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  • Writer's pictureNigel

🥳 Alle Jahre wieder....また毎年.....Every year....

2023 年 12 月 30 日

Palmengarten Frankfurt: Winterlichter/Winter lights


A friend of mine asked me if I would like to sing in his choir this Christmas. 🎵 I thought: Yes, why not? It would be a chance to see him and his family again. And I haven't sung since before Covid.

But then on reflection I thought: No, I simply cannot stand there and sing Stille Nacht or O LittleTown of Bethlehem whilst a miserable population is being bombed out of existence by its neighbour, and Christmas has been effectively cancelled in Bethlehem itself.

今年はキャロルを歌うのが難しいです。 ベツレヘムには訪問者がいません。

If I could compose a Christmas Carol 🎶 I would start with the title: "Where Have All the Wise Men Gone?". They are not leading countries, that's for sure. Around the world, leaders are either looking at their up-and-coming elections or are reacting like threatened animals. Or blinded by the past, as in Germany. Lashing out in anger is not clever. You know what I am talking about. Lord Balfour is probably turning in his grave by now. Or not.

But here is me actually expressing a sort of frustration directed at Christmas complacency. I need to think about that.


We live in an age where we’re told to express our anger, but in Buddhism or Quakerism, for example, this is a no-go. Acting out on anger makes it easier to do so again in the future, leading to a never-ending cycle. Those wise sages of old (and of today) advise us to neither bottle up nor let our emotions overflow, but to analyze them and come to understand the faulty thinking behind anger. Thought for the day from "The Towers" 😐.



On Christmas Eve I went to the Stadtkirche in Offenbach.

.......not out of any inner conviction, but because family were part of the musical offering.

I hadn't been to a church service, let alone a German protestant one, for a very long time. And I noticed a few things with fresh eyes. The priest all in black, except for a white tie affair at her neck. Reminded me of a funeral (I thought we were celebrating something).

Then there was this whole hymn singing business. She (the pastor) had to tell the congregation quite explicitly to stand up to sing Stille Nacht (yes, ironically, I had to sing this!) . This is because they don't normally stand up to sing. Which is of course, musically speaking, a disaster. But does it matter? The congregation mumbled through the hymns as if they sort of knew them anyway. Me? I was following the music of course. Which brought me into difficulty at one point. Like here: EG40 "Dies ist die Nacht....."


Here the organist played, and the congregation sang. But, as if there was a secret conspiracy, they followed a completely different tune. And nobody batted an eyelid.

The other pitfall for someone brought up in the English hymn singing tradition is the nasty "metric pattern" shock. Look at this first hymn....(Kommt und lasst uns Christus ehren). Look at where the strong and weak beats's the other way round to what you would expect. Hah! gottcha! 😄.

これは翻訳できません。 ごめん。

My brother reminded me that we used to sing this tune at Primary school, as "Jesus, good above all other".

Why/how did this develop? I'm not a musicologist, but it seems to me that the German version is more of a speaking rhythm, and the English version is more natural for a choir to sing. One is part of Luther's pioneering efforts to bring music into the church, the other is probably the work of the Victorians.

Note: To my great surprise I have discovered this Youtube channel.......A Scottish organist 🎹 working in the Westerwald who covers some of my points......


It was a relief when Joshua got up and sang Hugo Wolf's "Schlafendes Kind" (Sleeping Child). This is an exquisitely beautiful song which I had never heard before. It prompted me to look up Hugo Wolf. He didn't have a very happy life it seems, but he made it onto the pavement in Vienna....


Nor had I ever heard Peter Cornelius's "Die Hirten" (The Shepherds). A very strange song indeed. But I was moved to tears when Joshua sang the same composer's "Die Könige" (the Kings). This is because it flung me back to my childhood singing days. Cornelius wrote the song for voice and piano, but later added a sung chorale "Wie schön leuchtet die Morgenstern" after a suggestion by Franz Liszt. This was later translated into English, and was inserted into the first Carols for Choirs by David Willcocks. The rest is history.

懐古 / かいきゅう 懐旧.......日本語にはたくさんの言葉があります


On the way out of the church we all got given a Christmas gherkin. Yes, a gherkin. The pastor had tried to make this a theme for her sermon, but I had failed to grasp it (the sermon, not the gherkin).

Afterwards, when we had said goodbye to Rozane, who had played the organ and the piano, we headed out into Frankfurt for a meal (This was Christmas Eve, don't forget). We were in luck. At Ostendstrasse there was a Chinese restaurant open. This was much better than expected. The restaurant was warm, relaxed, and there was tons of food. And what's more, a student from the Musikhochschule (from the Chamber Music course) had her ipad propped up on the grand piano and and was playing a selection of old folk songs. and playing them very well. On a very nice piano🎵.

I put the Christmas gherkin on my tree when I got home.

教会の礼拝の後、私たちは素敵な中華レストランに行きました。 そこで音大生がピアノを弾いていました。

My landlady has just called round with some Plätzchen. Now that's a nice old German tradition. You bake biscuits and bring them round to your neighbours. Yummy....😋



A further thought on the singing thing. Yes, the singing in churches here is pretty low key (excuse the pun). But take a look into the world of community/town choirs and you see a very different picture. Here is Nik Myers conducting the Knabenchor (boys choir) in Göttingen. This choir has been running for decades, and is a sort of club in itself, going on tours and giving concerts....



Christmas Day. Roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussels Sprouts, gravy.......?

No way. Some of my family are vegetarian and we wanted to do something different. So I downloaded a recipe for the iconic Asian soup dish Ramen. Actually a simple street food dish, this has evolved in Europe into a fully-blown meal in itself. It is food for the soul. Could we achieve that tasty, nutty, taste? Getting the ingredients was a feat in itself.......

Some basics: ginger, Toban Djan (that Chinese chilli bean sauce), soya sauce, sake, miso, Spring onions, white pepper.......

クリスマス。 ラーメンを作ってみる!!

Toppings.....eggs, nori (seaweed) beansprouts and kimchi.....(a Korean spicy cabbage addition)

Shiitake, the tasty Japanese mushrooms.....

boiled eggs.....made in Germany by German hens....🐔

making the sauce.......

cooking the noodles......

getting it all together......

and sitting down to eat.....


Pretty good for a first effort! Just need to be a bit quicker next time (before it cools), and have the right sort of bowls. And be braver with the spices. We were using Italian-style pasta bowls. Ideally they should be more conical in shape.

次回はもっと早く調理しなければなりません。 ラーメン丼を買わなければなりません


Organizing a hike between Christmas and New Year has it's challenges. Everyone is away. Or so it seemed this week. Until fellow hiker Phe joined me at the last minute. The train timetable was in chaos (nothing unusual about that these days) but we managed to get on the same train.....which was weirdly empty.....

ダルムシュタットで自発的なハイキングを企画しました。 来れるハイカーは1人だけ!

I had planned a modest 10km walk in and around Darmstadt. We started at the Mathildenhöhe. The famous architectural complex, built between 1899-1914 and funded by the Duke of Hessen. That was before the madness of WWI started........


Here we see the entrance to the Ernst Ludwig House, built as a sort of communal atelier/workshop, following plans drawn up by Joseph Maria Olbrich. I think it is great.

Wall design.......1900. The originality of it all is remarkable. This place is unique.

Strange climbing humans can also be spotted in the grounds.....


And little furry friends.....

We did a circular walk, meaning that when we got back 2 hours or so later, darkness had fallen.......Here is the exhibition Hall, with the "Five finger" tower.....also called the "Hochzeitsturm" (Wedding Tower) because there is a registry office on the top floor. A cool place to sign the registry in a Jugendstil ambiente.


The Russian Orthodox church......

Walking back to the centre of town we passed through the Schloss, which houses the university library and a museum....


So there are things to see at this dreary time of year. Not only in Darmstadt. My guest from Tokyo has by now "done" Munich and has sent me this picture of St. Peter's church........Never been there myself. Funny how sometimes you need a visitor to make you aware of what is around you.


🕯️ Thank you for reading "..Alle Jahre Wieder."


🕯️ Feel free to share the blog with friends.


🕯️ And and I enjoy hearing from you...!


🥳 Wishing you all a Happy New Year! 🥳

あけましておめでとう! Or if you are reading before the 1st January, then it's






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