Churches show their treasures in the organ year

A walk from organ to organ has already taken place several times in Niesky with great success. This year, which the regional music councils have proclaimed the “Year of the Organ”, such a walk should also show the people of Görlitz how diverse the organ landscape of their city is. “We want to show as many organs as possible that we have in Görlitz on Pentecost Saturday,” says church music director Reinhard Seeliger.

The known ones in large churches as well as the less known ones in chapels or parish rooms. Those in Protestant churches just like those in the Catholic, Old Lutheran and Free Churches. “Last year, Whitsun Organ Night was our first major event after the lockdown,” says Seeliger. “That’s why we hope that something is possible again this year.”

There have been several organ walks in Niesky. Here in 2018, when Kerstin-Deike Wedler on the flute and church music director Reinhard Seeliger opened it in the church of the Niesky Brethren. © Rolf Ullmann / Archive

The walk will also take place in Niesky in 2021. On August 28, the organs of the Brethren, the New Apostolic Church, the Christ Church and the Catholic Church of St. Joseph are to sound for a good half hour each. “We also hope that concerts will be possible again in the summer,” says Niesky regional cantor Theresa Haupt.

Organ band in the church district

There are also plans for the church district. The regional church organizes the “organ band” all year round. In 365 concerts on 365 days, organs in Berlin, Brandenburg and Silesian Upper Lusatia are to be connected by the symbolic ribbon.

In May it takes place in the Görlitz church district, with organ points in the Peterskirche, with the opening concert of the Upper Lusatian organ summer on May 1st in Reichenbach, with a concert in Weißwasser, one in the Görlitz Church of Hope and one in the Frauenkirche or the former church music college on the Long street.

At the end of 2019, the refurbished organ was inaugurated in the former college for church music.  Ulrike Scheytt (center back) will make it sound again in the year of the organ.

At the end of 2019, the refurbished organ was inaugurated in the former college for church music. Ulrike Scheytt (center back) will make it sound again in the year of the organ. © Nikolai Schmidt / Archive

Ulrike Scheytt will give these four concerts, partly together with other musicians. The district cantor has other ideas for this year. “The musical education of children is very important to me,” she says. She would like to encourage students to compose for the organ and thus bring them closer to this great instrument. Or rehearse the “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns with children, which will be 100 years old in 2021. But nothing is certain.

The organ of St. James can only be experienced again in Advent

Diocesan church music director Thomas Seyda, cathedral cantor of the Catholic St. Jakobus Cathedral, regrets that “his organ” is not available in the year of the organ, because St. Jakobus is still closed due to the renovation. “The cathedral is not supposed to open again until Advent,” he says. Therefore, only the New Year’s Eve concert has been fixed in his planning for St. Jakobus.

Thomas Seyda at the organ of St. James' Cathedral.

Thomas Seyda at the organ of St. James’ Cathedral. © Raphael Schmidt / Diocese of Görlitz

He also welcomes the fact that the organ is becoming so important this year. Otherwise it is more likely to be honored on special birthdays or deaths of important composers, or most recently in 2017, when organ music was elevated to an intangible UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fact that a whole year is now devoted to the instrument gives the opportunity to show the many organs that Görlitz has. “Because we are really well equipped here.”

The historically most important organ in the city is the Sauer organ in the town hall, because it has been preserved as it was built in 1910. The sun organ in St. Peter’s Church is of course something very special, but not historical. “The third largest is then the one in St. Jakobus,” says Seyda. “The organ in Heilig Kreuz is also ‘substantially good’, but we are waiting for a general renovation.”

Diversity of organs is a treasure

For Reinhard Seeliger, what is special about the Görlitz organ landscape is above all the variety. “Each of our big churches has an organ from a different organ builder, so we are very gifted.” The Ladegast organ in the Dreifaltigkeitskirche from 1870, which was rebuilt several times and no longer sounds good, is something special. “But here it would be worth thinking about a restoration to the original shape of the organ as soon as it is clear what exactly will become of the church.”

Another Ladegast organ used to be in the hospital on Krölstrasse – today the old people’s and nursing home of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt – which later moved to a Görlitz high school. “What became of her afterwards is not known,” says Seeliger, “she is missing.”

The diversity of the organ landscape continues in the surrounding area, which, like Görlitz, was spared the war and therefore still has many historical organs, even if the sound is not always convincing. “The condition of the organs is often due to the commitment of the communities,” says Seeliger. One example is the wonderfully refurbished organ in Friedersdorf’s Church, the only surviving organ from the Arnold and Augustin company.

What connects Niesky with Namibia

A special feature is the organ of the Church of the Brethren on the Niesky Zinzendorfplatz, built by the Danish company Marcussen, which also had orders in Namibia. “This is how many organs in Namibia look like those in Niesky,” says Seeliger.

On the other side of the Neisse, organs can be found in their original state, especially in Protestant churches, because Poland only spent money on organs in Catholic churches. For the renovation of an organ in Lauban, the only organ built by the Görlitz organ builder Hermann Eichler from 1888, Seeliger’s Chamber Choir repeatedly gives benefit concerts.

A treasure trove of organs is nothing without organists. This is particularly lacking in the surrounding area. Ulrike Scheytt has many organ students and is proud that the children of some of her students are now playing in church services. “But it’s not enough,” says the district cantor. Thomas Seyda also says that it is not always easy to find musical accompaniment for all church services.

And Reinhard Seeliger still remembers the 1980s, when every single church had its own church musician. Fortunately, he knows enough organists who are willing, on a fee basis, to make the queen of instruments sound in church services.

You can read more news from Görlitz here.

Read more news from Niesky here.

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