A Strange Threesome: The Convergence of Pfingsten (Pentecost), A classical music festival, and Goth Fest… in one holiday weekend. By Liliana Acevedo Callejas

Goth fancy (2)

Leipzig, Germany, is referred to “the crossroads of Europe” because of its historical role as key trade route.  Beyond geography and commerce, Leipzig is also a crossroads of ideas and lifestyles. Throughout its history of almost a thousand years, Leipzig has been not only a commercial but a cultural hob connecting East and West of Europe.  For centuries, Leipzig has housed important figures in the European art scene; Bach directed Leipzig’s own Saint Thomas’ Boys’ Choir, nowadays still renowned in Germany and Internationally, enough for people to pay a significant amount of money to see them perform (Though in Leipzig they perform for free on Fridays and Saturdays at Saint Thomas Church).   Goethe found inspiration drinking at the Auerbachs Keller, a pub he immortalized in his master novel Faust.

When we talk about Leipzig’s staple artists, we cannot forget Leipzig born composer Richard Wagner, whose 200 year anniversary was celebrated this past week (May 17th– May 24th). “Wagner Fest” consisted of a series of operas and concerts showcasing Wagner’s array of compositions, most of them performed at the Leipzig Oper Haus (Opera House). The festival brought up a lot of mixed feelings, since “Leipzig’s relationship to Wagner has always been a conflicted, given some of his writings” said Steffi Gretschel from the Leipzig Office of Tourism and Marketing. When it comes to Wagner, Leipzig has always had difficulties reconciling the pride inspired by his artistic legacy with the controversy of his ideas, since he was believed to be highly anti-Semitic.

Die MSvN (2)

Speaking of controversy, mixed feelings about Richard Wagner were not the only thing that seemed to clash with “Wagner Fest”.  The other big festival held last weekend was a great example of the diversity of Leipzig’s artistic scene, putting together tradition with subversion in a wonderful collage of costumes and music. From Friday May 17th until Monday the 20th,  a black wave of people from all corners of Europe and the world congregated in Leipzig to celebrate “Wave Gothic Treffen” (or “Goth Fest”).  For the entire weekend “Schwartz Leipzig” (Black Leipzig) was a sight full of extravagant costumes, folklore music, and, of course, plenty of black attire. “The black people” (as Leipzig youth calls Goths) could be seen anywhere in town, even at the Opera House, where some of them enjoyed a performance of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.

The main theme of this holiday weekend was religious, and technically its main celebration was Pfingsten (Pentecost), the day when, according to the story from the Bible, the Holy Spirit came upon Christ’s church for the first time. Hence, I was expecting some religious ceremonies to take place in the streets. However, the church, both protestant and catholic, did not seem to be having a lot of activities going on thorough the weekend. Saint Nicholas, one of the main churches in town, even held a retreat outside of Leipzig. I wondered what the reason behind this might have been; coming from a Catholic country, I am used to a lot flash and ceremonial fanfare during religious festivities. A few of the students offered a possible explanation, attributing a lower level of religiosity to East Germany’s period within the communist system. One of the students explained “Here, we are trained to believe that Atheism is the only right thing. Religion is not very important to us or, more like… Atheism is our religion. We believe Atheism is the truth, and religion is, maybe, frowned upon, a little, but more like, it is not important and nobody pays attention to it”. This explanation is an interesting way of looking at the impact that being connected to Eastern Europe, most of it part of the former USSR, has had on Leipzig’s cultural life.

Kirche

However, even during the communist period, the church had a significant role in Leipzig’s daily life. In fact, the Peaceful Revolution (October to November 1989), which would lead to the end of the communist regime in East Germany, started with people who congregated for Monday night vigils. So I still wondered where were the church and its member during Pfingsten?  This calls for further investigation, it could be a cultural difference issue, after all, flash and fanfare are very common in Latin American and Southern European countries, but not so much in the North and East. Or perhaps the church and its followers were just scared of “the black people”, I must admit some Goth costumes freaked me out as well.

Goth fest (2)

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