Student Reflection: Carolyn Craig

The Organist’s View

Carolyn Craig, M.M.A. ‘22

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Erfurt is a staggering place. No single picture can capture the sense of the space, the sheer volume of Renaissance art which continues to this day to adorn this church to the glory of God. A font from 1467, paintings by Cranach the Elder, an anonymous early example of the Pietà, and so much more that I didn’t know to look for, simply existing in this sacred space.

Just as this art has stood for hundreds of years in places of worship, so have many of the organs we visited. In Lübeck, we traced the steps of Buxtehude and Distler, getting to play the 1637/1638 Stellwagen in the Jakobikirche and the newer Distler organ there, as well as the historically-informed instruments in the Marienkirche, where the organs were destroyed in WWII bombing. In the Leipzig Thomaskirche, one of Bach’s churches, a new organ was built in 2000 by Woehl to be the ideal Bach organ. It was an incredible experience to play this in the place where Bach worked, and the organ really does suit Bach very well. The Thomaskirche also houses a historic Sauer organ (where I am pictured seated), where Karl Straube, the foremost interpreter of Reger, played in the early 1900s. In the Berliner Dom, Domorganist Andreas Sieling showed us an even larger Sauer instrument, which still has historic pneumatic tubing. Another highlight was encountering Rollschwellers for the first time, adapting to short octaves and flat pedalboards, and being surprised by the sounds the instruments made. (The Sauer Schalmeis are strings! Who knew!)

One often hears that an instrument is the greatest teacher, and while we certainly gained a greater understanding through playing them, there’s still so much to learn about touch, registration, space, and much more from these instruments. We’re so thankful we got to run off to these incredible instruments between choral and instrumental rehearsals, and can’t wait for a return visit.

  • St. Mary's Cathedral, Erfurt, Altar
  • 1637 Stellwagen Organ, Jakobikirche, Lübeck
  • Yale ISM student Michael Lukin playing the Bach Organ (2000 Woehl) at the Thomaskirche, Leipzig
  • Berliner Dom Sauer Organ
Photography | Carolyn Craig, M.M.A. ‘22