Ok, in my last blog diary entry I extolled the virtues of a visit to the Olympic Stadium to see the Bundesliga club Hertha BSC. Now I did this with a bit of a bad conscience as I know in the ongoing quest to live more modestly on the planet over 50000 people traveling every other week from all over Berlin, Brandenburg and from further afield to a football stadium is notreally a great idea.
Far better in fact that we should all stay in our Kiez, our local area , and watch a local amateur team or even kids playing in the park, and support local artists and musicians, in local cafes, bars and venues.
One of the best gigs I ever attended was in the backyard of an irish pub, the Bullingdon Arms in Oxford. Two french guys, one singer and guitarrist and the other, a violin player. Didn’t understand a word yet it was magical. And last week there was another truly magical evening just around the corner.
The former silent film cinema, the Dephi, so literally around the corner in Gustav Adolf strasse in Weissensee that I can still walk there, is a cultural gem. Built in 1929 it is one of the few remaining original silent film cinemas in Germany. It was closed as a cinema in 1959 when bits of the roof started to fall down and it has been since then an organ concert hall and salesroom, a storage space and just left abandoned. But thank goodnews in this period in the old DDR, there was no money even to pull the building down.
These days it hosts theatre and cabaret shows, swingers parties (apparently you don’t need to advertise, people who need to know just somehow know….) and music events.
The building is of course now safe but is essentially just a shell with bare plaster on the walls and ceilings, a bar, some tables and chairs and some clever lighting. The sparsity of decor only adds to the central attraction of the original three stone arches above the stage. And to access it in a wheelchair there’s a side door and then no steps once you’re inside…and there’s a disabled loo.
Cameron Carpenter is an American with a base here in Berlin and is perhaps the world’s best known organist. Which may not be saying a lot in a lot of places. But if anyone has the combination of charm, modesty and incredible talent to make the organ a topic in every local in the land then its probably him. He looks like an eighties era punk with leather jacket and mohican, although admittedly better nourished and without the glue induced greenish tinge to his skin.
Cameron chatted with the audience before being ushered to the stage by, as is the German way, a bout of impatient clapping. The organ, he has another in New York, has been designed by Cameron himself and, as with its many metre high speakers, it folds neatly back into specially designed travelling cases. Cameron is taking the organ on a European tour in the coming months.
He opened with Bach and played a range of classical pieces, including an, at times, remarkably delicate piece by Scriabin. The Dambusters theme demonstrated the surging emotional power of the instrument.
But the undoubted highlight of the evening came in the second half with a screening of the Buster Keaton short film ‘One Week’ (1920) to which Cameron improvised an accompaniment. He returned later in the evening to play some more and chat to the remaining members of the audience. It says a great deal for his modesty and sensitivity that he was quite happy to let the film and the Delphi take centre stage as the climax of the evening.