At the centre of Lindau, a tiny island on lake Konstanz in southern Germany, two churches sit side by side in the market square. The largest pipe organ resides in the loft of St. Stephan’s, while the catholic church of Heilage Maria boasts the more lavishly baroque interior. Both have a Kantor and an assembly of singers providing music for their congregations. Visiting St Stephan’s to attend a talk by the Kantor I found myself instead in the middle of the sunday service. Quickly finding an empty pew, I began to follow the worshippers movements, sitting or standing, according to them. The pastor, a woman dressed in a black gown and white ruffed collar, gestured to the front row of seats. The kantor and his singers stood up and arranged themselves in a line at the head of the church. Disavowing the instrument that made the church famous, the kantor uncovered a small electric piano and unsheated a slew of pages. He introduced the music by speaking briefly at the lecturn, finsihing with three words in english, “Lean on me”. The nine women and a male bass baritone wore identical shades of deep carmine. Gazing towards us, the attentive congregation (and me), the singers began to sway. With wide eyes and sincere gesticulations, the first words of the lyric came;
“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain, We all have sorrow
But if we are wise, We always know that there’s tomorrow”
German accents and Teutonic grooves (more jerky Kraftwerk than fluid Michael Jackson) combined to make this funky jingle strange. Mystery, by definition, remains allusive, but sometimes we might catch a glimpse of its location. The body language of the singers and the sentiments of the song were slightly out of sync, and this gap, between the singers and the song, was beautiful.