Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Predigerkirche in Basel, and Three Countries

Day 1: Pipedreams Tour in Switzerland

The best plans laid by mice and men went astray at the Zurich Airport today as members of our tour group were delayed due to the storms in the U.S. As a result, we had a change of plans and ate our lunch at the airport instead of in Basel near the Basel Munster, a landmark church in the center of the town. We had to scratch the Munster's organ from our list, too.

We did, however, hear short concerts on three different organs in the Predigerkirche, also known as the Basel Preacher Church. Else Biesemans, organist from Belgium who has studied at several different music schools in Europe, played the Hauptorge, the Swallow's Nest Organ, and a delightful small pipe organ on wheels that is currently loaned to the church.

The Swallow's Nest Organ is located in a balcony high above the church floor. The organist climbs up a ladder to reach the organ keyboard. The pipes sit above the console; the bellows and pumping apparatus are on the floor of the balcony, below the console but still far above the main floor.

You can see from the photo that sometimes being an organist means that you have to A) not be afraid of heights or tiny ladders; B) be in really good physical shape so that you can clamber up into the organ chamber and then get back down after your performance.

The Swallow's Nest organ was completed in 1985 and is a re-creation of an organ that existed in the Preacher's Church in the 1440's. Guidelines for the original organ were used to build the current organ which has beautiful case work (think skilled woodworking) and a spirited sound that floats sweetly throughout this old church.

The tops of columns in the church were decorated with gold leaves and scrolls which add an understated, yet tasteful touch to the otherwise lightly adorned interior.

An elegantly carved Madonna stood watch over a side door at the front of the church, a reminder of the Roman Catholic heritage of faith that belongs to Predigerkirche.

Our Basel hotel is actually located in Basel, Germany near a shopping mall and a pedestrian bridge. When you walk across the bridge, you soon are in France. Our tour guide, Tim Schmutzler who is from Berlin, says "Where else in the world can you be in three countries in such a short time?"

Honestly, we were too tired after dinner tonight to walk to France. We did Switzerland and Germany today. France will have to wait until tomorrow.


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