When the wall fell and West Berlin suddenly ceased to be an island, there were political and economic challenges. One man asked a fundamental question: How do you connect people? How to get Berliners and Brandenburgers to talk to each other? Werner Martin from West Berlin found the answer in music. He founded the Brandenburg Summer Concerts over 30 years ago.
Growing up as the musically gifted son of a pastor in Brandenburg, he brought with him fond memories of his childhood to West Berlin, the city where he worked as a lawyer from 1969. On Saturday, Martin Werner will be 80 years old and will celebrate his birthday with, among others, at Paris Bar, at the Humboldt Forum and in Berlin Cathedral – Regensburger Domspatzen will perform there.
Many visitors to the country will be especially fond of their nightly journeys back into the city.
Then the moon shone with a round and full glow in the fields planted with red, blue and white flowers. Stork nests, fields of yellow rape and small villages passed in the twilight. Melodies of Schubert or Mozart, performed by artists in sometimes enchanted rural churches, were still in my head. Earlier, a coffee table with sheets lured people into the parish garden, followed by beer and evening carols singing.
We thank Werner Martin for making such trips and meetings possible in an uncomplicated manner right after the fall of the Wall. The celebrant can look back on an eventful life. Even as a boy he was an enthusiastic choral singer, and later became the father of five children himself. So many memories of childhood trips to Chorin Monastery with a picnic with cakes, swimming in the lake and singing together kept a vivid longing to experience something like this again.
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He managed to activate his networks time and time again, eg finding sponsors for bus transport, beer stalls, the entire infrastructure of summer concerts in Brandenburg. It all started with a meeting at Paris Bar under the slogan: The worst that can happen is having a good wine together.
Successful Citizens’ Initiative
Since the first musical experience in 1990, 700 concerts have been held in the circle of friends at Chorin Monastery in over 200 venues across the country. Local circles of friends who work on a voluntary basis are always present and have made a significant contribution to the fact that people-to-people meetings were also possible. There were around 800 in Brandenburg just five years after the festival was founded.
From small beginnings over the years, a large, important festival has developed, which does not require state funds, which has been repeatedly praised by prime ministers and ministers of education. For example, Manfred Stolpe (SPD) called it “one of the most beautiful, successful and the first citizens’ initiative to give leadership and form to a process of collective growth.”
City tours and carriage rides
After the fall of the Wall, West Berliners were curious to explore the area, but infrastructure was lacking. The “classics on a country trip” made it possible to comfortably board a bus to the Fehrbelliner Platz and go to Brandenburg. From his second home, Paris Bar, Werner Martin consistently assured that the country’s churches, some of which were in danger of decay, featured the best international artists.
Ten percent of the proceeds were donated to charity at performance venues. This served, for example, to pay for new church windows. The accompanying program included not only the famous coffee tables in the parish gardens, but also guided city tours, lectures, boat trips and carriage rides. This is still the case today. Sometimes, as was the case during this year’s opening of the season in Luckau, a historic train ran until the arrival and departure.
Mrs. Karin found sockets
Rector Spiritus Werner Martin always sat in the front row during his years as chairman, but left speeches to relevant prime ministers and other dignitaries in favor of music. Then he liked hanging out with artists and representatives of local circles of friends. Without his special personality, the festival would never have been so big and would never have lasted so long.
It was a stroke of luck that his wife Karin had experience in the hospitality and catering industry and did not despair when there was no outlet for a coffee machine far and wide. While she managed the office on a voluntary basis and made sure the hospitality was successful, Werner Martin welcomed the guests as an integrator. He was not only the founder, president and driving force, but also the face of the summer concerts.
Collection for a bell
His inexhaustible resource of motivating power not only helped to keep friends, sponsors and patrons in check, but also inspired them to take on new tasks. In fact, it was programmed to enter a new era after retiring from operations.
When he turned 70, he collected donations for the St. Nicholas in Luckau on the occasion of his birthday. It was placed on the market square, then cards were distributed with the text “Praise the Lord”, although of course no one seriously believed that people would sing, because many grew up far from churches under socialism. And then this spontaneous choir was created with great vocal power.
The first concert in Poland, in Szczecin, with 1,000 Berliners and Brandenburgers, with the German Symphony Orchestra and the cordial Mitropa-Brot-Zeit on the way home by train is also unforgettable. Even the cool managers couldn’t resist the charm of the idyll on classic trips to the countryside. In the other direction, the coffee tables could seem picky. But they didn’t do it with hidden sparks from Paris Bar.