instead. Then I bought a book about Leipzig’s musical history, and found a guide in English for a self-directed music tour, and suddenly I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do in Leipzig—and that’s with throwing out a few of the things I had planned before I came to Leipzig.

Which only proves what I say all along about travel (hell, about life) you don’t know what you don’t know until you learn what you didn’t know.

Yes, yes, very zen.

I walked most of the day, but unlike the rest of my trip, tonight I did not eat dinner alone.  I had dinner with the convention organizers, Greg and Astrid Bear, and members of the Braatz family.  We had a wonderful meal in Thomas’s home, accompanied by excellent conversation (and some nice wine).  It was very pleasant after dinners by myself in restaurants.

I’ll be social the next few days.  As I said to Mario tonight, who is also one of the convention organizers, I think I did this trip in the exact right order.  First I see things and spend some time alone. Then I get to socialize and be with friends and like-minded people, which will make the time fly before I go home.

This is an amazing city, and I wouldn’t have known much about it if it weren’t for the kind folks at Elstercon.  I’ve been saying my thanks all night, but it’s nice to say it here as well.  Thanks, Elstercon.  I appreciate the invitation and look forward to the weekend.

5 thoughts on “Falling in Love with Leipzig

  1. Kris,

    I’m so envious! I would love to take a trip to Leipzig and see what you’re seeing. I’m glad you took the time to take in all that you could with Bach and your appreciation for his music, which is in my humble opinion transcendent.

    Have a great trip and safe return!

  2. I don’t know; as a music scholar you would spend your time analyzing what others created, but as a writer you can create stuff yourself. Speaking as one of your readers, I’m glad you chose to be a writer.

  3. For me, the must see church in Leipzig I stumbled on by accident, Nikolaikirche, St. Nicholas Church. (Of course, I missed Bach entirely, darn, now I have to go back…) St. Nick is a nice church, I enjoyed sitting in it on a hot afternoon, very pretty organ. As I was leaving I stumbled on a small history brochure. It was here, in this church, that the Stassi troops were beaten, the GDR fell, and the Wall came down (even though it was nowhere near). People of every race and religion came to this one church to make prayers for peace. Week after week, year after year. All attempts by the SED to shut them down failed. Finally, in 9 Oct 1989 on the grand plaza (which in 1994 was becoming a new shoe store), 1,000 Stassi troops were beaten by 10,000 people holding candles. Apparently many of the troops set down their guns and walked into the crowd. People broke their candles in half to give a light for the troopers to hold. Before Horst Sindermann & the GDR fell he said, ‘We had prepared for everything. But not for candles and prayers.’
    Here’s a bit more detail: http://evabell.net/travelogue_list/The_Vision_of_a_Broken_Wall.htm

    1. I went there too and heard the organist play, Matt. It was wonderful. 🙂 And the history is amazing.

      Thanks, Mary Jo. You sound like Dean now. He says that to me, and I could almost hear him make that comment as I typed that line. 🙂

      I know, Dayle. I try to find the U.S. history as well. Too often, though, we tear it down. 🙁

  4. I reacted the same way to seeing the Lindisfarne Gospels in the British Library…

    What I love about Europe is that in any city, in any town, there’s some amazing gem of history. My focus was Britain, and I learned, for example, that if there was a Holywell Street in the village, the holy well probably still existed.

    While the US isn’t as old, there’s something fascinating in every small town. I have a very bad habit of forgetting that. There are still things in my county, not to mention southern California as a whole, that I still haven’t explored.

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