by Jane Larson
Manager, Performance Tours
Germany promises to be a top destination for Witte’s 2015 season and also looking ahead to 2016 and 2017. When music educators think of destinations that include opportunities to “Follow the Footsteps” of great composers, perhaps the first places that come to mind are Salzburg, Vienna and Prague. When visiting those marvelous cities, there are reminders of Mozart, Haydn, Dvořák and many other great composers in virtually every church.
Knowing of our shared interest in music history, my colleague Keith Cole recently gave me the book, In Mozart’s Footsteps: A Travel Guide for Music Lovers by Harrison James Wignall. I knew that the young Mozart had performed all over Europe, but until I read this book, I didn’t quite realize that from the age of five until the last year of his life at age 35, Mozart toured nine European countries and performed or passed through over 200 European cities— more than 22 cities just in Germany! Wow!—and this was in the days when travel was far less comfortable than it is today in our Witte motorcoaches.
While I am not suggesting that anyone tries to plan an itinerary around Mozart’s exhaustive performing tours, many of the cities Mozart performed in are wonderful places to include in a performance tour itinerary. Adding a music history component to a concert tour enriches the experience.
If you would like to visit and perform in some of the German cities with a rich music history, here are a few to consider—
Bonn—In the first leg of Mozart’s “Great Western” tour of 1763-66, the Mozart family stopped briefly here en route to Paris, but Bonn is of far greater interest to music lovers because of Beethoven. While in Bonn, a visit to the Beethoven-Haus Museum is a must. In addition to being Beethoven’s birthplace, the museum also contains the largest Beethoven collection in the world.
Heidelberg—On July 25, 1763 Mozart played the organ at the Heilig-Geist Church. This church and the beautiful city of Heidelberg are still well worth a visit.
Leipzig—In May 1789, Mozart improvised “without compensation” to a large audience at the Thomaskirche (often referred to as the Bach Church). Leipzig (with reason) is very proud of its musical heritage. Johann Sebastian Bach worked here for decades as the director of the famous St. Thomas Boychoir, still world renowned as one of the best boy choirs in Germany (and all of Europe). Other composers who lived and worked in Leipzig included Felix Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann and Richard Wagner. The three music themed museums in Leipzig feature Bach, Mendelssohn and the Schumanns.
Other cities in this area of Germany were also home to famous composers including—
Halle—George Friedrich Handel was born here in 1685 and the city is often referred to as “The Handel City.” The Handel House Museum celebrates the composer’s life and works through its exhibits and musical events.
Weimer—In addition to its importance as an early 20th century center of design and architecture, the composer Franz Liszt spent part of his life here, documented in the Liszt House.
While visiting the towns and cities where great composers lived, worked and performed, we will also create wonderful experiences for your groups. A performance tour can include a variety of experiences including—
- Singing as a guest choir for a morning worship service or Mass.
- Short, informal daytime performances in the historic churches.
- Full concerts—often in smaller towns where there is more opportunity to interact with local audiences.
Depending on school schedules, many German schools and communities are very interested in having exchange concerts with American performing groups.
In the late spring and summer months, the town squares often have outdoor stages set up, also making Germany a wonderful destination for band performances.
And—if all of this hasn’t convinced you—there are beautiful castles and villages along the great rivers, spectacular scenery in the Bavarian Alps and much more. All of our Group Tour Specialists have had extensive travel in Germany and two of them are fluent in German (Kristina Choura and Whitney Korstange). Any of us would love to talk to you about planning your next tour!