August turns out to be a month of sad news. After being told last week that my friend Bengt "Bula" Ericsson passed away unexpectedly in July, yesterday I heard that death has struck even closer.
While a teenager, I sang in the choir of St. Paul - not the famous one in London, but in Fürth, the town of my birth. For all things relating to music, Luise Leikam was a pillar of our community. She played the organ, she rehearsed and led the brass band, if necessary, she would also play the baritone horn. The list of instruments she did not play is probably shorter than the one on which she excelled. Anything with a keyboard, cello, recorders - all that she used to serve music.
Of course, she also rehearsed and led the choir, joining in with her alto voice. One of my fondest memories from that time (late 1970s to mid 1980s) were the yearly visits from an American choir called "Sounds of Hope", led by Varner M. Chance, another fine conductor. In all, the Sounds of Hope gave a concert at St. Paul's for 20 consecutive years.
Luise Leikam was never into stardom or glamour. While perfectly capable of an outstanding career playing the organ or the piano, she devoted her whole life to tirelessly adding to the base of the grand musical pyramid. Teaching hundreds (over the course of several decades, probably even thousands) of aspiring singers, pianists, organ and recorder players, she has left an indelible mark in the world of music. Apart from countless amateur musicians, she also has several big names to her credit, among them Volker Heißmann - comedian, actor, singer and director of his own theater as well as Norbert Küber - who played the organ at her funeral and Erich Rückel.
The City of Fürth recognized the lifetime achievement of Luise Leikam in 1993 and awarded her the "Golden Cloverleaf".
In her later years, she battled heart disease and a cramp in her right hand that impaired her writing, but she could play the piano nevertheless and kept on teaching, conducting and giving recitals, e.g. for the Fürther Tafel, a local charity.
Earlier this year I wrote her a letter, thanking her for all that she had done to further my musical development - after all those years she remembered me perfectly and in reply sent me a picture of her playing the organ at St. Paul's - her natural habitat. It makes me glad that I could give her this little tribute in time before she left this world forever.
Luise Leikam was 86; she will forever be remembered by the thousands she touched through her music and her gentle, friendly personality. The world will be a much poorer place without her - rest in peace.
On Friday (hurra, a holiday in the part of Bavaria where I work) I went to see my old caller buddy Thomas to rehearse for the 57th Bavarian Festival. Thomas plays the guitar in a church band and - apart from being an accomplished caller - he is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays guitar, ukulele, mandolin, accordeon, piano, drums, ... and has come up with the idea that we will offer an introduction to contra dancing with live music.
For me, this will be an exciting new experience, since I have never played in a contra or square dance band before. Playing for dancers is a lot of fun, but I have only done it for standard dancers, never for my own favorite dance form.
On Saturday, I was invited to a recital at the home of my violin teacher. Together with Laszlo Petendi, a member of the Bamberg Symphony, he played some of his original compositions and some arrangements (listening examples available here).
Among the guests was an elderly gentleman who turned out to be the great-great-grandson of Karol Lipinski. Alexander Lipinski, a lively octogenarian, worked in his youth at a violin shop in his native East Prussia, taught himself to play the violin and has done that well enough that he could jam with Helmut Zacharias in the days before WW II.
Mr. Lipinski has invented a new, improved shape for the violin and Laszlo Petendi played one of the instruments built according to Mr. Lipinski's specifications by Walter Mahr of Bubenreuth. The violin was very beautiful, nicely carved and emitted a warm, rich and powerful sound under Laszlo's capable hands.
What an experience!