We are at the start of another year and my Christmas break is over! Well, not sure if we can call it a break …!
I’m so amazed every year at how quickly Christmas creeps up. You’re just plodding along, practising, doing some gigs and then BAM! It’s Christmas Eve. This year was no different.
I feel pretty lucky that my good friend Steph (horn-playing Aussie studying in Frankfurt) opted to come and spend some time with me in Hannover over the Christmas period this year. We had quite an adventurous few days but luckily managed to sneak in some Ruhigzeit (quiet time).
For us, the 23rd was pretty relaxing. Steph was still recovering from a cold and I was in need of a break, so we didn’t take on much at all. Things definitely picked up on the 24th though. After a morning of serious planning, train-ticket-booking and shopping-list-writing, we managed to head to the supermarket to collect the essentials. Due to poor planning (on my behalf) we arrived 10 minutes before closing time, 2pm. I rushed off to one shop while Steph managed to get in to the Supermarkt and grab almost everything we needed in absolute record time! What a champ! We succeeded in finding the other essentials at the Hauptbahnhof (Main Trainstation), where most of the shops stayed open until 4pm.
Once we arrived back home safely, we busied ourselves with making a batch of Tomato and Red Onion Chutney. First attempt for either of us and it turned out amazingly! We unfortunately had an early start on Christmas Day, so were both in bed nice and früh (early).
Bright and early (well not so bright as it was 5:30) on Christmas morning, we got ourselves up and out of the house, on the bikes, to meet up with our lift to the gig I was playing in. We did have a small incident on the way however – whilst trying to avoid quite a large muddy puddle, Steph stacked it and up in the mud… whoops! She recovered very impressively and cleaned herself up very well before sliding into my colleague’s car.
My gig was playing in a Christmas Mass, in I swear to be the coldest cathedral I have ever played in, The Paderborn Dom. We had a quick run-through of the program, St Nikolai Mass in G by Haydn, and at 10am sharp, paraded out into the cold cathedral, where hundreds sat waiting for the mass to begin.
It was the first time that I had played a mass in a service before. Quite often we will play masses, but generally as a concert in itself rather than a part of a full-scale Catholic service. It was a great, but cold, experience. The choir was absolutely fantastic with the soloists the icing on the cake. I love playing concerts with this particular gig orchestra. It’s a combination of players from the Hannover Staatsoper and The North German Radio Orchestra Hannover with a few freelancers to fill the gaps! Everyone plays very well and are always prepared with whatever program is thrown their way which makes most projects quite fun to put together.
At the conclusion of the service, Steph and I made our way by train to Detmold, so that we could spend the rest of the day and evening with Lauren, another good friend of ours from Australia, who also plays horn and has recently won a job in the orchestra there!
Christmas afternoon saw us arriving at a gathering of hornplayers and their families. We were greeted with friendly faces, some familiar, most not, wine, and dessert! I often forget how small the music world can be. I went to the party, expecting to know no one (except the two that accompanied me) and instead realized I had met three of the guests previously – one from an audition, his sister from a masterclass week in Italy, that we participated in earlier that year, and their father, who I had played a gig with in 2015!
In the evening we had the pleasure of watching Cinderella, performed as a ballet, music written by Prokofiev at the Landestheater in Detmold. It was a lovely way to end the day, being able to hear a good friend smash it out in the horn section and to enjoy the well known story of Cinderella.
The 26th saw us returning, very exhaustedly, to Hannover, where we needed to spend a good amount of time in the kitchen preparing for our Aussie Christmas dinner in Kassel on the 27th! Steph put together an amazing apple pie (I made some very tasty vegan custard to accompany it) and I chopped 1kg of mushrooms to make a massive Mushroom Wellington.
Two of our very good, Australian, horn-playing friends are working in the orchestra in Kassel, so we made our way there on the 27th for a Christmas dinner. And boy, what a dinner it was. The wine was flowing, the cheese was melting and the veggies were frying, as Raclette was the meal of choice! Christmas is a very hard time for most of us over here, as we are away from our families and stuck in our winter blues. Having supportive and caring friends to celebrate these times with, definitely eases the sadness and makes Christmas just what it should be, being surrounded by those you love and care for.
German Christmases may not be quite the Aussie way but there was seldom a dull moment, there was plenty of music, lots of food and an abundance of love. I hope that you all had a magical Christmas this year, wherever in the world you are.