1741 Silbermann
1741 Silbermann

Alsace Tour: 2022 (come along with us!)


Hello, Pipedreams friends...

I believe many of you, past travelers and those who have shown interest in our PIPEDREAMS tours in preceding years, now have received a note from Janet Tollund, explaining the changes brought about over the past months. Janet and Cynthia and the crew at Accolades Tours did wonderful work for PIPEDREAMS, beginning back in 2001, which I (and all who travelled under their care) appreciate and salute. As Janet indicated, with her recommendation, KI Concerts will be our new ‘tour manager’ as we move forward. 

With the Covid trendlines in Europe and most parts of the US heading gradually in the right direction and with, for me, an uncommon degree of optimism, I believe this is the right time to reach out to you about our 2022 Tour of Historic Organs in Alsace. Our visits will focus on important and interesting instruments around Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Colmar, France. Typically, this is an adventure for the organ-lover, offering in depth involvement with access (often hands-on) to instruments that played an important role in the early 20th century ‘organ revival’, a movement that soon had an international reach. I feel this is the right moment to set get in gear again, and there’s no better place than this area in eastern France and its instruments which eventually had a worldwide impact.

The tour proposal, linked here: Pipedreams 2022 Alsace Organ Tour, outlines our adventuresome itinerary. We request your initial expression of interest ASAP, prior to any initial deposit. Please just email me at mbarone@mpr.org if it is your intention to join us for this tour. If we have the numbers necessary to advance with our plan, then we’ll send you an invitation to make your initial deposit of $250 by no later than November 15, 2021.

I wish to draw your attention to some important details:

1. We are asking you to email your expression of interest first.

2. The first payment of $250 due by November 15, 2021, can be made via this Registration Portal which is also linked in the proposal.

3. The price of $5845 does not include airfares to and from Europe and you will be needing to make these arrangements independently.

As a convenience, we will have two bus transfers to and from Frankfurt airport on the arrival and departure days timed to meet most incoming flights on May 7 and departing ones on May 21, should you wish to use them.

4. KI Concerts offers a 75% refund up to 120 days prior to travel, but you are strongly urged to source travel insurance to protect you further, as you feel the need.

5. Please be aware this tour does entail some occasionally strenuous walking, such as on days when the buses are not able to come close to the destination churches, etc.

With the gradual implementation of vaccinations and booster shots here and in Europe, my hope is that careful and successful group travel will be a very real possibility next spring. Some of us already have been stretching our legs and testing the waters, with good results. I recently took my first airplane trip since February 2020 (to Philadelphia to host Wanamaker Organ Day) and soon will head to Montreal for the finals of the Canadian International Organ Competition. Life goes on, and we might as well be part of it. 

The region of Alsace, on the west bank of the Upper Rhine, has been in an active cultural dynamic since the establishment of a wine-making industry there by the Romans in 58 BC. Since then, through the rules of Clovis and Lothar, Charles the Bald and Louis the German, and later as a result of realignments during the Holy Roman Empire, the culture has existed in a lively tension between German and French influences which happily now advantageously coexist in a balanced blend.

Certainly we all benefitted from the decision of Andreas Silbermann (1678-1734) to leave his native Saxony and learn the craft of organ building in Alsace, where his instruments represent a canny cohabitation of French éclat and German gravitas. Some of this style was transferred by his younger brother and apprentice Gottfried (1683-1753) when he returned home to work for the Saxon king, building stellar instruments quite unlike the central-German norm (which some of you may have seen and heard during our most recent PIPEDREAMS Tour).

This tension resurfaced at the turn of the twentieth century when Emile Rupp, a student of Widor and organist at St. Paul's Church in Strasbourg, entered into a heated debate with Adolphe Gessner, organist of the garrison church, St. Maurice, over the relative quality of the 'new' organs of the day (by primarily German builders) as compared with the 'vintage' French-leaning instruments from Silbermann and his son. Since these Silbermann organs also proved themselves as excellent vehicles for the music of Bach, it was not long before Albert Schweitzer, a native of Alsace from Gunsbach, joined in the fray and the 'organ reform' movement was begun.

I hope you will be able to join me over a glass of Alsacian wine to discuss the distinct qualities of German and French instruments, the relative merits of historicity and progress, and the delight we all should celebrate in differences.  An amazing Alsacian Adventure is guaranteed!

Michael Barone