people meeting in cities
All cities started as a meeting place, a place for a weekly market. People would gather to sell and buy things, to meet friends, to find a spouse. Such a meeting place was always, in the nature of things, a junction with easy means of transport: a river, a good road — in the Middle Ages often still a Roman highway.
The market place would be the nucleus of a new way of living. Warehouses were built. Tradesmen needed to stay somewhere. Soon a monastery was built, a town hall, a church and walls to protect all this. People gathered and stayed: tradesman, artisans, farmers, cattle dealers, a notary, priests, and so on.
Eventually artists came and stayed. It may seem as if the artist was a kind of parasite, living off the riches others worked very hard for. But that would be missing the point. Artists are the salt and spices that make the food appetizing. Not happy are the times when food is only there to survive. People do not want merely to survive, they want to live the fullness of life.
people meeting in friendship
Last Monday I drove the 350 kilometres from Ghent to Münster. Two cities I love dearly. Two cities with a similar history. Cities in which people seem more friendly than in other places.
My friendship with Isabel Lipthay and her husband Martin Firgau goes way back. A little girl that died in 1943 brought us together, but that is another story. Friendship is one of the treasures of life and it is endemic. One friend leads to another.
Isabel must have told me, but I don’t recall how she met Kerry Candaele. Kerry is an American film maker who wanted to make a film about Beethoven’s ninth symphony. Not a documentary about the music itself, but about the impact of the music on people in distress. So he started to ask around and to find stories all over the world. His quest was a difficult and long one, not only to find and meet all those people, to make a coherent story out of all the material, but also to find the necessary means. Funds were gathered through Kickstarter in 2011, but by then he had already been filming and traveling and working for four years.
And now the film is done and is shown in theaters. Kerry presented the film in Berlin last Sunday and on Monday came to Münster.
The film was to be shown in Münster cinema Garbo1. I immediately felt at home there. We have a similar cinema in Ghent, where you can eat and drink and meet friends before and after a movie. Lovely places where they take the risk of showing interesting films. I was happy to meet Jens Schneiderheinze, the enthusiastic manager. And Gertrud, and Mariana and more fine people.
people meeting in music
Following the ninth2 is a film about the power of music. It is divided in four parts, like the symphony itself. Kerry Candaele:
I fell in love with the Ninth not as a film maker, but as a human being. The music came to me first, and I lived with the Ninth for years before I discovered that the symphony had a grand history in our time. Following The Ninth tells the story of Beethoven and his struggle to create his final symphony, and the resonance of the Ninth as it traveled across the globe, inspiring, challenging, and repairing people as it went, for over 180 years.
The film takes us to Chile where women marched in the streets during the Pinochet dictatorship, singing their version of the Himno a la Alegría at the walls of torture prisons. Isabel tells about it in the film in her simple, moving way.
The film reminds us of the year 1989. In China the military invaded Tiananmen Square as students there were playing the Ode To Joy as their anthem of liberation. In the same year, Leonard Bernstein conducted the Ninth at the Berlin Wall, where people were in the process of dismantling this symbol of oppression.
In Japan the Ninth has become a symbol of rejuvenation and national celebration. We see people uniting after the tsunami. Singing the Ninth (Daiku in Japanese) is a tradition. It is performed hundreds of times in December, often featuring 10,000 singers in the chorus, people who have struggled for six months to master the German choral section.
It is a moving film, a necessary documentary. The audience was enthusiastic. Many questions were asked, and afterwards Kerry had to sign many DVD’s. And I was glad once again to be among friends.