In July, Dr. Ed Maki-Schramm and a group of American organists traveled through beautiful Germany on a historic organ tour focused on the life of J.S. Bach. The “In the Footsteps of Bach” tour began in Lubeck at the Marienkirche where Buxtehude taught Bach to play the organ, continued through Leipzig where Bach was Music Director at Thomaskirche from 1723 – 1750, and ended in Eisenach, home of Bach Haus. In the blog below, Ed talks about his musical background and what leading an Encore tour is like, as well as his favorite experiences on the trip!
Encore: What is your profession/musical background?
Ed: I began piano lessons when I was five years old and added organ lessons when I was twelve. I had a church position by the time I was fourteen. I did my bachelor's degree in organ performance at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory, a master's and doctorate at the University of Michigan.
Encore: How many times have you traveled with Encore Tours and where did you go?
Ed: I traveled with the Community Chorus of Detroit to France in 2015, touring Paris, Normandy, and the Loire Valley.
Encore: What inspired you to lead the “In the Footsteps of Bach” tour for organists?
Ed: My experience with Encore Tours was so fabulous and 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It seemed like a natural combination to have American organists on tour with Encore's help to play the historical German instruments that J.S. Bach knew and to see Martin Luther's influence on this music.
Encore: Had you ever lead an international music tour before?
Ed: I led a church choir tour to England in 1996 and toured with the Community Chorus of Detroit to France in 2015. Other than personal travel to Europe and playing organ recitals, those have been my only international tours.
Encore: What about this trip was unique compared to other music tours you’ve led or been on?
Ed: This trip was unique because it was a perfect combination of superior performance opportunities with free time to absorb as much local culture and history as possible. We played in the most significant churches of Bach's life on new and historical instruments that are usually blocked to travelers, even those who have connections.
Encore: What were some of the highlights of the trip?
Ed: Playing at the Thomaskirche was the highlight for me. As an organist who travels every year to Germany for organ playing opportunities and to see family, the Thomaskirche is by invitation only. I had been trying for well over two years to build connections with the personnel at the Thomaskirche with not much luck. On this Encore tour, we had the good fortune to be greeted at the door by the organist, Ullrich Böhme, and led to the organ gallery. What a privilege it was to be there playing the new Bach organ that he had designed and to look down at his grave. The second greatest thrill was to walk to the Nicolaikirche where Bach also had a post and play the newer organ with the console designed by Porsche Motor Cars. To be there and to remember that that is where the peaceful revolution started which eventually brought down the Berlin Wall was really heartwarming. There was so much history there and for so much to be grateful.
Inside Nikolaikirche in Leipzig
Encore: What did Encore Tours do to make your trip easier and more enjoyable?
Ed: Encore hired a tour guide for us to have a walking tour in English in Leipzig. Our tour guide was amazing, as well, and his English was very good. When our bus broke down in Eisenach toward the end of the tour, our guide was quick to get us all a train back to Leipzig where we had our celebratory final dinner. Even with a small hiccup, the tour was smooth and very well done.
Encore: What advice do you have for other organists, music directors, and music teachers wanting to lead an international music tour?
Ed: The personal touch of Encore makes for a very successful tour. Now having done several tours with Encore, I have seen the access that working with Encore brings. It's unprecedented. With Encore's help, my choirs have sung and toured Notre Dame de Paris, Canterbury Cathedral, and St. Paul's in London London. These famous places are enhanced with excellent guides and a commitment to life-changing tours.
Encore: Anything else you’d like to add?
Ed: Thank you for asking these questions and for allowing me to be a part of the Encore team.
Thomaskirche in Leipzig
Thanks to Ed for sharing his experiences on the “In the Footsteps of Bach Tour.” You can read more about the tour in Ed's first blog post here.