Friday, January 6: Cologne -The Feast of the Epiphany

After breakfast, we began our trek to the Cologne Cathedral, about a 20-minute walk from our hotel. We arrived at about 9:30 on the cathedral plaza to be present for the ringing of the “Peter’s Bell” the largest freely suspended swinging bell, rung only on feast days. What an incredible and unique sound it makes. Shortly before 10 AM we entered the magnificent Cologne Cathedral (http://www.koelner-dom.de) (dedicated to St. Peter and the Virgin Mary) for the major celebration of the EPIPHANY of the LORD celebrated by the Archbishop of Cologne, His Eminence Joachim Cardinal Meisner. The cathedral was already packed with worshippers as we entered, leaving the only alternative of standing in the side aisles for the entire Mass. Some us did manage to get a few seats on the choir risers located in the south aisle. While waiting for the Mass to begin it allowed a little time to begin taking in the visual splendor that this magnificent cathedral offers: the immense height, the beautiful and colorful windows, side chapels, statues and paintings, the high altar with the Shrine of the Three Kings and the marvelous Klais organ (1998) suspended from the ceiling over the north side of the nave. As the procession began, Winfried Bönig, Cathedral Organist, sounded the organ in a splendid improvised processional. The music for the mass was sung by the Mädchenchor (female choir), one of five choirs (http://www.koelner-dommusik.de) at the cathedral conducted by Oliver Sperling (Dom Cantor). Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei were from “Missa Coloniensis” by Joachim Denhoff as well as a choral carol “Fröhlich soll mein Herze springen” of Peter Haberman at the beginning of communion comprised the choral music. The congregation participated enthusiastically in the Latin Credo (chant sung in alternation with the choir) the Lord’s Prayer in German, responsorial psalm and Gospel Acclamation as well as German Epiphany hymns at the beginning of mass, at the preparation of the gifts and during and after communion. I think we were all amazed at the spontaneous sung responses sung by the congregation that seemed to be familiar all over the country.
The rest of the day was taken up with a tour of the Roman Museum located next to the cathedral and a guided tour of the Cathedral where we were provided with a wealth of information about the history and architecture of this magnificent building begun in 1248 and the relics of the Three Magi brought to Cologne in 1164. This is truly one of great pilgrimage churches in Europe. Even though the cathedral was hit by 14 large aerial bombs, it survived the second world war. Restoration and repairs continue at the cathedral even today on what is often referred to as the “eternal construction site.”

Saturday, January 7: Cologne Churches and Organs

Today’s itinerary consisted of a tour of five of Cologne’s oldest Romanesque churches, all suffering extensive damage from the war but fully restored. We engaged the services of two very fine tour guides who provided us extensive information on the history, architectural features, restoration and art holdings in each church. We began our day at St. Maria im Kapitol Church (http://www.maria-im-kapitol.de) where our spiritual director, Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, led us in sung Morning Prayer. This is the largest of the Romanesque churches in Cologne which was built around 50 A.D. on the foundations of the Roman temple. Next on the tour was a visit to Jesuit Church of Saint Peter (http://www.sankt-peter-koeln.de). This church, also damaged extensively in the war has been restored in a rather austere contemporary interior. The pastor, Jesuit Fr. Friedhelm Mennekes, welcomed us and gave us a tour of the church space and introduction to the parish. Organist and composer, Peter Bares was on hand to demonstrate the rather unique German built pipe organ, which includes a large section of percussive and novel stops utilized in many of Bares original compositions. The parish is known for its rather avante garde music and liturgical program, including Bares own hymnal of hymns in the twelve-tone style!  Next was a tour of St. Pantaleon Church (http://www.pantaleon-koeln.de), which included a demonstration of the organ restored by Klais by the parish organist, Martina Mailänder. The organ sit above a beautiful baroque style screen over the altar area. Lunch followed at a local restaurant where were treated to the local German food and beer. Following lunch our next Romanesque Church was St. Andrea’s (http://www.sankt-andreas.de), a Dominican Church begun around 1200. This beautiful basilica style church contains both elements of the Romanesque and Gothic styles and is filled with statuary, sculptures and paintings. In the crypt church is the burial chapel of Saint Albert the Great. Our last tour of the day was Basilica of St. Gereon (http://www.stgereon.de). Following a short tour of the basilica, we were greeted by Domkappellmeister Prof. Eberhard Metternich, who officially welcomed us to Cologne. The Basilica Organist, Jürgen von Moock, played a recital of Vierne, Alain and his three of his own improvisations on “Puer natus in Bethlehem”, “Bach begegnet de 21, Jahrhundt” and “Frère Jacques”. The organ new three manual and pedal organ was built by Weimbs of Germany and is placed high in the west gallery. Following dinner on our own in one many fine restaurants close to our hotel, we traveled back to the Cathedral that evening for the annual choral concert sung at the Shrine of the Three Kings by the Vokalensemble Kölner Dom directed by DKM Eberhard Metternich. Here we were treated to extraordinary choral singing by one of the cathedral’s finest choirs. The all a cappella repertoire included music for the Christmas-Epiphany season. One should note here that the cathedral is not heated and the musicians are expected to make music in these extremely cold conditions. The outside temperature was a mere 32 degrees and inside the cathedral did not feel any warmer!

Sunday, January 8: Cologne

Our Sunday morning began with a CRCCM business meeting at the “Dom Forum” a meeting and office building next to the cathedral on the main plaza. During the short business meeting morning prayer and the nomination of steering committee members took place. Following the business session, Fr. Anthony Ruff gave us a presentation on chant focusing on the Introit for the Feast of the Epiphany, while demonstrating various performance practices through recordings and discussion. Following a buffet meal provided for us at the hotel, we were transported to the Basilika of St. Aposteln in Köln (http://www.st-aposteln.de) for an organ and choral concert to continue the Epiphany celebration. The concert featured the Cologne Cathedral Boys Choir, directed by DKM Ebberhard Mitternich. It was a program of works by German and English composers.
After the concert we traveled back the Cologne Cathedral to attend a special late afternoon Mass. The occasion was to bid farewell to one of the auxiliary bishops who was appointed ordinary to another diocese in Germany. In attendance was the Cardinal Meisner. We were escorted to special seating in the main organ gallery above the sanctuary where we attended the Mass. The assistant organist, Ulrich Brüggemann, played the liturgy (in coat and hat! Brrr). The choral ordinary setting of the mass was Josef Rheinberger’s Mass in E-flat “Cantus Missae” for double-choir sung by the Vokalensemble Kölner Dom directed by DKM Metternich. After Mass, Cardinal Miesner was available on the plaza outside the Cathedral to greet and welcome us to Cologne.

Monday, January 9: Cologne Cathedral Choir School and Excursion to Aachen

This morning’s session all took place at the Cologne Cathedral Choir School (http://www.koelner-dommusik.de), a new modern facility. We began our day with sung Morning Prayer at the choir school led by Fr. Ruff. Immediately following prayer we were given a tour of the building and facilities and observed two music classes for primary age children. Following the class session we gathered in the main rehearsal/concert hall, which includes a Klais organ for a session with Prof. Metternich and the music faculty. Here we were given an overview of the music education program followed by discussion and questions. After lunch at the choir school we deviated from our pre-scheduled itinerary in order to take a trip to the town of Aachen. In Aachen we were privileged to tour the marvelous Aachen Cathedral (http://www.aachendom.de) and burial place of Charlemagne. We were able to spend the entire afternoon taking in the marvels of this twelve hundred year old edifice. The cathedral contains many wonderful artifacts set in Carolingian, Byzantine and Gothic architecture. Unfortunately, we did not get to hear the organ nor visit the cathedral choir school. Following our return to Cologne by way of a short excursion through Belgium, Winfried Bönig, Cathedral Organist, met us at 9:00 PM to give us a full demonstration of the Cologne cathedral organ in a very dark and brutally cold building.

Tuesday, January 10: Excursion to Essen

Our daytrip to nearby Essen began with a visit to the newly renovated Essen Philharmonie.  Prof. Roland Stangier demonstrated the new Kuhn organ (2004) from the moveable stage console, performing short excerpts from a vast array of organ literature.  We then traveled to the center of town where we enjoyed lunch on our own, after which we gathered in Essen Cathedral (http://www.essener-dom.de). The cathedral dates from the 9th century and houses a number of ancient artifacts including the Golden Madonna (c. 1000), the oldest surviving full statue of Mary in the Western world. Organist Juergen Kursawa played a short recital on the cathedral’s new Rieger organ, which was captivating in both its tonal design and spacial arrangement. Several of our members took the opportunity to experiment at the console.  We then traveled to one of Germany’s leading music schools, Essen’s Folkwang Hochschule (http://www.folkwang-hochschule.de) (built in 1927), where Dr. Stefan Kloechkner and other faculty members discussed church music programs in Germany and the various courses of study available at the school.  The final destination of our daytrip was a visit to Huegel, Essen’s most noble address. Our group enjoyed a private tour of the sprawling estate (220 room estate built as a residence for the Krupp family) and surrounding gardens, which were particularly beautiful as the sun was setting.  The ballroom housed a restored Romantic organ, which we heard played automatically by a roller mechanism. Our evening return to Cologne included a pleasant drive through the Belgian countryside.              

Wednesday, January 11: Excursion to Limburg

Continuing our topic of Education of Catholic musicians in Germany we spent the day in Limburg. Here we visited the cathedral choir school where we were given a tour of the building including the chapel, rehearsal rooms and residential facilities. Music Director. Dr. Klaus Knubben and staff met with us to present an overview of the music program and to answer our questions. Following lunch at the choir school we visited Limburg Cathedral (www.limburgerdom.de/de/) begun in 1248. After a tour of this ancient building, Cathedral Organist, Marcus Eichenlaub played a recital for us on the cathedral’s Klais organ. Following the recital we were able to walk through the medieval town for a real flavor of old Germany. By 4:00 PM we arrived at St. Lubentius Basilika in Dietkirchen (http://www.fotocommunity.com/pc/pc/display/2267197) near Limburg for a private concert by the Limburg Boys Choir “Limburger Domsingknaben” directed by Klaus Knubben. A wine social followed the late afternoon concert.

Thursday, January 12: Cologne

For our last full day in Cologne the morning was given over for some leisure and a time to finish that last minute shopping before returning to the USA. In the afternoon we gathered for our final visit to the cathedral where we had a full afternoon of three sessions. During the first session, a business session, we were engaged in a discussion with Fr. Anthony Ruff, now a member of the BCL music subcommittee. Fr. Ruff explained the current make up and projects the committee is undertaking and engaged us in a discussion on how we might help to provide input to them. Following the business meeting Fr. Ruff gave a presentation, his second of the conference on“20th Century Sacred Music Contoversies.” Our third session was presented by Msgr. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bretschneider, president of the Allgemeiner Cäcilien-Verband, ACV (www.musica-sacra-online.de/)  the German association for Catholic Church Music. His address detailed the rich history of German Catholic Church music and current work of this association. It was wonderful to hear how a heritage of a choral tradition continues to be fostered throughout the Germany and how plans for a revision to their national Catholic hymnal are progressing. The evening ended with our longstanding tradition of a farewell banquet on the last night of the conference. Joining us for the festivities at the Renaissance Hotel were the Cologne Cathedral Musicians, Eberhard Metternich and Winfried Bönig.

Friday, January 13: Return to Frankfurt Airport

While most of us returned to the United States today, a few of our members stayed on for an extended day of touring and sightseeing.

Report submitted by Anthony DiCello and Daniel Laginya.

Search