I have just returned from a trip to Cologne. It was uplifting and even an inspiration. I decidedly did NOT want to go, as I am about as enthusiastic a traveller as your average cat…….yet, when I am dragged unwillingly somewhere, like some moaning moggy, I frequently find I interact with the new environment at quite a deep level. That was the case this time. And as I mention cats here let me pay tribute to my dear little cat Tybert (she was Tibby for short). Having dragged her off once on holiday to the countryside, she did her best to fit in, poor darling. I still remember her astonished wide eyes the moment she saw her first cow.
I found somewhere cheap to stay and also made the journey in the delicious ICE train, so really I had no cause for complaint and should not have had to listen to my own whining about it. How does one silence these inner voices by the way? Yes, death.
The occasion for the visit was a concert by the organist Michael Bonaventure – a brilliant one – which included a work of mine mixing organ sound with electronic sound: Forbidden Mansions.
Michael played nine pieces and there in the middle was mine. I recognized it as soon as it started up, even though I have rarely heard it since the premiere in 1985. My mother attended that concert and after the piece she had a little cry whilst I was taking my bow, so the composer Ian McQueen told me. I was astonished when I heard about that as the work is really pretty grim, but I guess it was mainly the occasion that touched her. But I am not going to give an opinion of the piece here – if my mother was moved by it, if anyone is, all well and good.
The churches were open in Cologne, so I stepped into a number of them and prayed. And there was no fuss on the door – that stupid museum mentality we have with English cathedrals was absent. Well, the Cologne diocese is extremely well funded, apparently, so that explains that. These are working churches and getting on with the activities they were designed for. Catholic of course, thank goodness. By the way, I worked out why Cologne Cathedral looks so weird – every inch is covered in decoration and it could therefore be some alien spacecraft just landed there. I didn’t go inside this time.
I enjoyed the shopping streets and also the politeness of people working in cafés and restaurants and markets. In the Café Elefant on Weißenburgstraße I wrote a card to Roderik de Man, whose tremendous piece Crosscurrents ended Michael’s recital. An Egyptian man came to sit by me just at that moment and talked a long time about his divorce and various troubles. At first I found him an interesting prospect and then gradually realized he was just giving a tedious recital of his woes. I excused myself politely and carried on my way.
I was lost in Cologne late at night several times and reproached myself bitterly about it as I didn’t bother carrying the map I had bought. My way of protesting I suppose.
As Michael said, the Germans are “our tribe” and so for that reason I guess one feels very much at home. So nice to have people obeying all the traffic rules and many other nice instances of courtesy. We were with composer Luiz Yudo too and the three of us were wholly delighted by the entire ethos. I was not as enthusiastic as they were however about the meal we had in a “pig restaurant”. I seemed to have an entire buttock on my plate propped up by some mashed potato and sauerkraut…………
(photos Huw Morgan)