Around the Church Calendar in 3 Days : Bach Fest 2018

Binge-watching is something very close to us all, or at least for me.  Imagine having the same concept of devoting entire time to take a voyage through a particular piece of art.  Only this time, the pieces are Bach’s cantatas.

But what is actually a cantata ? The word itself came from italian’s “cantare” which means “singing”.  A cantata is a composition for voices / choir, accompanied by several instruments and made of several movements.  Cantatas are not restricted to sacred liturgical music, although many notable cantatas are indeed part of or have been commissioned by the church.

The 2018 Bach Festival in Leipzig came with such notion, to perform 33 “best” cantatas of Bach, in just three days.  That means, 10 concerts spread in 3 days with each concerts consisting 3-4 cantatas.

The festival came up with the idea of “Cantata – Ring”, refers to the cantatas in a church year, from Advent to the next Advent.  The idea of such “Ring” came from another Leipzig composer who is famous for his Ring cycle : Richard Wagner and the Ring of the Nibelung.  The notion of “Ring” is not far with Bach himself.  He established such “cantata cycle”, refers to 60 cantatas he composed following liturgical events in his first year as a Kapellmeister (Music Director) of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig.

Liturgical Year

As a Kapellmeister, Bach had to prepare a cantata for each Sunday Service, based on the Lectionary (a list of the Bible passage for each Sunday and other Church festivals in a year)  That means, Bach only had roughly 3 days to write the cantata, handed it to the copyist, and rehearsed it in also 3 days with the musician and choir for the Sunday service.

All Cantata Ring performers are choirs and orchestras that had recorded complete Bach Cantata, which are : Gaechinger Cantorey, Bach Collegium Japan, Monteverdi Choir + English Baroque Soloists, and Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra + Choir.  Also, don’t forget the host : Thomanenchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

I was able to secure tickets to two performances, cantata ring 7 and 9.  Cantata Ring 7 was performed by Bach Collegium Japan , while Cantata Ring 9 was performed by Ton Koopman and The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra.  Cantata Ring 7 featured Bach’s “inauguration cantata” which is the first cantata he performed as a Kapellmeister of St. Thomas church.  The piece is BWV 75 “Die Ellenden sollen Essen” (The hungry shall eat), performed this year by the Bach Collegium Japan with the famous Masaaki Suzuki.  Cantata Ring 6 was an actual open-air Sunday Service, held in the Markt, in front of the old Town Hall, performed by the Gaechinger Cantorey and Christoph Rademann, performing the actual cantata for the Sunday, BWV 76.  Since each cantata is based on a particular day in church calendar, the actual lectionary passage was read by the pastor before each cantata to give the audience the context and background of each cantata.

Since I bought the second cheapest ticket, I got the seat on the left wing inside St. Thomas Church.  Which means, no view to the performers at all.  That’s better though, I can still take a little glimpse on my side.  Those who have a ticket in the main nave had to sit facing the same direction like the performer, which means they have to turn their back if they want to see the performers.

In that case, I was forced to either read the text or read the music sheet ,which turns out being done by many people next to me.  There were a lot of viewers who brought the actual music sheets of the cantata.  Other viewers brought a copy of the cantata’s analysis. Masaaki Suzuki said in an interview with Fono Forum that “everyone brings the music sheets and they really pay attention to all the detail”.  For the first time, I was really paying attention to the text, which is actually very deep in a theological sense.  Each lines can be literally traced back to a particular bible verse (See my post on the Exhibition of BWV 60).   Adding the fact that the acoustic worked very well and the realization that it is the exact same place where the cantata was performed for the first time 400 years ago.  Except Cantata Ring 6, all Cantata Ring concerts were held in churches where Bach used to work, which are St. Thomas, St. Nicholas church, and the newly rebuilt University Church St. Pauli.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I would like to close this post with a video of very moving performance from the end of Cantata Ring 10.  As the Cantata Ring 1 started with an advent piece, BWV 61, the end of Cantata Ring 10 was a piece intended for the Sunday just before Advent time, calling all to wait patiently for the Messiah that has been promised.  In the last movement of BWV 140, Sir John Eliot Gardiner turned to the audience and everyone began to sing this very beautiful choral piece.


First Leipzig Trip

Visiting Leipzig has been on my bucket list since I found out that Bach spent around half of his life there as a Kapellmeister for the church (somewhat like a music director).  On February last year, I randomly applied to participate in the Leipzig Book Fair (Leipziger Buchmesse) choir in March.   Turns out that also entitled me with a free ticket to the Book Fair and the Manga Comic-Con.  The songs were 4 Lithuanian songs (the 2017 Guest Country) and two other Balkan songs, which were quite exciting because the comitee sent us a recording on how to pronounce the words in the songs.

My Book Fair ticket was also embedded with local transportation ticket for the whole day.  The fair officially opened at 10 but before 10 am people were already queuing before the door.  Leipzig Book Fair is the 2nd biggest book fair in German after the Frankfurt Book Fair.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The book fair is mainly divided to 5 section and there was 1 section specially for Children’s books, which was super cool.  I would like to spend a whole day there reading, if only my german were better back then.  It’s not merely a book fair , but more like a huge cultural event.  One can enjoy all kinds of entertainment, from book signing, live music performances, games and activities for kids, and there was also a room provided by the MDR, where kids can try out different musical instruments.  After leaving the Book Fair, I still got some time to attend Sunday Service in the famous Thomaskirche.

The next day, I visited the Völkerschlachtdenkmal (Monument to the Battle of the Nations) on a sunny day and having to climb some stairs to get to the top of the building.  This monument was originally designed to commemorate 100 years anniversary of Napoleon’s defeat in the 1813 Battle of Leipzig (which was also known as the Battle of the Nations because it involves Napoleon’s army aided with Italy + Poland + Germans from the Rhine against Russia + Prussia + Sweden + Austria) . The building was mainly a huge stone structure with a coppula on top of it.  Somehow it reminds me of a greek / roman temple, because they have music played inside the hall with huge statues (maybe I watch too many movies).  There is a statue of archangel Michael at the entrance and on the building next to it, there is a museum about the Battle of Leipzig.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I visited the Thomaskirche again afterwards.  Johann Sebastian Bach was buried here, in the altar.  In a small room inside a church there was an additional exhibition about Bach on the last years of his life on the theme of death.  The wall was written with the text from his BWV 60 cantata complete with references to the Bible passage from which it originates.  It was like reading a scientific paper, only this time the paper is the cantata and the citation is the Bible.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then, I visited Universität Leipzig which is also located just around the corner, on Augustusplatz.  The concert hall Gewandhaus, Opera House, and the university all reside in this corner of Leipzig inner city. Tips for taking a break after a walking trip, just go to a university and you can sit a while and uses the toilet, also refill your water bottle 👌.  The university used to have a church (Paulinerkirche) that was bombed at the time of German Democratic Republic.  But now the church has been rebuilt and by the time of my visit, was still on the finishing step.

Although most museums are closed on Monday, I found an interesting route which is the Notenspur Leipzig (Music Trail of Leipzig). It is a route around the city center that consist of historical buildings/places associated with classical music history, such as churches where Bach used to work, the house of Felix Mendelssohn, birthplace of Clara Schumann, previous resident of Edvard Grieg, and many more as depicted in the picture below.  The points are also equipped with information board and some have interactive features.   After that, I went to Nicolaikirche to watch a free concert from the choir of University of Union, USA.  Unfortunately it is forbidden to take a photograph inside the church.

Notenspur Leipzig




Berpetualang ke Ghana

2 tahun lalu, saya berkesempatan pergi ke Ghana dalam rangka tugas kantor.  Iya, ke Ghana yang di Afrika itu.  Nggak pernah ada sekalipun kepikir untuk menginjakkan kaki di Benua Afrika.  Cerita bisa ke Ghana itu agak unik.  Gimana nggak, saya diutus ke Ghana itu H-4 sebelum flight dan sebelumnya gak ada rencana apapun, sama sekali.  Seluruh keperluan visa berhasil (Puji Tuhan) diurus pada H-2.  Mengurusnya pun agak drama, karena di Indonesia nggak ada kedutaan Ghana.  Jadilah agen perjalanan harus membawa seluruh surat dan dokumen ke kedutaan Ghana di Malaysia.

Singkat cerita, visa saya dan pak bos keluar dengan selamat.   FYI, kalau pergi ke negara Afrika hampir pasti harus vaksinasi demam kuning (yellow fever).  Penyakit ini ditularkan oleh nyamuk.  Daftar lengkap vaksinasi yang disarankan kalau kita bepergian keluar negeri bisa dilihat di sini dan di sini untuk versi singkatnya.  Vaksin demam kuning ini bisa diperoleh di Kantor Kesehatan Pelabuhan Bandara Soekarno – Hatta

Mata uang Ghana adalah Ghanaian Cedi (1 Cedi = 3000 Rupiah per tulisan ini dibuat).  Berhubung di Indonesia nggak ada penukaran mata uang ini, saya bawa USD ke Ghana.  Tips kalau pergi ke negara – negara yang mata uangnya agak sulit ditukar di Indonesia, bawa USD / Euro ke negara tersebut.  Maskapai yang kami pakai adalah Emirates, transit 1 x di Dubai dan lanjut ke Accra, ibukota Ghana.  Sesampainya di Accra waktu lagi menunggu koper di conveyor belt, tiba- tiba listriknya mati , welcome to Ghana 😅  Ternyata di Ghana sering mati listrik selama 3 tahun terakhir salah satunya karena bendungan pembangkit listriknya kering (thanks to climate change).  Akibatnya, harga bahan pokok di Ghana termasuk mahal (menurut Numbeo, lebih mahal daripada Jakarta).  Waktu ke mini market setempat, kebanyakan produk -produknya merupakan produk impor dan produk Ghana-nya mungkin hanya 30-40%.  Oya, cuaca di sana panas tapi mirip – mirip Jakarta deh, dan banyak nyamuk juga.  Dimana-mana ada pintu kawat nyamuk.

Berhubung acara di sana padat, kami cuma sempat jalan – jalan hari terakhir sebelum pulang.  Itupun subuh – subuh 😂.  Tapi nggak apa – apa, karena di Accra banyak bangunan bersejarah yang bisa dilihat, cuma berhubung masih subuh jadi nggak bisa masuk dan foto – fotonya pun gelap.  Anyway, ada beberapa foto yang lumayan representatif walaupun kualitasnya pas – pasan 😀

Black Star Gate  
Ferris Wheel di Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park.  Kwame Nkrumah adalah perdana menteri dan presiden pertamanya Ghana. Dulu, Ghana merupakan koloni Inggris dan namanya bukan Ghana melainkan Gold Coast.  Di taman ini ada mausoleumnya juga, sayangnya masih pagi jadi belum buka.  
Flagstaff House, istana presiden Ghana
Black Star Square / Independence Square, letaknya di seberang Black Star Gate



Menemukan Indonesia di Perantauan

Bulan Agustus ini, nggak kerasa saya sudah #hampirsetahundiDE. Anyway, ini adalah kali pertama saya merantau ke luar kota/pulau/negara/benua setelah tinggal dengan nyaman di Bandung, di mana sekolah, kampus, gereja berada di radius kurang dari 3 km saja.  Tapi justru di perantauan inilah saya banyak menemukan hal- hal baru tentang Indonesia yang saya malah belum tahu sama sekali ketika masih tinggal di Indonesia.

Berawal dari salah satu mata kuliah dimana kita diminta presentasi dan salah satu topik yang harus dipresentasikan adalah tentang abu vulkanis. Langsung dong saya pilih itu, saya yakin betul kalau referensi bahasa Indonesia tentang topik tersebut bakalan melimpah (secara Indonesia terletak di Ring of Fire).  Dari mengerjakan tugas itu, saya baru tahu kalau 75% penduduk Indonesia tinggal di radius <100 km saja dari gunung berapi.  Nggak lupa erupsi Tambora tahun 1815 yang mengakibatkan “year without summer” di belahan bumi utara.

Di kuliah yang lain, Klimatologi, salah satu materinya adalah tentang siklus Nitrogen.  Dari SD mungkin kita udah tahu kalau atmosfir kita itu tersusun dari 78% nitrogen.  Tapi nitrogen itu gak selamanya melayang-layang dalam bentuk gas di angkasa. Nitrogen bertransformasi dalam siklus nitrogen (lihat gambar di bawah).  Nggak cuma air, nitrogen juga ada siklusnya.  Nitrogen adalah salah satu komponen asam amino, penyusun protein.  Manusia bisa memperoleh nitrogen dari makanan (sayur /tanaman dan daging/telur).  Nah, tanaman bisa memperoleh nitrogen dari udara melalui proses fiksasi (contohnya tanaman kacang- kacangan yang bisa “mengikat” nitrogen di udara dan langsung menggunakan nitrogen tersebut) dan melalui petir yang mengubah nitrogen menjadi senyawa yang lebih aksesibel bagi tanaman (seperti amonia).

Siklus Nitrogen

Oke, intinya ini bukan tulisan tentang siklus geokimia.  Tapi pada saat kuliah ini, profesor saya bilang fiksasi nitrogen melalui petir itu hanya cukup signifikan di negara yang banyak petir seperti … Indonesia ! Lha saya malah baru tahu tentang hal ini.  Saya baru ngeh beberapa waktu lalu ketika saya denger petir untuk pertama kalinya selama di Jerman, sementara kalau di Indonesia udah bosen saking seringnya.

Peta Petir Sedunia (lihat Indonesia, banyak kan petirnya)

Saya tinggal di Essen, 1 jam saja dari perbatasan Belanda- Jerman.  Salah satu hal yang sering saya lakukan sejak tinggal di sini adalah memperhatikan kata- kata /frase dalam bahasa Belanda atau Jerman yang ada padanan literalnya dalam bahasa Indonesia. Contohnya kenapa ya bahasa inggrisnya “rumah sakit” itu “hospital?” Lalu saya sadar kalau “rumah sakit” itu bahasa Jermannya “Krankenhaus” (Kranken = sakit, Haus = rumah) yang mirip sama bahasa Belandanya (ziekenhaus; zieken=sakit, haus= rumah).  Nggak cuma menemukan padanan kata bahasa Indonesia, saya juga baru tahu kalau “pit”(istilah bahasa Jawa untuk “sepeda”) itu berasal dari “fiets” (bahasa Belandanya “sepeda”). Ternyata kosakata bahasa Indonesia banyak banget loanwords-nya ! Di saja ada 72 halaman daftar loanwords bahasa Indonesia yang berasal dari bahasa Belanda.  Saya banyak cari tahu dari tagar #sabtunedina juga di akun twitternya Mbak Lorraine Riva .

Dari akun twitter beliau, beberapa waktu lalu saya juga menemukan artikel bahasa Belanda tentang nama – nama jalan di Bandung dan Jakarta tempo dulu.  Saya jadi agak menyesal dulu waktu di Indonesia nggak banyak jalan – jalan keliling kota (lebih sering ke mall, tentu saja).

Masih banyak lagi hal tentang Indonesia yang saya temukan di sini.  Mulai dari makanan Indonesia kalau lagi main ke Belanda, juga komponis – komponis Hindia Belanda yang punya karya berdasarkan musik gamelan.  Tentang 2 hal ini kayaknya saya bisa bikin postingan tersendiri karena bakalan panjang banget :))  Saya jadi makin semangat belajar dan mencari tahu tentang sejarah dan budaya Indonesia. Salah satu wishlist saya mumpung lagi di sini adalah bermain dan belajar ke perpustakaan Universitas Leiden, yang katanya punya koleksi literatur Indonesia yang lengkap.

Untuk menutup tulisan ini, saya mau bilang : Selamat ulang tahun ke-72 Republik Indonesia ! Nggak apa – apa ya telat seminggu :’))

Javanese Marketplace
Miniatur tipikal pasar di Pulau Jawa tahun 1850-an (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)


Masih di Rijksmuseum, ratifikasi Perjanjian Breda (1667) antara Inggris dan Belanda, yang menukar Pulau Run (Kepulauan Banda) dengan New York / Manhattan


PS: Sebelum saya menulis tulisan ini, saya menemukan satu lagi istilah bahasa Jerman yang ada padanan literalnya dalam bahasa Indonesia : “jembatan keledai” !

We Listen to Reply

Based on my previous blog post, chronologically this post should be about “How to Apply for Germany Student Visa” or “First Week in Essen” and so on, but anyway :p.  A few months ago, I found this quote from Stephen Covey somewhere in either my Facebook timeline or Tumblr dashboard


At the moment I was like “Wow, this is so freaking true”.  I personally don’t like to talk if there is nothing I want to add and I feel annoyed if in a meeting or discussion people just throwing out their opinion without a point and just reciting everything else that has been said before, just for the sake of replying.  I am not saying that I hate people expressing their opinion, but at some point at some institutions this ineffective habit of throwing pointless arguments is just, well, time-wasting.

Not until I have moved to Germany that I found this quote way way more relevant to my daily life.  FYI, I live in Essen, the 6th biggest city in Germany, the 2017 European Green Capital City with around 560.000 inhabitants.  It’s a very busy city along the Ruhr River, home to the famous steel company Thyssen Krupp and in the 19th century was a highly industrialized (and polluted) area.  People here are highly busy but not that english-speaking as another bigger cities such as Berlin or Munich, just to name a few.

Before I come here I have taken a German course in Bandung for 1,5 years.  I was thinking that “Well, I might not be able to write something in perfect German but I think I can manage that”.  Turns out I was wrong.  Yes I am able to understand some German terms, yes I can write e-mail in German but I cannot understand what the people are saying in German.  At all.  So I can start a conversation but I am not able to interpret what the response is.  Up until this time (4 months) I only manage to understand at the most 50% of what people are saying.  This is because they speak very differently with whatever it is I have learnt. Different speed and different accent.  There was a period when I was so overwhelmed by the fact that I cannot understand spoken German that I just didn’t want to go anywhere.  Even asking for toilet location at church can be overwhelming, simply because I was too afraid that I wouldn’t be able to understand the reply.  And I learnt it the hard way that to learn a language in its native land, you simply need to understand, and you should thrive to listen and understand what the question is.  (That also includes the courage to ask “Could you repeat a little bit slowly?”)

To speak about linguistics would be too far, but this is the point of communication.  How could I reply, if I don’t understand what the question is in the first place ? I have experienced this same thing with Sundanese and Javanese language back then.  But I never think of it, after all people will ask me question in Indonesian anyway, so why bother?   But here, I was given the basic, most important lesson in communication the hard way (well, according to my previously-spoiled-life-in-convenient-city). We listen not to reply, but to understand first.



I don’t really like October

Somewhere in the past, somebody left in October. Another also left in October.  The former left to another hemisphere of the earth while the latter left for a new stage in life. So it is normal (?) if I always welcome October cautiously.  Triggers are everywhere.

And yet this October will be full of drama

What, So What, Now What ?


One of my favourite thing to do is attending seminars. Like seriously, if I could spend my whole life listening to people talking about something in particular, listening to lectures, and reading book, I would. There is nothing more satisfying than gaining new knowledge…only to find it buried down deep for the rest of my life (until now, hopefully).

Last year I attended a Bible Camp on Christian Apologetics and last Saturday I found myself in a similar but slightly more comprehensive seminar by the same speaker and I could not help but start wondering “what have I achieved this year?” Seems like whatever I was learning last year just stay there, unanalysed even though I am really trying to implement it in my daily life (super difficult, though). So the thing is that for me, I am searching for so many knowledge and found them not useful, yet. Or it was me not trying to make use of all of them. I always get motivated in a seminar and by the time I get out of the building, the motivations disappear like a vapor into thin air. I also fancy collected tons of training materials, only to found it not being used until now, where I found myself wondering I could have done this project better, if ony I refer to those training materials. My bosses have also admit that they attended lots of training or seminar and then buried the material somewhere inside that enourmous cupboard on the corner of the room.

This made me recall an event I was doing last month with my colleagues. It was a training and bonding activity and one of the key message that kept resonating inside my head is “reflection”. So let’s say that you have a particular event in your life. How big it will have impacted your life will be determined by your reflection on the event. What is the event, so what you feel about it, and now what you will do about it. Those are the questions that were continouously being asked by the facilitators. Although to be honest, most of the training materials are quite heavy on New Age worldview, which are not suitable with my worldview, I had quite a battle inside my heart over it throughout the training *sigh* . Anyway, without routinely reflecting on everyday events, my life and the worldview I hold onto wouldn’t be developing too. In short, we can develop much more progressive toward a better person, if only we tried to routinely reflecting, in my case, on those seminar materials, training, and of course, life’s tribulation


Disclaimer : The title of this post are mottos frequently said by the EcoLearningCamp team


I should be so depressed at the moment, after failing (another) master’s scholarship application, failing to meet a dearest old friend after 2 years since last meeting (and 6 months of silence), the AirAsia QZ8501 accident which triggered all emotions from 2012’s Sukhoi accident, and watching a friend with his significant other sharing some good times while here I am standing and pouring all those feelings out (and secretly hoping to not meeting any of them again). That was stupid and momentarily though, I should not be expecting to not meeting any of them. In fact they have been such good friends, it’s just me who found it damn hard to face reality as it is and stay too long in the past.

Anyway, to ease such pain, I decided to make a list of things that happened throughout 2014 that I should be hugely grateful of. Even though the year 2014 ended quite chaotic for me, I believe there will be something good come through this messed-up yearend, maybe this year, maybe 2 yrs from now, maybe 10 yrs from now, God knows 🙂

1. Graduation ! After another depressing episode in the past of doing my undergraduate thesis, dealing with those daphnids, struggling and pleading to be permitted to have the examination before new semester started, finally I tackled the exam on January 17th (new semester started at January 20th!) and enjoyed a bit of the ceremony on April

2. First job. I was offered to fill-in my thesis partner in assisting our advisor on an EIA project for 500 kV transmission line for the national electricity company. The project is still ongoing until now (national company’s habit) but we are hoping to finish this by April. Nonetheless, so far the project taught me a lot of things and gave me chance to work with the assistants (my classmates). We have been stuck here for a long time and hopefully we’ll end this soon enough !

3. Prothumia Camp. I have been a long time fan of Christian apologetics but did not have any chance to learn it thoroughly. So when I saw this announcement of apologetics camp at South East Asia Bible Seminary , Malang, East Java, I was so attracted but I did not apply immediately. After finding myself drown in apologetics questions, I applied on the last minute. So many knowledge and faith-strengthening insights. Sometimes we do not ask questions because we are afraid that the answers will not make us satisfied, or worse, disappointed. I am so grateful that in this camp I got the answers to the questions I were afraid to ask.

4. Second job. Since the EIA project progresses very very slow (typical national company), I decided to apply for another job while keep applying scholarships. Submitting my application 2 days late than the actual deadline for the position, I found out that they replied my application pretty fast and offered me a full time job in the interview! This ordinary motion turned out to be super extraordinary when the projects we were involved in are in fact challenging my personal skill while at the same time facilitate what I have been longing for : working with foreigners. The project were super time-and-commitment-consuming but I am so beyond grateful to finally finish the project. Combined with the responsibility trusted on me, words cannot express how grateful I am.

5. My best friend wedding. It was super fun to be part of my besties wedding, the 1st year college gank returned to have some fun and witnessed the happiest moment in our friend’s life

6. Christmas Eve service. As I have mentioned before in #4, the project my office was involved in made me unable to craft any ideas for the XMas Eve service, where I was assigned to accompany. Thank God on the D-1 day, I found out that the choir conductor’s husband has been longing to play in the service (If only I found that out earlier!). So we had practice in the morning and played in the evening. Turned out the congregation was really enthusiastic to sing the songs in the liturgy.  I could say that my comeback as an accompanist after 2 month hiatus just made my day, while earlier at the same day I found out that another scholarship application was just turned down. It was such a blessing to close that day.

There were lots of things that happened that should be grateful of and I cannot made a detailed list of everything. At the end of this post I just want to wish everyone a happy and memorable new year! Stay thankful (to me also) !