Sunday, June 18, 2017

Portrait Mode

In 2000 Red Baron acquired his first digital camera just in time to take many photos of his first grandson. Since then digital photography has progressed by leaps and bounds. I have owned some excellent pocket cameras. As time went by smartphone cameras became better and better with the result that in recent years I have taken all my photos with my iPhones giving my digital camera to Elisabeth.

Well, I admit there is no optical zoom on a smartphone but I still remember the time of analogue photography when I was happy with one focal lens only. The missing zoom has been partly mitigated by the dual camera of the iPhone 7 plus. With the longer focal length I now capture slides with high resolution during lectures even when I am not sitting in the front row. But there is more to it. Using both lenses simultaneously allows you to take photos in portrait mode where the face of a person is in focus while the background comes out blurred.

Red Baron does not take many portraits, for many people are camera-shy. I found another use of Apple's portrait mode in photographing flowers. In the following you may enjoy a collection or rather a whole bunch of flowers I took in my neighborhood over the last months with growing enthusiasm.


The most gratifying objects are roses

Wind roses

The yellow rose of Wiehre



Orange-fulvous daylily



Back to the rose. This one I took at the end of April.

PS: I am not an expert in flowers; so please correct the names.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Midges Making Climate

Mücken machen Klima was the title of an article in the Badische Zeitung about the Büschelmücke. When I looked up the equivalent in the English Wikipedia I read: The Chaoboridae, commonly known as phantom midges or glassworms, are a family of fairly common midges with a cosmopolitan distribution.

Why would a midge influence climate, even if there are billions of them? What I did not read in Wikipedia were recent results of a research by teams of the Universities of Geneva, Swansea and Potsdam. The scientists confirmed that during two years the larvae of Chaoboridae live in muddy pools and ponds preferring eutrophic waters where they will reach densities of up to 130,000 larvae per square meter. They feed on waterflies, springtails, and other mini beasties but only during night hours. During the day the larvae hide from their predators by diving up to 70 meters deep into the muddy bottom of the water.

Chaoborida larva or glassworm (©Wikipedia)
Long before submarines were developed Chaoboridae larvae used the technique of submersion. The research showed that while waiting on the bottom for the sunset the "glassworms" start to fill their ballast tanks with methane until they will drift to the surface. Here they stabilize in their hunting position. At dawn the larvae release all methane until they sink to the bottom again. It is all a question of energy as the scientists calculated. Even if the larvae catch four waterflies in 24 hours they would need 80 % of the gained energy to dive by mechanical means. The submersion technique is an evolutionary success for Chaoboridae but seems to be a catastrophe for the climate.

Büschelmücke (Chaoborida). Note the Büschel (tufts) (©Wikipedia)
The scientists attribute nearly 8 % of the total global methane emission to the midges in particular as they release additional methane when stirring up the mud in the process of grounding. With the melting of permafrost in Arctic regions captured methane is not only released "naturally" but the formation of water puddles will enlarge the Lebensraum (habitat) of the Büschelmücke, i.e., there is more muddy water to place their eggs. So Chaoboridae will actively amplify the "natural" release of methane due to rising temperatures in the Arctic. As for animals only cows contribute more methane on a global scale (27 %) than the midges.

Shall the community sponsor further research on Chaoboridae? Here on the Upper Rhine Freiburg's authorities are instead quarrelling about the financing of a campaign against the tiger mosquito. It came in lorries from the south of Europe and hibernated in our region. So globalization paired with climate change is stimulating the Asian mosquito to move farther north spreading angst about new diseases.

Tiger mosquito (©dpa)
In Freiburg's north an allotment garden is infested with tiger mosquitos: There are lots of nests and many of the larvae are hatched, an expert said, their next leg would be Freiburg's central cemetery with all its watering pots, a situation that would make the spread of the tiger mosquito run out of control.

Why do the Freiburg authorities hesitate to spend 50,000 euros? Well, fighting the tiger mosquito with a chemical mace would result in collateral damage to other insects, but who likes to see the birds starve? In fact, a recent census in Freiburg has shown that the population of birds within the city boundaries has dramatically decreased over the last years, a trend due to a more and more restricted habitat for birds in combination with less food.

Another circulus vitiosus.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Doomsday Vault

A few weeks ago Red Baron read an article about the Doomsday Vault on Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen is a group of Norwegian islands 1300 km north of the Arctic cycle, a permafrost region.

The Doomsday Vault (©Mari Tefre/Crop Trust)
The Doomsday Vault, scientifically known as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, started as a Nordic Gene Bank storing the germplasm of about 5000 Nordic plants via frozen seeds in an abandoned coal mine at Svalbar in 1984.

In 2008 the foundation stone was laid for the present futuristic building. By February 2017 nearly one million samples from all over the world were stored protecting around 4000 of the world's most important crop species from any possible threats to our managed ecosystems, from asteroid strike to war. The vault is buried about 122 metres into the side of a mountain with thick, solid concrete walls and a long entrance corridor sloping down ... The vault is expected to stay at around -5 degrees Celsius for the next two centuries, though with generators running it's kept at a numbing -18 degrees Celsius ensuring a dry environment that would continue to keep them safe if the power ever fizzled out.

This May the vault unexpectedly experienced some flooding in spite of the climate change being fake news made up by the Chinese. Such flooding due to warm temperatures and strong rainfalls instead of snowfalls has never been experienced heretofore. Hege Njaa Aschim from the Norwegian government said, the permafrost melts, and some water comes in, and when it comes in, it freezes. It doesn't typically go very far. Well, the ice had to be hacked out.

This surprise is the reason why an international team of scientists is actually scrutinizing the climate change on Spitsbergen. It is disturbing that current computer models did not predict the sharp increase in temperature and rainfall in the region. These changes dramatically alter the living conditions in the city of Longyearbyen located at 78 degrees latitude where the scientists have their headquarters.

To explain this phenomenon of polar amplification Der Spiegel produced a schematic diagram in a recent article: With the temperature rise at the surface of our planet, sun-reflecting snow and ice surfaces slowly but steadily disappear. This causes the oceans and in particular the polar sea, no longer ice-covered, to become warmer. More water evaporates giving rise to the formation of more clouds that in turn produce heavy rain. Rain instead of snow accelerates the melting of Spitsbergen's glaciers exposing more naked earth to the sun further accelerating the warm up of the ground.

The circulus vitiosus of polar amplification (©Der Spiegel)
Melting of permafrost not only means the release of captured methane, a greenhouse gas worse than carbon dioxide, but opens up the possibility of breaking the ground for digging graves, a benefit the citizens of Longyearbyen would prefer to do without.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Was ist deutsch?

German, what does it mean? This is the title of a book by Dieter Borchmeyer, professor emeritus of German literature at the University of Heidelberg. The topic always has interested me, particularly since my Norwegian boss once remarked: You are not a typical German. Read the full story about good old Johann.

His remark could also mean that I am not the most knowledgeable person to answer the question: Was ist deutsch? This however Borchmeyer tries by writing more than 1000 pages, an oeuvre too thick for me. There are at least half a dozen books waiting to be read not on my desk but in the memory of my mobile devices. My remaining life is just too short and admittedly I spend too much time with internet activities. Writing these blogs is fun, maintaining a couple of websites is mostly boring routine but both take lots of my time.

With the background of the bloody French Revolution and the following Napoleonic occupation of German territories it was Goethe in combination with Schiller (who else?) who wrote in a xenia the most salient reflection about our topic: Deutschland? Aber wo liegt es? Ich weiß das Land nicht zu finden, wo das gelehrte beginnt, hört das politische auf. Zur Nation euch zu bilden, ihr hoffet es, Deutsche, vergebens; Bildet, ihr könnt es, dafür freier zu Menschen euch aus (Germany? Where is it? I am unable to find the land, where the academic one commences the political ends. In vain you hope to form a nation; rather try freely to educate yourself, you can do it, becoming humans).

It was not until 1871 that Germany, the late nation, became the 2nd Reich under Prussian rule excluding the German-speaking parts of Austria and Switzerland. Whereas the many German states had out of necessity been liberal-minded towards their neighbors the new Reich became a know-it-all country as written already in 1861 by Emanuel Geibel: Und es mag am deutschen Wesen, Einmal noch die Welt genesen (It may be that some time the world will be cured of its ills by the German spirit).

It was Friedrich Nietzsche repelled by Germany's growing international isolation who wrote: Gut deutsch sein heißt sich entdeutschen (Being good-German means to de-German).

Later the German people boasting of hard work, discipline, and order became addicted to the Nazis. In 1942 following an address of the Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels to the Akademie der Wissenschaften Gottfried Benn observed: Not one of the assembled dignitaries moved, not the great conductors, nor the members of the peace class of the order Pour-le-Mérite, the international academics, the honorable business men, they all applauded. The Untertanengeist (subservient spirit) had eventually won not to mention Martin Heideggers's philosophical aberrations.

In spite of writing more than 1000 pages Dieter Borchmeyer did not answer the salient question Was ist deutsch fully. He is too much of a literary scholar.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Open Dialogue?

One of Freiburg's twelve sister cities is Isfahan in Iran. This is remarkable for Freiburg is the only city in Germany that has a partnership with a city in Iran. Already in the past at the time of the Khomeini regime Freiburg came into political focus. Freiburg city officials in vain assured their colleagues in Berlin that it was a partnership between people and not governments. Fact is that citizen trips to Isfahan are still the top hit but this activity by no means is reciprocal.

Six mullahs and their hosts at the episcopal ordinariate (©BZ/Thomas Kunz)
So it came as some sort of a surprise when the other day a delegation of Shiite clergyman visited Freiburg. They met with city and Catholic church officials including our archbishop but they were also seen in Freiburg's streets window shopping.

Studying the city map (©BZ/Thomas Kunz)
During their stay we frequently read about a dialogue between religions in the local press. Our cultural mayor Ulrich von Kirchbach said that Freiburg was the first city to start such a religious dialogue. Such talks are urgently needed for we know too little about each other. That sounds like the mantra of our federal government: As long as there are talks there will be no war, e.g., in Ukraine?

Let us discuss the historical visit of those six mullahs in its historical context. The author of a recent article about Syria called the local military conflict a new Thirty Years' War. Indeed it has been even more than 30 years since the Iran–Iraq War started on September 22, 1980, a war between two Muslim countries. Since that date there has not been one single day without violence in the Middle East.

Presently the Shiites and Sunnis, the two main Muslim creeds, are fighting each other in a proxy war. Since the Saudis (and the US) assume that Iran's ayatollahs support the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen they started bombing the country within a coalition of Sunni countries. Yemen is one of the poorest regions of the world and as usual the civilian population is suffering most in the military conflict. It seems that with all their efforts the Saudis were running out of military equipment, a stock that POTUS lately replenished making a 100 billion deal that will create jobs in America's arms industry.

Let us come back to the two Thirty Years' Wars. From 1618 to 1648 the German territory saw the invasion of Swedish, French, Spanish, Italian and other foreign troops while suffering a population loss of more than 40% and in some regions a complete loss of infrastructure.

Nowadays Syria is the battleground of national and multinational alliances. Pictures on television show the complete destruction of once flourishing cities while the loss of human lives among civilians suffering bomb and gas attacks is simply unbearable. As in the case of the first Thirty Years' War the war on Syrian territory has long since degenerated into a fight of everyone against everyone.

In this context what kind of dialogue can we expect when talking to Iranian mullahs in particular when in the run-up to their visit we learned of the arrest of thirty gay men in Iran? The Shiite clergymen said they were ignorant of the facts but promised to look into the matter when back home.

Otherwise Seyed Hussein Momeni impressed Archbishop Stephan Burger by citing the Qur'an at the episcopal ordinariate. It was about Jesus, Surah 27:57: Then We caused Our messengers to follow in their footsteps; and We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow, and gave him the Gospel, and placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him.

The visiting mullahs were extremely friendly. Holding lighted candles, they even took part in a Catholic procession devoted to St. Mary starting at the Münster church and ending at St. Martin's. They emphasized common prayer as an important shared feature of the two religions.

Archbishop Burger, however, went further: We as theologians have the duty to reject all ideologies of violence and extremism in the name of God. And he added: The Creator abhors violence, the true God calls for unconditional love, for a fraternity among the faithful and the non-believers. The response of Mehdi Georgi, the head of the delegation, was short and clear: Because of our faith we fully reject violence. Did he consider that Iran has been ruled by Shiite ayatollas since 1979, that they constitute the government?

Was this the beginning of a beautiful friendship or at least the beginning of an open dialogue between Shiites and Catholics? Should we simply forget Surah 3:28: Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.

Only God knows or is it rather Inshallah?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Make Our Planet Great Again

Red Baron followed POTUS's announcement on the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement live. With this action the US now forms a tripartite alliance with Syria and Nicaragua; these were the only two countries that did not sign the Paris Agreement.

Green Peace projection on to the American embassy building in Berlin (©Reuters)

The reactions of most world leaders to POTUS's decision were drastic and dramatic. I will only cite the one of French President Emmanuel Macron exceptionally addressing his American colleague in English so POTUS will not be troubled with a fake translation: Make our planet great again. At the same time Macron invited American environmental scientists losing their jobs in the States to work in France.

Paris townhall illuminated in green following POTUS's announcement (©Europe1)
Let me cite some passages of POTUS's speech and make only a few personal comments:

As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers -- who I love -- and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.

These statements are fair enough if we leave out those agreements where the US bamboozled other countries but POTUS has a point I shall come back to later.

Further, while the current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America -- which it does, and the mines are starting to open up. We’re having a big opening in two weeks. Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places. A big opening of a brand-new mine. It’s unheard of. For many, many years, that hasn’t happened. They asked me if I’d go. I’m going to try...

In spite of the fact that for me the last sentences of the above paragraph are incomprehensible I must tell you: Mr. President, there is no such thing as clean coal !

The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. We'll be the cleanest. We're going to have the cleanest air. We're going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly, but we're not going to put our businesses out of work and we're not going to lose our jobs. We're going to grow; we're going to grow rapidly. (Applause.)

Great, fantastic. In fact, there will be no problem if the United States will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. That's even better than the Paris Agreement.

POTUS continued:

I will work to ensure that America remains the world’s leader on environmental issues, but under a framework that is fair and where the burdens and responsibilities are equally shared among the many nations all around the world.

And he is coming back to the unfair treatment of the States by other countries:

The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and, in many cases, lax contributions to our critical military alliance. You see what’s happening. It’s pretty obvious to those that want to keep an open mind.

At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won’t be. They won’t be.

It is true that the States have paid billions of dollars to foreign countries. We Germans still remember and are grateful for the help we received after the war. The Marshall Plan restarted our economy. Also the many CARE packages are not forgotten. It was America and its atomic shield that assured the freedom of Western Europe during the Cold War. There were times when I admired the States and I never laughed. I hope it will remain so.

As President, I have one obligation, and that obligation is to the American people. The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks, and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world. It is time to exit the Paris Accord -- (applause) -- and time to pursue a new deal that protects the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country. Thank you.

POTUS ended his speech as usual promising everything at the same time. His new deal should protect the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country. He forgot to add, our finances.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What the Hell Is Religion?

Last Monday Gerald Urban, professor of physics, talked about: Religion, was zum Teufel ist das eigentlich? at the Freiburger Museumsgesellschaft. The announcement of this talk reminded me of a statement by one of my directors at CERN. When young hopefuls in high-energy physics complained about the lack of chairs at universities he said: A physicist can do anything ... almost. In fact, only few could expect to become a professor of high-energy physics but during that time there were ample openings in information technology. These are nowadays taken by people with a special education in IT. So a physicist talking about religion?

Professor Urban told the audience that it had been his personal interest to understand what religion really is. He has tried to address the question using a scientific approach and blamed the church fathers for having successfully hindered the development of science for centuries. For Augustine science is just an ancillary discipline and faith surpasses knowledge whereas Jerome (Hieronymus) regards philology as important only when reading and translating the Bible. While the Latin version of the New Testament, the vulgate, is the basis of Christianity the historical development of the Church was more influenced by the writings of the church fathers. The Reformation did not change this for both Erasmus and Luther heavily relied on the church fathers.

While Wikipedia tries to define "religion" as either substantialist (the transcendent holiness, the religious feeling) or functionalist (the community) these two definitions are not exclusive.

In one of his slides Professor Urban presented a collection of material with two main categories "religion" and "religiosity".

The process of religion has its origin in the observation of our environment when the amazement about its incomprehensibility reaches our brains. Explanation attempts lead to "world models" aiming to answer the question of the meaning or purpose of our existence. This process is by no means static but of a burning dynamic.

At this point Einstein's "definition" of religion may be helpful:

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.

Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder,
no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.

It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion.
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate,
our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty,
which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds:
it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity.
In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.
Other quotations from Einstein deepen his conviction: Every scientist becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men. Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am in point of fact, religious.

This firm belief in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God. My God created laws … His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws. The divine reveals itself in the physical world.

There is harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, yet there are people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me to support such views ... I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist ... but there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source.

Professor Urban placed a "complete" overview into his last slide. Religions eventually arrive at "closed" world models pointing to their last mysteries. Religious groups close themselves off and will fight other groups in bloody wars: Templars against Saracens, Catholics against Lutherans and both against Calvinists and Anabaptists, Shiites against Sunnites. Where do brotherly love or even the Christian love of the enemy come in?

What makes me sick is that while only few are fanatic in their religious practice and belief, many (mis)use their religion as an instrument of power either to suppress their people or as a pretext for "holy" wars. No war ever was, is, or will be holy.

Let me finish by congratulating Professor Urban on his efforts ending with a conciliatory quote by our eminent physicist:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Winner Is ...

Freiburg. Last Monday the Badische Zeitung proudly presented data showing that Freiburg has Germany's youngest population. Even Red Baron is not old enough to spoil the average figure of 39.8 years. The map clearly shows that older people live in the rural districts of the eastern part of Germany, i.e., in the former GDR. Young people move into the cities (e.g. Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig) where the action is and where they find jobs.

Coming back to Freiburg. With 5,338 births in 2016 the city is approaching the record figures of the baby boomer years 1966 (5,396) and 1967 (5,348). At the present rate Freiburg will most likely surpass the previous record numbers in 2017.

The following photo illustrates the facts. Young mothers and even fathers invade Freiburg's streetcars with their strollers and sometimes twin buggies for the city counted 124 twin births in 2016. Also this number is increasing with the years for more and more young men evidence low sperm count so couples are seeking help in in vitro insemination. To be on the safe side doctors tend to implant more than one fertilized oocyte.

Three boys
Another fact is that more boys (2729) than girls (2609) were born in 2016. In my youth I was told that Mother Nature takes into account that men are the weaker sex and more baby boys die during their first year. With modern medical care this is no longer true. So 25 years from now I expect those young men will be fighting for the "rare" girls.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Erasmus's Translation of the New Testament and the Reformation

This morning Red Baron was at the university listening to a lecture by Professor Henk Jan de Jonge of the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. His topic, Erasmus's Translation of the New Testament and the Reformation, is highly relevant in the year when Lutherans all over the world are commemorating 500 years of Reformation.

In 1516 Johann Froben at Basel published the Novum Instrumentum omne diligenter ab Erasmo Roterdamo recognitum & emendatum, non solum ad graecam veritatem, verumetiam ad multorum utrisque linguae codicum ... emendationem & interpretationem ... by Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus.

The renowned expert in the field Professor Jan de Jonge told the audience that the initial purpose of Erasmus was to write a Latin text more elegant then the Vulgata. His translation of the New Testament from the hand-written Greek urtext is based on classical Latin as written by Cicero, Caesar, Sallust, Livius, and Quintilian. Erasmus went back to the Greek roots (ad fontes). He did not want to replace the Latin Vulgata that dates back to the 4th century but rather eliminate corrupt text passages and correct mistranslations.

According to Erasmus one should translate not ad verbum (word-for-word) but ad sensum (sinngemäß or meaning-based). Any translation is just a recommandation and does not determine the meaning. Erasmus had the hope that in his time of religious turmoil, i.e., during the Reformation his new translation would contribute to the renewal of Christianity.

For his translation of the New Testament into German Martin Luther used Erasmus's "best" Latin version but the interpretation with the help of many new German words he invented was all his. In fact, the significance of Erasmus's work is not so much the better Latin of the Novum Instrumentum to be used by theologists and educated people but the opening for other, additional, and newer translations and interpretations. This is why Catholics for centuries were not allowed to read other Bibles than those authorized by Rome. In the 19th century ironically Protestant theologists started scrutinizing and questioning Luther's text going again back to the roots (ad fontes). As times change so do translations and interpretations of the Bible.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Freiburg First

Yesterday the Madison Symphony Chorus (MSC) was in town. Before they gave their concert in the evening they had to rehearse Ein Deutsches Requiem together with a local orchestra and a local choir in the morning.

In the afternoon the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft (FMG) had organized a reception at the Greiffenegg-Schlössle. The weather was somewhat cold but sunny so we met outside in a corner of the Schlössle's famous Kastanien-Biergarten (chestnut beergarden) for a glass of sparkling wine and Flammkuchen (tarte flambée). As Bing Crosby put it in the movie High Society it wasn't French champagne but domestic.

Our guests arrived slowly ...

... delayed by a farmers' demonstration (©BZ/Thomas Kunz)
Farmers' tractors were blocking the streets to protest a new quarter the city of Freiburg would like to build partly on farmland. Freiburg has a severe housing shortage and the new quarter called Dietenbach is an absolute must. Fact is, too many people are moving to Freiburg, Germany's number one Wohlfühlstadt (feel-good city).

Smiling red meets smiling green or
FMG's Vicepresident Frauke Feix meets the Director of the MSC Beverly Taylor

Spirits soon were high.

A few singers were tired ...

... but all were attentively listening to Frauke's witty welcome address.

Before the Concert began in the evening I had been asked to welcome the musicians and the public at the Konrad und Elisabeth Kirche. Here is what I said:

Good evening everybody.

My name is Manfred Höfert and I am the spokesperson of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft, the Freiburg sister city committee.

On behalf of our Gesellschaft, the Carl-Schurz-Haus and the City of Freiburg I would like to welcome the Madison Symphony Chorus, die Junge Kammerphilharmonie Freiburg und das Vocalensemble Breisach.

It is an honor that on its first visit to Europe the Chorus first came to Madison's sister city. May I say "Freiburg first"? On tour in Germany the Chorus will next perform in Leipzig and in Berlin. I wish you for tonight and for your upcoming concerts all the best.

The Konrad und Elisabeth Kirche we are in, is a historical landmark. It was built in the late 1920s and it is one of the first churches constructed in exposed concrete. St. Konrad and Elisabeth was consecrated in 1930. May I say that this church is as venerable as the Madison Symphony Chorus?

Meine Damen und Herren,

Ich hatte gehofft, die Badische Zeitung werde einen Bericht über dieses Konzert veröffentlichen, doch las ich in der Freitagsausgabe lediglich eine dürre Notiz über diesen Abend.

Lassen Sie mich also mit dem vorgesehenen doch ungedruckten Text das Konzert einleiten:

Der Madison Symphony Chorus wurde im Jahre 1927 gegründet. Mehr als 125 Sänger - heute sind es über 90, die den Weg nach Freiburg gefunden haben - treffen sich aus Freude am gemeinsamen Gesang, üben anspruchsvolle Musikstücke und Chorwerke und führen sie allein oder gemeinsam mit dem Madison Symphony Orchestra auf. Zu den Aufführungen vergangener Jahre zählten unter anderem:

-          Beethovens 9. Sinfonie
-          Mahlers 2. und 8. Sinfonie
-          Orffs Carmina Burana
-          die Requien von Mozart und Verdi
-          Auszüge aus Händels Oratorium Solomon.

Der langjährige Leiter des Madison Symphony Orchestras John DeMain schwärmt von "seinem" Chor: "Ohne die künstlerische Reife des Symphony Chorus unter seiner Leiterin Beverly Taylor könnte das Madison Sinfonieorchester niemals so großartige Werke darbieten. Talent und Hingabe des Chors lassen uns die aufregendsten Aufführungen verwirklichen."

Heute Abend führt der Madison Symphony Chorus zusammen mit der Jungen Kammerphilharmonie Freiburg und dem Vocalensemble Breisach Ein deutsches Requiem von Johannes Brahms auf. Chorleiterin ist Frau Beverly Taylor, die Solosänger sind Frau Anna Polum, Sopran, und Herr James Held, Bariton.

Der protestantische Hamburger Brahms folgt mit seinem Deutschen Requiem nicht der Liturgie der katholischen Totenmesse, sondern reiht hier tröstende Texte aus dem Alten und dem Neuen Testament aneinander. Mit diesem Werk für zwei Solisten, Chor und Orchester gelang dem damals 35-jährigen Brahms der Durchbruch als Komponist.

Wir sind gespannt. Enjoy the concert.

The church choir of the Konrad and Elisabeth Kirche
was fully packed with musicians.

Director Berverly Taylor masters them all.

Beautiful Soprano Anna Polum impresses the audience

Handsome Baritone James Held masters Brahms perfectly.

At the end Director Beverly Taylor is bowing to the audience ...

... which is frenetically applauding the fantastic performance.
Most impressive the angry: Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras
and the conciliatory ending: Selig sind die Toten.

Beverly Taylor gives her thanks to the Junge Philharmonie.
Bravo, with only one rehearsal chorus and orchestra sounded
 as if they had been playing together for years.

Exhausted but happy. Thank you again for the memorable performance.
Brahms would have been pleased.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Vive la France

Last Sunday Red Baron followed the live-streamed inauguration of France's newly elected President Emmanuel Macron on Facebook. While I was watching I took some screenshots that I would like to share with you.

Macron arrived in a relatively small car and was greeted by President François Hollande at the steps of the Élysée Palace while dignitaries were waiting inside in a hall.

Hollande and Macron disappeared, apparently to attend a session of the French government that is always presided over by the President of the Republic. This time it was presided over by the old and the new; was this the reason why the meeting took nearly an hour?

In the meantime the cameras showed some interesting scenes while people were waiting.

The guard of honor waiting in the courtyard of the Élysée Palace

La tricolore always on top

Dignitaries are waiting inside

Two well-known faces. In the middle: Lionel Jospin, socialist, prime minister in 1997,
failed in 2002 to become Président de la République. On the right: His eternal rival
Laurent Fabius, socialist, now president of the Constitutional Council.

The two attractive daughters of the president's wife and one of the grandchildren waiting.

Soldiers of the Foreign Legion waiting.
In the background men of the Republican Guard waiting.

Citizens greeting their new neighbor are waiting too.

The waiting dignitairies are entertained with Mozart

Is he coming?

But he disappears again to say goodbye to François Hollande

François bidding adieu to Emmanuel's wife Brigitte
while the new president is watching the scene

Both men are descending the stairs
The car in which Emmanuel arrived is waiting for François at the end of the red carpet.

Is Hollande hesitating to leave the Élysée or is he eager to leave?

Macron watches the parting president entering the car

A last waving of the hand

The presidential couple united again is smiling to the crowd

The president of the Constitutional Council gives a lesson to Macron about his duties and rights

Laurant Fabius impresses the crowd by speaking without manuscript or teleprompter

The Grand Chancellor of the Order of the National Legion of Honor
 offers Macron the insignia of a Grandmaster

A close-up of the cross of the Legion of Honor

The Grand Chancellor signs the bestowal document first

The bestowal document of the Legion of Honor

Macron signs the document too

In his inaugural speech la France d'abord (France first)
defending the traditional values de la Républic: liberté, égalité, fraternité ...

... although Europe is important too

The presidential couple leaves the reception

Brigitte in small talk with some dignitairies ...

... while her husband is leaving the building for an inspection of the guards.

Macron on the red carpet face to face with ...

... the commanding officer

The new president on his way to inspect the guard of honor

Saluting the tricolore

Playing la Marseillaise

President Emmanuel Macron listening

On Monday President Macron was in Berlin. Traditionally the first foreign trip of a newly elected French president is to Germany while a newly elected chancellor visits Paris first. Both leaders agreed to advance the European Union.

Angela and Emmanuel being bosom buddies already (©AFP)