Romy Nagy of Salut Salon Dies at Age 42

Romy Nagy (far right) with the members of Salut Salon. Source: mopo.de/ Salut Salon website

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HAMBURG/ BERLIN- The music world is reeling after a world-renowned string quartet lost a key player to illness. Romy Nagy, a cello player for the group Salut Salon,  passed away on Saturday in Berlin after a battle with cancer. She was 42. She is survived by her husband and two children.

In a statement from their websiteIt was love at first sight when we met Romy in December 2017 and she became a cellist for our quartet. Since then, we’ve been touring Europe with her, enjoying every moment with her, the musician and friend. She faced life in her own way, able to accept all aspects of reality.

Ms. Nagy was born in Gera (Thuringia). At a young age, she attended the Belvidere Music School in Weimar before studying music in Frankfurt/Main and Berlin. She was a member of many orchestras in Berlin as well as a strings group Staatkapella in Weimar. Before joining Salut Salon at the end of 2017, she had several musical roles for TV-series and films as well as for concerts led by Till Brönner, Robbie Williams and the rock music band Disturbed, having played several genres in the process. Apart from solos, she produced several duets with Andreas Wolter and was one half of the duo group Thalia Two, with Katja Schott.  More on her biography can be seen here.

Some examples can be seen below:

Ms. Nagy joined Salut Salon in December 2017, replacing long-time member, Sonja Lena Schmid and for a short time traveled throughout Europe with the group, with pieces like this:

 

Her last performance was in March 2019 with Salut Salon in Oldenburg. They had been working on a new musical project to be presented in 2020. Her passing resulted in the cancellation of a pair of concerts by the quartett. No word yet on who will replace Ms Nagy, and how the group will approach the project without her. The loss of a cellist great has been felt not only throughout the group but also by other musicians and fans in Germany as well as beyond. She will be an asset that will be missing- her successor will have a big challenge filling her shoes.  For more details on the latest, click here to the Salut Salon website.

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From the Attic: The Telephone

Source: Kornelia und Hartmut Häfele [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D
This Film from the Attic ties in an oldie and Doris Day. It’s the use of the telephone. The mean of communication, especially if it’s long distance. It’s one we cannot live without unless you are a long-distance sprinter like Achilles. It’s one that has become so advanced in the 170 years of existence, that we’re having problems keeping up with the newest technologies. Yet some of our children and grandchildren are wondering: “How did telephones work during your childhood?”

Ask not further. 🙂

A couple days ago, I stumbled across this very ancient TV film on the introduction of the modern phone in the early 1950s. Produced by Bell Telephone in 1954, the homemaker in this film takes us through the days where the modern phone was supplanting phone service where operators were standing by to connect you to another person. Gone were those days, the modern phone took over where all you had to do is dial the number and it would take you to your destination. For those wondering how it works, play this film and you will see. 🙂

The first thought that came to mind was a household figure during the 1950s and 60s: Namely, Doris Day. Ms. Day’s career spanned over a half century as an actress and musician, plus an additional 40+ years as an environmental activist when she retired from the business. One of the best examples of how she articulated herself as an actress playing the housewife, always using the phone during her days, like in the excerpt Pillow Talk, produced in 1959 and co-starring Rock Hudson.

As Doris Day lived on and ripened with age and wisdom, the telephone advanced in ways where we sometimes wonder: “How could we train our older generation how to use today’s phones- namely the Handys (mobile phones (UK); cell phones (USA))?” Many of them have lost track or resorted to the classic phone. But it would be cool to train them to use it, just once, and imagining life with the phone and its many uses in comparison to Doris Day’s time, wouldn’t it? 😉 After all, communication has advanced so much and we should all profit from what we have to offer today.

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The Characteristics of a Great Teacher

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What is a great teacher? What makes a teacher great? What is typical of a great teacher? If there was a secret ingredient to being great, it would be great to know about it. Yet if we knew, and we would try and follow it like textbooks, life would be boring, both in the classroom as well as on the street. Perfectionism would bring out the worst from those who strive for it and those who rebel against it. Life as a teacher would be portrayed as inflexible, intolerant and inhumane.

What is a great teacher? Can we follow the footsteps of those who had once ruled the hallways and classrooms of our school? Or read about their lives as we stumble across them on the sidewalks through monuments and Stolpersteine? Or reminisce about the teachers of our time growing up, over a beer or wine at a class reunion? Some say that our teachers set great examples and play a role in our development, but only a few remain close friends for life.

What makes a teacher great? It’s about what you learned from the teachers you had in school; from those who were close and helped you succeed. It’s about learning from your own personal experiences, remembering the stories told to you while growing up, embracing in your own faith, and developing your passion for the job. Molding it together and being prepared to share them with others.

What is typical of a great teacher? It can be best described as follows:

A great teacher enters the classroom like it’s a concert at Carnegie Hall……

……..and comes away with a standing ovation at the end of class.

A great teacher shows competence in his subject and confidence in his class….

…..and never falters to those who think they are better than he.

A great teacher is communicative, humorous and open-minded….

…..and the same goes to the students if it applied correctly in class.

A great teacher always listens to the needs of others……

…..and finds ways to cater to them.

A great teacher devotes his time and effort in his subject with a passion…..

…..so that the students can do the same when learning it.

A great teacher teaches the students what is good and what is bad in life…..

……and follows these examples, both on and off campus.

A great teacher is a great storyteller……

…..and uses it to teach the students the morals in life.

A great teacher always embraces in new things for the classroom……..

……and is never afraid to part ways with the old.

A great teacher is flexible and spontaneous……..

……and never follows the rules like a textbook.

A great teacher never holds back on his opinions and truths…..

……and is not afraid of the opinions and truths from his students.

A great teacher is always creative and tries new experiement….

…..as long as he and his students profit from them.

A great teacher always makes mistakes in class……

…..and should not be afraid to admit being human.

A great teacher is also a great mentor….

….being the guiding light for those who need it.

A great teacher is always there if the student needs help……

…..whether it’s big or small, in school or outside,

….a  great teacher will always be your friend for life.

And when you have a chance to meet your great teacher- your mentor, friend and all- many years down the road, always remember what he taught you and why he got you to where you are today. After all, what he passed down to you, it’s your job to pass it down to your children of the next generation.

That is what defines a teacher a great teacher. 🙂

 

Author’s note: I had some great teachers growing up in Minnesota, but this one goes out to one who was an elementary school teacher and close friend of the family. I had her for the last two years before entering middle school and we became great friends afterwards. Many people knew her for the characteristics that I’ve pointed out here and it was through these key points where people like me took them and made use of them, both as teachers as well as parents and beyond. In her memory, this one’s for you with many thousands of thanks! 🙂 ❤ 

 

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Notre Dame by Kerrie O’brien

Photo by: Madhurantakam [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
Our hearts bleed and our tears go out to the people in Paris and the entire country of France as one of the seven wonders of the country went up in smoke on the evening of 15th April, 2019. Fire broke out on the roof of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during evening mass. While the congregation got out as soon as the alarm went off, fire started to spread going up the spiral before it collapsed onto the roof of the building constructed in 1163. From there, fire took out the entire roof of the church before firemen stopped it from going to the twin towers where the church bells were at. It is very incomprehensible to look at the church before and after the blazing inferno, even as renovations had been ongoing prior to the fire. Thousands had put their heart and soul into building this magnificent architectural masterpiece. In the face of trying times, with protests against President Macron and a Europe that is divided over every issue possible, the fire at Notre Dame has brought together Europe, France and its people, unifying them now with one purpose: To rebuild the church, which is basically the same as rebuilding the nation.

As a tribute to the cathedral, which I visited as a college student in 1999, there is a poem that was written about Notre Dame by Irish poet Kerrie O’brien in 2016. Part of the poem series released as a book that year, this poem looks at the church as a symbol of light, love and unity, the three elements that were inseparable as the person paid homage to this historic icon and a visit to God at its alter.  You can find more poetry on Ms. O’brien by clicking here. For now, here’s to Notre Dame- you were a beauty before, you will be again…… ❤

Certain mornings
I would be the only one
To see the first streams of it –
Light
Tumbling through stained glass
Smattering everything
Red gold rose blue.
The beauty almost frightening.
Yves Klein would daub his women
Blue
And hurl them at the canvas.
Living brushes
Haphazard and outrageous –
Same effect.
Different every day
This glittering cave
Big beautiful lit up thing.
It knew and knew
Why I had come.
Blue gold rose red
Falling like water
My river walk,
My morning prayer.
I would step into it slow
Circling the altar
Gold cross flickering
In the centre
Anchored, rooted, still.
As above, so below
Eyes closed
Filling my heart
With the warmth of it
Until my body was
Sunlight and roses
And the fear
Fell away in petals
Would you believe it
If I told you
Nothing felt separate.

 

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Christmas Genre: Silent Night

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There are countless numbers of Christmas songs that have been with us for a long time; some religious while others deal with Santa Claus and Winter Wonderland. Yet one of the most popular songs sung at Christmas time is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. That song deals with the birth of Jesus Christ and the symbol of peace that He brings to the people.  The song we’re talking about is Silent Night.

Known in German as “Stille Nacht,” this song was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. The lyrics to the song was originally written by Joseph Mohr that same year.

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had written the lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a co-adjutor.

The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass. It is unknown what inspired Mohr to write the lyrics, or what prompted him to create a new carol. But what we do know is when the song was completed, the melody and the lyrics sounded like in the example that was performed by a choir group in Dresden:

 

German lyrics:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Over the years, the song has been translated into 140 languages. It was first translated into English in 1859 by John Freeman Young of the Trinity Church in New York City, and his translated version has been used ever since. However, variations in other languages, such as the example above in French, have shown a slight difference in both the lyrics translated as well as the melody.

The song was even performed without the use of lyrics, be it by an orchestra, brass band, keyboard, or a combination of one of the two. The excerpt below, performed by the American music group Mannheim Steamroller, consists of a combination of keyboard, bells and strings. This became one of the most popular pieces that was ever produced by the group in its 43+ years of existence……

And here is the example of the English version of Silent Night in its version written by Young. Many colleges, including Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, have used this song every year as one of the key cornerstones of their own Christmas concerts. How they do it depends on the conductor, but in this case presented below, the piece features the college choirs and the orchestra…..

English Lyrics:

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Silent Night has garnered a lot of success and popularity over the years that it was even used in film, the latest having been released in 2014. It was officially nominated as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. Yet two caveats have appeared lately which have caused a stir of some sorts. The first is that the song itself was credited to Gruber’s name even though part of the credit should have been given to Mohr because of the lyrics. The second is despite its universal usage, a newer German original and English translation was introduced by Bettina Klein in 1998, under commission of the Austrian Silent Night Museum in Salzburg. The new work was mostly the same except with some phrases that replaced the older English with the more modern. This has created some concern from groups wishing to keep the original.

Nonetheless, Silent Night has been played at any type of Christmas festival, big and small over the years and has become the symbol of Christmas but in connection with its religious meaning, which is the birth of Jesus and the coming of peace and good tidings that went along with that. There’s no Christmas without this song being played or performed, and no matter how it is presented, the song brings a lot of emotion out of the people; it is a powerful song that has us reflecting on the importance of Christ in our lives and the joy of Christmas that we bring to others.

And with that joy, we can all sleep in heavenly peace, even 200 years later. 🙂

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The Files would like to congratulate Gruber and Mohr for their work, post humous. 200 years and many languages later, we still consider the piece a work of art representing the true meaning of Christmas.  Zum Wohl und Gott segne Sie! ❤ 🙂

FlFi Christmas 2018

To The Donor in Germany With Many Thanks, Wherever You Are.

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David Weringa (left) and Tim Anderson (right), long time friends with much in common. Photo contributed by David Weringa

I would like to start this Holiday Tribute with a quote about friendship which one should keep in mind: “Friends are there when you least expect it.” That means if you are in dire straits and others turn your back, there will be one or a small set of friends, some whom you haven’t seen in years, who will be right there to help you through the hardest of times.

I would like to share this story to one unknown friend out there, who went the extra mile to save the life of another person in the most dire need. And what is special about this story is that the person who helped him lives in Germany. The person, whose life was saved, lives in the US in the State of Minnesota. Specifically, Fairmont, Minnesota, which is located 50 miles west of the nearest city of Albert Lea in the south-central part of the state.

David Weringa works in the restaurant industry and has for many years. A 1991 graduate of Granada-Huntley-East Chain High School, which is east of Fairmont, David used to be a manager of Brickhouse Pizza in Winnebago before moving to Jackson to take a more rewarding job at Pillar’s Restaurant and Grill (which is now known as Bucksnort’s). Jackson is located 30 miles west of Fairmont. He is a friend of a close friend of mine, Tim Anderson, who also lives in Jackson.  He and I were members of a barbershop quartet while in high school, but graduated one year before I did. (I am a 96er). He and David got to know each other while working at Pillar’s in Jackson and became great friends after that. While Tim was working as a bartender, waiter and assistant manager, David was working as the kitchen manager at the restaurant when he suddenly felt severe pain in his legs in the summer and fall of 2016. After several visits to five different hospitals, including the emergency room, combined with several tests, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on November 30th, 2016. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the lymphoid line of blood cells characterized by the development of large numbers of immature lymphocytes. Symptoms may include feeling tired, pale skin color, fever, easy bleeding or bruising, enlarged lymph nodes, or bone pain. As an acute leukemia, ALL progresses rapidly and is typically fatal within weeks or months, if left untreated. As many as 876,000 people were affected by ALL in 2015; of which, 111,000 of them died from it. ALL affects mostly children between the ages of two and five, as they account for 50% of all cases. Yet a small number of adults have been infected with it as well.

People like David.

After the diagnosis, David was sent to Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he started chemotherapy. Consisting of eight cycles (1 week in the hospital and two weeks at home), he continued undergoing therapy until 4th of May, 2017. It was not easy for him as he lost 40 pounds in the process, plus he was unable to continue performing his duties at the restaurant he was working; as a consequence, he was forced to resign for health reasons. After the chemotherapy was completed, David was put on maintenance chemo, where doctors could check the progress of the cancer. It was at that point where bone marrow biopsy revealed that the cancer was coming back.  Faced with a life and death situation, the only hope left for him was a bone marrow transplant.

David was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, one of the world’s leading hospitals when it comes to treatments for very rare diseases, combined with state-of-the-art medical research and technology. There, he underwent another form of chemotherapy called Blinotumomab, which targets the cancer cells. After 28 days, the cancer went into remission, yet the hardest battle was yet to come, and it had to do with the bone marrow.

In November 2017, David returned to the Mayo after having spent much of his time at home, where he received the best news ever: doctors had found a bone marrow match on the donor list! 😀  The person who had donated the marrow was a 27-year old person who was living in Germany at the time of the transplant. There was no further information beyond that, nor was it possible to contact the donor for a year after the transplant,  and afterwards, only that person would be allowed to contact David and others. The bone marrow cells from the German were delivered to Rochester on 29 November, 2017 and transplanted into David one day later, which coincided with the one-year anniversary of his diagnosis.

While the bone marrow transplant was a success, David was not out of the woods just yet.  100 days after the transplant, a biopsy in March 2018 revealed that the cancer cells were back and the bone marrow cells were not ready to fight these cells off. As a consequence, David underwent a new targeted chemo, called Inotuzamab, which was supposed to help the new cells take on and defeat the cancer cells, but had very nasty side-effects- namely high fever, rapid heartbeat, tiredness, infections, and the decrease in number of platelets plus other symptoms. In some cases, it could cause liver failure, which is potentially fatal. In David’s case, he needed transfusions of platelets as the numbers were dreadfully low. The average number of transfusions per week, according to his account, ranged between two and seven times. These platelets serve to clot up the flow of blood in areas where a cut or a bruise happened, in order to stop the bleeding instantly. Persons with a low platelet count can experience prolonged bleeding for up to hours on end. As an example, a person with a nosebleed would need five hours or more to stop the bleeding if the count is too low. Normally it is usually between five and ten minutes if the platelet count is normal.

Finally, in June of this year, after being at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for over a half a year, David was finally able to go home. He has become healthier and stronger than he was when he entered the clinic prior to the transplant, and his cancer has since been in remission. In the interview, he mentioned that his cancer had been in remission for a total of six times during this ordeal, yet, since having left the clinic, the biopsies he has undergone have revealed that the cancer has not come back. For him it was a victory that could not have been achieved if it hadn’t been for that donor in Germany, who took the time to donate a marrow to save another life, namely his.

Donating organs, blood and the like have not been well received in Germany within the past five years. According to the German Organ Transplantation Foundation (DSO), only 797 organ donations were reported in 2017, making it 9.7 persons per 1 million. This is the lowest number since 2017, and Germany is towards the bottom in European standards, with Spain leading the pack with 46.9 donors per one million. Factors include several scandals and the lack of interest in donating even blood have played a key role in the decline, despite increases in numbers in the states of Bavaria, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, according to local.de. Proposals to have organ donations be obligatory after a person’s passing unless noted by the person himself have been rejected soundly because of privacy reasons, yet there are several advantages of donating organs, blood and the like, especially if one is willing to allow for the transplant in order to save the life of another.  Donor cards exist in Germany, where a person can fill out his personal data and submit it to a donor fund, granting them permission to remove the organs and like once the person passes on. This one is quite useful, if a person is like yours truly and believes that even if the person dies, the organs can still be used in someone else, as long as they are useful and working. Therefore, inspite of the scandals and lack of interest, one should have a look at the option of donating carefully and all the benefits that exist.

 

December 2018:

David still lives in Fairmont.  A lot of things are looking up for him ever since the transplant. He’s about to take on a job at Ambiance Tap House and Grill in town as soon as he’s ready. With the cancer in remission for a half a year at least and his health becoming better, he’s ready to take that step in returning to the job that he loves doing, which is working in a restaurant. It has been well over a year since the donor provided him with that bone marrow that saved his life, and David has been very thankful for that.  While the year clause has long since expired, the donor has yet to contact David to see how he is doing. For there has not been any contact, it is the wish of David to send the word of thanks to that donor, for taking the time needed to donate the marrow and save his life. That is even if that donor still wishes to remain annonymous.

And with that, I would like to end this story with a small token in German: “Vielen Dank, dass Sie diese Mühe gegeben haben, um das Leben eines Menschen wie David retten zu können. Es war das beste Geschenk, das Sie ihm gegeben haben. Dank Ihnen, kann er sein Leben weitermachen und mit vielen Freuden.”  The best present comes when the person least expects it. ❤  🙂

Special Thanks to David Weringa for providing the details to this long story and wishing him all the best.

 

 

Sunset over Flensburg

FlFi Christmas 2018

Santa Goes Shopping- Kaufland Commercial ’18

 

With the holiday season around the corner, we have Father Christmas (Santa Claus) in action, as seen in the Christmas commercial presented by German supermarket chain Kaufland. This was released shortly before Thanksgiving and even though it is a tradition over here in Germany to have food chains to release commercials with special themes just in time for the holiday season, this one is special as Germany, like many countries in Europe, is latching onto the Black Friday tradition, where people line up in front of malls and major stores to get the best deals for Christmas. The difference here is that Kaufland, like many store chains, are introducing Black Week. Taking place at the same time as Thanksgiving, Black Week shoppers can find the best deals both in stores as well as online- mostly through Amazon, who may have started this tradition. Whether it is a good idea to order online or not remains to be open, but if Father Christmas keeps huffing and puffing to get everything last minute, he won’t have to worry about weight loss come Christmas time. It’s just a matter of persuading people perceiving him as fat and jolly that being slim and active is a wonderful thing. 😉

 

So let’s shop and celebrate smart, shall we?

 

The Flensburg Files is about to go on tour to the Christmas markets again, as the first one opens after Thanksgiving. To look at the previous places visited, click here.

There is also a collection of other Christmas stories, films and poems in the Literature and Genre section. Click here and scroll down, there are some funny ones worth seeing.

While the Christmas market tour will include some catching up from last year (the author was sick during much of the holiday season last year), it will include some cool activities for you to try out, not to mention a couple things to think about- the author sometimes has to get them off his chest and many can benefit from it.

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