Reading My Way Around the World

Saturday 14 June 2014

Looking Back Over our German Tour.

The venue in Gross Schauen
This morning I'm catching up on reading around everyone's blogs, having an unexpected morning to myself.
We're just back from a packed 7 day tour around Germany - 6 gigs in that time - and a very unexpected weather boom which soared up to 35C (high 90s in Faherenheit).   While it was fantastic to have heat for a week, I can fully understand now why everyone complains when the temperature stays up around 100F - it's impossible to do much - I was feeling very drained by the end of the week.   thankfully all our concerts were in the evenings so the temperature had dropped considerably and the wonderful German efficiency ensured air conditioning in most buildings.   Our one worry was that people wouldn't come out to a show when it was so warm, but we were delightfully surprised and had good audiences everywhere we went.

The tour...
So we flew into Hannover so that we could pick up Tom's congas which were left with a friend near there - then straight on to Kiel.
Our first morning there we had a very early start - up at 7am to catch a ferry to Hallig Hooge - it's a 90 minute drive to Schuttsiel where the ferry leaves from and as we haired along the roads with only minutes to spare our guide and friend Barney was hastily making contingency plans in case we missed the boat.   I'd been following some friends on Facebook doing 100 days of happiness posts and when I saw the ferry waiting for us I thought there's my first day of happiness!!!
So happy to see the ferry!

I've written about the Hallig before here - "a handful of soil in the sea" is the title of one book about the place - right in the middle of the sea … This was our fourth visit, but the first one in good weather - the horse drawn carriages were out to take the day trippers and everyone was busy at the cafes.  
Day trippers
Barney, me, Joern, Maike and Tom after the gig
We wandered around, slept for a few hours, had typical Nordsee dinner and got ready for the evening which turned out to be a lot of fun.   Joern and Maike at the venue were great fun and I had to resist having yet another glass of schnapps at the end of the night.

Cos once again it was a 7am start to catch the 8o'clock ferry back to the Mainland - three early mornings on the trot don't sit too well with us - I used to be an early morning person, but you can't have late nights and early mornings - now I function best if I can sleep until about 9.

Anyway, we decided to detour on our way back to Kiel to check out the next night's gig in Eckerfoerde.   We were told it was a tiny cafe, that it was sold out and that we wouldn't need any PA system.   But I hate singing without a good sound system  - we turn the volume down if the audience gets too noisy and it's a great way of controlling the overall volume of the room.   Organisers often freak when they see a sound system coming in and no matter how we reassure them that we're not loud they are never convinced until the gig is half way over.   Tom plays very subtle percussion parts - bodhran (the Irish drum), eggs and other shakers, and congas to keep a rhythm - if we play without amplification, all that subtlety is lost plus we end up forcing our voices to be heard.   Bearing in mind too that our audience are not native English speakers, although the level of English is good, it's a lot of work to keep them interested all evening and if they can't hear us clearly then they're even more inclined to start chatting with their friends.   We leave lots of breaks throughout the evening so that they can chat away uninterrupted and then listen to us uninterrupted.

Anyway we met up with the owner, cased the joint! and went into the beautiful little market town for lunch al fresco beside the market - there was one stand selling tomatoes - I have never seen so many varieties of tomato - there must have been 14 or 15 different breeds.   Wow!   They really no how to do it over here.

And on to Kiel - another quick sleep and then a quick meal - a pasta place where they cook everything fresh in front of you - then sound check and gig.  This is our 3rd time playing in the Kulturforum in Kiel and again the audience were a delight, the sound was fabulous and the Pflammkuchen afterwards was the treat at the end of the night.   I got chatting to some Polish people who were in the audience on a school exchange with some teachers and students from Kiel.  WE got invited to  Poland - wouldn't that be an adventure?!  I'd love to do that - will keep you posted on developments.

At the fjord in Eckerfoerde
The next day we had a few hours free for a bit of shopping and then back out to Eckerfoerde - and once we got set up, and dodged the owner's angst about sound, we ended up getting changed in the car but went on to have another great night.    The place was packed - a much older audience but they all sang along when we asked them to and joined in very well.

A long journey next day to the other side of Berlin - over 5 hours driving including an hour in a Stau (the German word for a traffic jam).   There's still a lot of roadworks going on and a beer lorry had tipped over in the middle of the single lane traffic.

Drinks outside at the interval

Breakdfast the next morning with Detlev, Lutz, Tom and Katya
I've already mentioned Gross Schauen - it's a tiny little village - 148 residents - and we played in the mediaeval church - which only holds about 60 people - again we were told to do it acoustically without PA but a couple of local musicians very kindly leant us their PA and came up and sang a song with us at the end and gave us a fabulous breakfast the next morning before sending us on our way via a quick stop off to meet old friends Gueno and Jutta for lunch on the way.  We had a very swift catch up - and made plans to spend more time in Berlin on our next visit.  

Next stop Annahuette.   This was for their first Celtic Festival and we were chuffed to realise that we were top of the bill - an honour indeed.  There were Irish dancers, Scottish pipers from Dresden, two lovely girls playing harps and guitars and singing and a group of 6 musicians from Leipzig playing Dubliners style songs.
Dresden Pipers

Roasting hot in the marquee
A beer tent, a coffee and cake stall and of course a whiskey stand - the German festivals love whiskey - this particular shop had 100 different varieties of Scotch and Irish whiskey as well as some whiskey liqueurs  - Irish Mist and so on - and the guy in the kilt seemed well versed in all of them.  On our very first visit to Annahuett years ago, I was enticed into a glass of whiskey with the elders of the town council - three lovely men who laughed all evening.  I made the mistake of writing in their guest book "Please, no more whiskey!" and now they think I drink nothing else - oh dear.   I can just about manage one liqueur - sorry to disillusion you guys.

Our last stop then was to Munich, to our friends Alison and Frank who were the first people to give us a gig in Germany 21 years ago.  We've stayed friends ever since and always have great fun with them.   It was so hot in Munich that we stayed indoors most of the time and lounged around their patio in the evening eating Alison's great food and talking nonsense while solving the problems of the world.

Our friend Frank introducing us at the Irish Folk Club in Munich
And our last gig on Monday night was in their Irish folk club - I was surprised and delighted to meet a lady who had been at our gig in Eckerfoerde on Thrusday night - the very north of the country and now meeting up in the very south - she was visiting her daughter for the Whit weekend.    And also to come across some visitors from Bulgaria plus a man from Belfast and some good friends of ours from down in Kempten who had travelled nearly 2 hours to our concert.   I find that very humbling, that people will take the time and trouble to do that.

So all in all it was a wonderful week.   We had both been a bit nervous about doing a tight run like that - we're not as young or as fit as we once were and weren't sure that we could manage.    But we did, albeit we're totally exhausted now, but it was fun and do-able again.   I've already started plans moving for next years visit, but now it's on to the next thing - recording the new CD.


  1. Hi Fil - it sounds as though it was an amazing time - and you managed to fit everything in without any major hassles - I can see the point about having the PA system as a controlling factor ... and as a quality control too ...

    Being pretty unmusical I'm sure I'd love your softer concerts, because they'll give off wonderful rhythms and lyrics and have that amazing ambience without being drowned out with all hell let loose! .. but I admire your stamina ... obviously you have a lovely rapport with many .. especially as some travelled so far to see you and more than once ...

    Good luck with the CD and welcome back to Ireland .. from down here in Sussex .. cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks Hilary -it must be beautiful down in Sussex at the minute ... we were there for the first time a few years back ... gorgeous part of the world.

  2. Lovely to have you back after your very successful tour. Wonderful to hear all about it and see the photos. You must be exhausted so have a restful end to the weekend. Tschüß :)

  3. Sounds like it all went very well and that you were much appreciated. Tickled me to have Scottish pipers from Dresden!! Bet you are glad to be home though. Have a good rest.

    1. They were really excellent too Jo :)

  4. This sounds like a great tour. Makes me long for my old days when I toured with a theater company. It's so cool to go from town to town playing different stages in different venues before a new audience each night. I'd love to do it again.

    Tossing It Out

    1. Thanks Arlee .... yes there's something really special about it ... it must have been great doing that with a theatre company ...

  5. It is great when things go well. I hate travelling these days I turn into an old grump. The very best of luck with the CD, it is always good to have CD's at gigs they tend to sell really well if folk get to see and hear you in the flesh.

    1. Thanks Rob - it's a lot less grumpy making travelling by car and ferry than by plane ... I find that so stressful.

  6. Sounds like a Hot tour ~ in every sense of the word!

  7. Fil, I wish I'd known you were going to be in Germany. We'd have tried to come see time!

    1. Aw it would have been lovely to meet you Corinne - I'll keep you posted ... We'll not be back again until October 2015 ... why not put your name on my mailing list - I send out a newsletter before tours.


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