The Same but Different

Dearest Family and Friends (and perhaps friends of friends who stumbled upon our blog via Facebook – welcome, make yourselves at home),

Our apologies for the extended break of writing.  It is pretty lame to start a blog and not maintain it.  That being said, the first half of this year was one of the most intense times of our lives, with all systems go running at full throttle.  I’ve said that from January to July it felt like we were sprinting a marathon.  Basically at the end of December we decided to get married and set our sights on a July wedding, thus giving us roughly six months to throw the whole thing together, and in February I launched a new chapter of Opera on Tap in Berlin with a friend, then somewhere along the line I started preparations for grad school auditions in June, so on top of everything we were already doing, trying to eek out a living and establish ourselves in a brand new city/country, in a foreign language no less… life got pretty crazy for a while.  Gosh, my adrenaline starts pumping just thinking about it.

I’ve been meaning to write our re-introduction to this blog pretty much since we got back to Berlin three weeks ago today, but again it took a lot of energy to get settled. On top of all of that we were doing outlined in the paragraph above, we also found out we had to move two weeks before we were slated to come home for the wedding, so we had to move out our stuff into storage before we left and find a new place to return to in August.

I had never been to the apartment or the neighborhood where our new apartment was located. We had to divide and conquer to keep our heads above water in June and David was in charge of the new apartment search.  It was the strangest feeling, getting off of the airplane, returning to a city where we had been living for 10 months and not having any sense of familiarity – not just with our living situation, but also with our life circumstances.  It felt like the activity of the first half of the year came to a big swirling crescendo with our trip home, then fell off to near complete silence upon our return.  Planning the wedding and preparing for auditions took up so much time and energy and with both of those things behind us now, it felt a bit like we were starting our life here over again.  Not completely, of course.  We returned to phenomenal friendships and nearly a years worth of experiences that inform how we move forward, but because the projects on which we spent the bulk our time were temporal and ended at the same time, it felt like coming back to a complete tabula rasa.  The pages of my planner haven’t been this empty in months.

For me, the first week home was terrifying and difficult to deal with.  I will be upfront that the results of the auditions were not what I’d hoped.  I am proud of the performance I gave, but auditions are rarely very meritocratic.  There was one spot open at the school I wanted to go to, and while I made it to the second round, It doesn’t matter how well I sang if they were looking for a tenor.  These are the things you can’t know going into auditions, so the only thing that you can really base your success upon is your own personal measure of how you performed, and I feel I’ve never performed better.  The process of preparing for the audition, while it got us kicked out of our apartment (lots of complaints from the neighbors about too much singing), was truly transformational in my journey as a musician.  Thus, I view the auditions as a success.  That doesn’t mean it stings any less to tell people if they ask how my auditions went that I didn’t get in.  While I know it is not true, a part of me feels like I failed at my intended reason for coming to Germany.  So the first week of being home was a lot of having to reframe my purpose for being here, even down to the legality of it all.  For example, my visa appointment is coming up in September.  I’m currently on a study preparation visa that was meant to turn into a full-fledged student visa and that’s not going to happen.  The immigration stuff will sort itself out, but it still felt like a mini-identity crisis.

I don’t feel freaked anymore, like I was when we first came home.  The fact remains that there is no better city for opera than Berlin and thanks to the past ten months here, I’m lucky to have met a dream team of teachers, coaches, mentors and friends to help me on my journey.  And if nothing else, there is always Opera on Tap!  This week has been a very good week in Berlin OOT history.  We had a phenomenal show on Tuesday and experienced not one, but TWO write ups in the press.  The first being Berlin English language social/cultural site called Berlin Logs and the second in the Berliner Morgenpost.  I have to tell you, it is a special feeling buying a copy of the newspaper knowing that you will be featured therein.  After all of that, the blank pages of my planner seem more exciting and full of possibility than scary.  I’m actually rather appreciating the break as I take time to reflect as to what I want for my future and the steps that need to be taken to get there.

Now that we are mostly settled in, we are starting to tackle thank you cards for the wedding.  Actually, that was the big inspiration for why I sat down to write this blog.  In writing to our friends and family, we have been reliving our wedding experience and I am so overwhelmed with all that everyone did to make it a success and the tremendous outpour of love and support we received that I couldn’t wait until we finished writing the cards to express our gratitude.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  You know who you are :).

Well, that’s all for now, I believe.  We’ll keep you posted on our adventure in finding a new apartment (the one we are in now is only temporary) and what we decide to do with all of our spare time.

With love,

Sarah & David

P.S. To round off this post, here are a few of my favorite pictures from the wedding (if you want to see more, here is a link to the Dropbox gallery).

2015 Recap Gallery

Sometime in early January, I started taking German lessons at the Volkshochschule on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-9:15 pm and since then my weeks have definitely felt a lot shorter.  That being said, before we get too deep into 2015 I want to get caught up on this blog.  I’ve used the picture captions to give a quick overview of some of the highlights of our year so far.  At the end of January we went to Paris for a week so I could sing with Karine in a performance at her daughter’s school, though we didn’t bring our camera so it is not outline in the photos below.  This weekend we go to London to meet up with my mom, who is in the UK for work.  There.  You’re all caught up :).

Frohes Neues!

Happy New Year from the Birds of Berlin!  May this be the year where all of your New Year’s Resolutions come true!  One of my personal goals for 2015 is to write more for this blog and take more pictures to share with friends and family.  We live a full life here in Berlin, which is awesome, but it has meant that our blog often falls by the wayside.  We have several posts that we’ve intended to write, or are halfway written, but then life happens and it becomes hard to find a spare moment to sit down at the computer.   This New Year’s post happens to be one of them.

That being said, in honor of 2015, I, Sarah Ring, solemnly swear that we are going to finish those posts and finally share them, even though the content might be a little outdated.  Please bear with us until we get caught up!

While we’re on the subject, here are some pictures from our New Year’s Eve celebration.  Some background info:

When David and I first moved here, we went to Ikea.  I’m pretty sure this is standard for just about every move made worldwide.  Oh, you moved?  Time to go to Ikea!

Either way, while we were there we saw a woman carrying a very large rug.  David offered to help her carry it and through that exchange we struck up a conversation.  Turns out she and her husband recently moved into a new apartment in Berlin.  It just so happens they moved to Prenzlauer Berg, which is where we live!  Berlin is a big city, so this was a bit remarkable.  We ended up meeting up for drinks about a week later and when we started walking home we noticed were all headed the same direction.  It turns they live on the same street we do – it just has a different name because it is on the other side of Schönhauser Allee, the big main street that runs through Prenzlauer Berg down to the Mitte.

Since then we’ve struck up a nice relationship.  Curiously enough, we were both in Paris the same weekend this past November, so we were able to meet up with our Berlin neighbors for dinner…in Paris.  They seem to be our newfound friends of strange coincidences.

They hosted a phenomenal New Year’s Eve party and we were lucky to be among their company when we rang in the New Year.  You’ll notice everyone looks a little 70s and this was on purpose.  The evening had a theme – Derrick, the murder mystery TV show that took Germany by storm which had its debut in 1974.  Alex and Philippe are super creative and put together an entire mystery for us to solve complete with props and alter egos.

Another special addition to the beginning of the new year was a visit by my good friend, Lidy.  We met at UofM while she was doing a study exchange.  She is Dutch and currently lives in Belgium, so we most often see one another when I am on her side of the world.  It had been about 2 1/2 years since our last rendezvous, so it was a real treat to be able to catch up.  More on Lidy’s visit in another post.

Update #1, complete.  Here’s to 2015!

“Vitamin B” in Düsseldorf

Sarah and I recently visited Düsseldorf. We went to the Opera and saw Aida, hung out with friends, and toured the Opern am Rhein in Düsseldorf.

Düsseldorf Altstadt

What prompted Sarah and me to go to Düsseldorf was the chance to meet several people. While in South Africa, Sarah’s mother had connected with a fellow Enneagram superstar in named Bea, who was going to be spending some time in Düsseldorf visiting her brother and sister-in-law–both of whom are musicians. And Bea suggested that we should all meet. Bea’s brother is Patrick, who is a resident conductor at the Opern am Rhein in Düsseldorf, and his wife Stephanie is an opera singer.

Bea, Stephanie, Patrick, Stephanie’s brother Felix and we all went to brunch together at the Altstadt (old city) in Düsseldorf, a nice place called “Bazaar.” We ate German breakfast (bread and things to put on it, and one hard boiled egg), and we learned an important lesson from our time with Bea, Patrick, Stephanie, and Stephanie’s brother; that is, in Opera, one should get a healthy dose of “Vitamin B,” that is, Beziehung, or connections. We laughed about that, and other similarities and differences between the US and Germany.

After brunch, Patrick took us on a tour of the opera house, which provided us a behind the scenes view at all of the work involved in preparing an opera.

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Coincidentally, Sarah’s friend KK’s boyfriend–his name is Dominik–lives in Düsseldorf, so he mailed us his keys and we were able to stay at his place. Neither Sarah nor I were comfortable with this, but Dominik insisted and insured the keys for 500€, so we were all kind of hoping they would be lost. “That way we could all have a nice dinner,” Dominik said. Staying with Dominik was a pleasure and an honor. After knowing Dominik for about a year, it was fun to spend time with him–just the subtle nuances that one picks up from being with someone, like their sense of humor, mannerisms, and so forth.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and we cannot thank Bea, Stephanie, Patrick, Felix, Dominik, and Michael (Dominik’s roommate) for their hospitality and kindness.

Lost in Translation

Tonight, It is just after midnight the night before David’s visa appointment.  He is out printing documents he needs for said appointment at a print shop conveniently open until 12 a.m. every day of the week (even Sunday!!).  My visa appointment was last Tuesday morning and we were doing exactly the same thing last Monday night – we left the shop around 11:45 p.m.

This has me thinking about a story one of our new friends here in Berlin told us while we were walking the Berlin wall light exhibition.  She was telling us about how she was in German class, trying to explain to her German teacher the meaning of “procrastination” or “to procrastinate” in reference to an application she had put off doing until last-minute.  Her teacher didn’t entirely understand.  She was like, “You mean, you knew you there was an important thing you had to do by a certain date and you decided to wait until now to get started?  You knew you had something to do and decided not to do it?”

Apparently, the word “procrastination does not translate very well.  Google translate gives me Verzögerung {f}, but I get the sense this word more encompasses a delay – something outside of your control*.  According to Germans, why would one choose to actively avoid doing something important they knew very well they had to do?

I had to cancel a hair cut due to last-minute travel plans and google translate suggested I use the phrase “Last Minute Reisepläne” to explain why I would not be able to make my appointment.  To me, this says the whole idea of doing something last-minute comes from the English-speaking world.

When I was growing up, my mother would call me “Last Minute Louise”, in reference to my tendency to procrastinate school assignments and deadlines in general.  I’ve gotten a lot better, but not enough to have gotten a good nights sleep before my appointment last week.  On his way out this evening, David said, “It’s a good thing we both don’t have a tendency to push things off, isn’t it?”  Kidding, obviously.

Perhaps living in Germany will help us forget the meaning of the word procrastination.  After last week, I know I certainly have a renewed commitment to planning things out in advance.  The stress of last-minute preparation has certainly gotten old.  I have known this for a while (thanks Mom), but last week was certainly a good reminder.

Just some thoughts on my mind while I put off going to bed….

The Lightness of the Berlin Wall

Remnants of the Wall are everywhere in Berlin. Sometimes they are prominently displayed, ripped from their origins and installed like an exhibition in a museum. In other places, they are hidden–anonymous, half shrouded in brush alongside a train station. Or, they are overtly commemorated, as they are at the Berlin Wall Memorial.

While the title of the “Berlin Wall Memorial” is somewhat un-ceremonial, this memorial captures the starkness of the wall with tall, vertical bars of iron tracing where the wall stood–like a jail cell.

Sarah at the Berlin Wall Memorial

Potsdamer Platz also seems to capture the duality of the city–that is, a bright future atop a dark past, though at Potsdamer Platz, the present has overtaken the past; all that remains of the wall are a few large pieces standing outside the entrance of the shopping center, which has been built on what was formerly no-man’s land (i.e., a sparse, heavily guarded boundary on the east side of the wall–the communist side–where snipers in guard towers watched the border 24-hours a day). Though inside the shopping center is an entire exhibition devoted to the history of the wall in Berlin.

Now Potsdamer Platz contains a large office park with modern architecture, a shopping mall, fancy coffee shops, and a significant train station. When Sarah and I first saw Potsdamer Platz and the exhibition there, I was somewhat appalled at the people taking selfies and family photos in front of the pieces of the wall. They were mocking it, instead of paying reverence to the suffering it symbolized. But since then my opinion has changed. The scar of the wall remains as the city has rebounded, rebuilt, and reunited around its progress toward its new history.

On the 9th of November, 2014, Berlin celebrated the 25-year anniversary of the fall of the wall. To commemorate the fall of the wall, the city of Berlin allowed two artists to trace the wall in illuminated, helium balloons. And on the 9th of November, the public released all of the balloons with messages–prayers–for the current and future generations to know about the wall.

It’s here that I learned that the horror of history can be treated lightly. That the mark of division, suffering, while torn down, must not cause fear, but inspire hope, awareness, and courage. I think the Germans understood this better than I.

So, when a new friend suggested we join his group and walk the length of the wall, Sarah and I said yes. It was a great walk, gripping, bustling, but lighthearted. We laughed and talked as we meandered through the exhibition–the former place of the wall–and between sips of beer, remembered the gravitas of it all.

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Our Neighbor Isa

The world is full of numerous seemingly meaningless connections and interactions. Yet, when a coincidence seems more significant than mere chance, I believe it is important to observe it, and to try and learn from it. For example, our neighbor across the hall, Isa, happens to be a Buddhist. This is a significant coincidence, because when I was an angsty 17 year-old, I discovered Existentialism – which is a rather defeatist, and at times, nihilistic philosophy (and may have made me more angsty, but that is another story). Once in college, a friend introduced me to Buddhism, which seems to be the best antidote to the despairing truths of Existentialism. At the time, when I was 20 and 21, I was inspired to write a novel about a young woman who travels to India in order to seek out enlightenment. While I never got past the first chapter or my research of Buddhism, I learned a lot about it.

Our Neighbor Isa

Although she is our neighbor, we met Isa because she has an agreement with our landlord that she can use the washing machine and the internet, both of which are located in our apartment. Thankfully, Isa is an incredibly charming, intelligent person who speaks fluent English and German. She also used to live in our apartment, and knows our landlord way better than we do, so obviously, she has first-dibs.

Soon after we met Isa, she had a look of concern in her eyes. She said, “You shouldn’t download any music or videos in Germany, because the German entertainment industry, ‘GEMA‘ heavily fines people for this.” That advice was just one invaluable piece of information Isa has shared with us.

Isa also happens to be our German language instructor three times per week (my mom suggested that we ask her to tudor us; best suggestion ever). Isa is the best teacher ever because of several reasons:

  • Isa is a native German speaker
  • Isa speaks fluent English
  • Isa understand the cultural nuances of Germany, because she has traveled extensively (Bolivia, Guatemala, Switzerland, India, and several other countries)
  • Isa is very patient and likes to laugh
  • Isa is our neighbor

Isa is so good at teaching us German, that Germans are talking to us in German, because our accents are tricking them into thinking we can speak German. For example, Isa is teaching us how to properly pronounce words that would otherwise all sound the same to us. See below:


*Not a real word, but translates into something like “Naked bar.”

You can understand why pronunciation is important. We can’t just run around calling our neighbors “naked bars.”

Sarah and I laugh because if our heads were in one, we would be amazing at speaking German, because of my knowledge of German vocabulary and grammar and her pronunciation skills–although Sarah has been studying German diligently in preparing for her application for her Masters program, so she is learning very quickly.

Together, Isa, Sarah and I sometimes have dinner together. Isa is committed to her practice of Buddhism, a tenet of which is ahimsa, or harmlessness, so we eat vegetarian when we do. Sarah and I have enjoyed the challenge of preparing savory, nutritious, vegetarian meals even before we came to Germany, so it has been fun to share that experience together.

Isa is incredibly creative. Currently she is designing patterns for a client in the U.S. Also, together Isa, Sarah, and I are working on developing a mobile application. We will see how that goes, though we are feeling confident about it, but because Berlin is one of the tech start-up centers of Europe. Keep your fingers crossed for us! (or as the Germans say, drückt uns die Daumen!)

As I said earlier, Isa is preparing to move to India for several months to continue studying how to read and write Tibetan, which she hopes to use to deepen her understanding and practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Regrettably, we will lose our neighbor for that time, but it is an important journey for her. During these past two months, Isa has provided us many laughs, casual social connection, and deeper understanding of Germany; and brought me closer to spiritualism than I have had in several years, and for all of that, we are very, very grateful to Isa.

If you can help Isa, she has a GoFundMe set up to help cover the costs of her travel and lodging in India. The bulk of the cost is in airfare, because she will be living for $5 – $10 per day in India by living in a Buddhist Nunnery for some of her time there. Sarah and I recently donated, and maybe you can help her too (presuming our app idea doesn’t sell for millions;). Here is the link if you would like to help: (Isa uses the name “Yon Tong” on Facebook).

Isa used to work for Jägermeister. And she is still friends with one of her former colleagues, who happens to own a bar, and throws an annual Halloween party. Isa invited Sarah and I to go, and below are some pictures from it.

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All in all, we can’t thank Isa enough for the knowledge, the laughs, and the companionship.

Swamp City: Berlin

Berlin is a wet city. It rains a lot, and it has numerous rivers, lakes, and streams, a sampling of which we have included in photographs. On average, the water table is merely 8 feet below the surface. This means damp basements that can flood or grow mold.

Ironically, the Germans have been serious water conservationists for the past 20 years, despite how lush their country is. Subsequently in places like Berlin, the reduction in water use and reduced population has partly contributed to the rise of the water table. To offset the rising water table, Berliners would have to increase their water consumption by 50%, a geologist stated in the Wall Street Journal recently.

What this means is that sometimes parts of the city stink (as any large city is wont to do), because there is not enough water flowing through the sewers to thoroughly flush them, and the sewage begins to stagnate. Though also partly to blame, the engineers who built the sewer pipes in the city built the pipes larger, in anticipation of increased water usage and population growth in the city.

Because of the high water table, to build in Berlin, the water must be piped to the nearest canal. Thus, throughout Berlin–especially in the city center (the Mitte)–there are bright pink, blue, and violet pipes overhead that send the water to the nearest canal.

Nevertheless, with all of the lakes, canals, and rivers, finding beauty in Berlin requires little effort. One encounters a park or nature or water very quickly in Berlin–an important juxtaposition for any urban jungle. For example, on a beautiful, sunny Sunday in October, Sarah and I rode our bicycles 20-minutes to Weisser See, where we had a picnic and I went swimming.

Perhaps the downside is that the city feels wet, humid, at all times. One evening, Sarah and I could not distinguish whether it had rained recently or not, because the dew was so abundant.


Behmstrasse Bridge, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, looking east.

Overall, the humidity is good for many things. It insulates Europe from the cold (Berlin is 52-degrees North, approximately 10-degrees North of Detroit!). Additionally, I estimate the high humidity could be ideal for the making and curing of salami. While I am neither equipped nor ready to experiment making salami, at least I can hang it in my apartment until I research this further.


Garlic, Salami, and Chilis Hanging in the Kitchen

While I have learned that peanuts in the shell (the peanut is Sarah’s basic staple, I think) will soon become soft in this weather, we look forward to discovering the climate here as the year progresses. Overall, there are lots of lovely things to do along the many rivers and canals in Berlin.

We look forward to discovering more about the city and it’s connection with water throughout the city (in the air, on the surface, and in the ground).

Übung macht den Meister

Since we’ve been here, I haven’t experienced anything I’ve found to be too out of the ordinary.  I’ll be honest, life in Berlin is much like our life in Detroit.  We work, we have our meals at home, we see friends from time to time.  I work on progressing as an opera singer and occasionally David brings home abandoned objects he finds on his walks around the city*.  When we leave the house, it just so happens that we need to speak German!  That is perhaps the biggest difference.

Everybody who told us that we don’t need to speak German because “all Germans speak English”,  you are completely wrong.  Most Germans might speak some English, but when it comes down to it most Germans would rather speak German.  Of course there are exceptions, but in our neighborhood in particular we have to be prepared to only understand 30% of what is said to us if we ask somebody a question.  I took a semester of German to fulfill my degree requirements and David has several years of study behind him, but every time we venture out into the city we are reminded about how much we have yet to learn!  To combat our cluelessness, I ordered some practice workbooks from and herein lies the inspiration for my post.

Today, David came upstairs with the mail and handed me a slip that read “Ihre Sendung wurde an Ihren Nachbarn/Wunschnachbarn ausgeliefert.  “Your package has been left at your neighbors/wish neighbors.”  I could understand the German, but I did not understand where to find my package.

Enter Isa, our truly fantastic neighbor across the hallway, who has been indispensable in helping us settle into our life here so far.  She explained to me that the German postal delivery service will pick the apartment most convenient for them to deliver your package, and chances are good it won’t actually be yours.  She said sometimes they even end up at a building down the street.  They say that this is your “desired neighbor”, the person that you have designated to accept your packages for you, but they are lying.
To give you an idea of why this might happen, I have sketched** a diagram of our building layout:

photo 2

Pretty typical layout for apartment buildings here.

When you enter from the street, you find yourself in a hallway with an entrance to the kindergarten and stairs to the apartments above.  Continuing our tour, you pass through a hallway and go through the door on the other side that opens up into a courtyard that houses the garbage bins, a place for bikes and lots of plants!  On either side of the courtyard there is a door leading to more apartments.
The post person has about 20-24 last mailboxes to deliver to when s/he enters a building.  You’ll see from my diagram that the hallway is where you find the mailboxes, which are too small to hold anything but letters.  I am grateful that the post person didn’t just leave it out for the taking (the hallway is still a relatively public space), but I would have gladly come down to get the package if they had rung our bell.  Easier to give it to somebody else, I guess.  On the delivery slip, they tell you the last name of the person they left it with.  Then you have to go around to every door until you find the name on the doorbell that corresponds with the name on your slip.

When I found the appropriate door, I knocked and a woman answered.  She was on the phone, clearly not expecting to be disturbed.  I started to introduce myself in jumbled German, but she just said, “Ah! Die Packete!”, handed me my box, smiled and shut the door like this wasn’t a strange situation at all.  My German workbooks lived at this woman’s house all day and she didn’t think twice about it.  Isa told me I should bring my passport, because some Germans are really particular about not giving you your package unless they have very firm proof that you are indeed the person to whom it belongs.  I wasn’t asked for any ID (brought my driver’s license just in case), but due to the phone maybe she was a little less scrupulous so she could get back to her conversation.
In sum, I owe Isa a big thank you for helping me find my books/navigate my first big German culture shock!
Practice Makes Perfect!

Practice Makes Perfect!

*I’ve affectionately dubbed him as a Scalvager – Scavenger/Salvager.  Berlin happens to be a great city for scalvagers.  It is quite common for Berliners to leave unwanted objects out in the street for others to adopt.  We’ve seen everything from furniture to a printer so far.  Scalvagers are great because if you pay attention to their habits, you can learn how to survive any impending apocalypse.  They are always prepared for the end of the world.

**Remember I’m a musician, not an artist.

The Organist Plays the Piano

On Friday, October 3rd (Germany Unity Day, as it’s known), Sarah and I went to see world renowned organist-virtuoso Cameron Carpenter, except after intermission, he switched to playing the piano… While that may seem trivial, asking an organist to play the piano in the middle of his concert is like asking a guitarist to play the ukulele. I mean, have you ever seen Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix rock out on the ukulele in the middle of their concerts?

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. The concert was at the Berliner Philharmoniker, which is a unique venue of its own (see picture below).

Berlin Philharmoniker venue

The performance was great and Sarah, the audience and I were enjoying the show. After intermission, Cameron played one song, and Cameron stood to bow in thanks. However, I could see on stage that he noticed something was awry. Once the applause died, he scurried off stage. The audience quickly understood why: the organ was broken.

While Cameron Carpenter makes himself out to be the rockstar of the organ (he has a mohawk, dresses unconventionally, wears bedazzled organ shoes, draws on his sex-appeal, etc.), he can’t break the organ. But here it was, a single note continuously reverberating throughout the music hall.

While the audience waited for the technicians to diagnose and fix the organ, Sarah and I got to witness the sense of humor of the audience, and possibly, of Germans. The video below illustrates some of that sensibility.

You can see that the audience finds the inability of the technicians to correct the organ as quite comedic.

After awhile, the technicians gave up. Fixing the organ was going to require more time than the audience had. So an announcement was made, and the organ rolled to the side. The house piano was raised on an elevator from below the stage and wheeled into place. It was a spotless, full size Steinway & Sons. Cameron tentatively took stage, made an announcement, and then sat at the piano. He stared at the keys, seemingly filled with doubt, fear, and concentration.


At last, he began his performance. He even incorporated a song by Gershwin, because, as Cameron said, he needed something to soften the nightmare that was ahead of him by trying to play an organ piece by Bach for the piano. The audience loved the jazzy tune, and the piece Cameron performed by Bach. The audience loved it so much that Cameron played two encores as well.

All in all, a lovely night.

Sarah and I went to see Cameron perform because of our indirect connection to him. I’ve known about Cameron for a few years now, because I lived with his brother in Ann Arbor, who is still a good friend of mine (and a brilliant engineer, mechanic, scientist, and botanist in his own right. He operates a small-scale powder coating operation in Ann Arbor, MI called Bean’s Best LLC). I haven’t seen Cameron perform, because he routinely plays in Europe, where he lives. Ironically however, Sarah and I got to see Cameron perform before he left for his tour in the US, where he will showcase his talents on the touring organ built for him specifically. Normally, an organ is so massive that it is incorporated into the building’s structure. Nonetheless, this organ can be disassembled to fit onto one semi truck to transport it. If you are interested, you can see Cameron at the DSO in Detroit in February, 2015.

I suppose the lesson here is know your craft, though be willing to admit your weaknesses, and embrace them. And I hope to see Jimmy Page perform on the ukulele soon.