Christkindl Market wouldn't be complete without the hand-cranked melodies of Hurdy-Gurdy Klaus Wehrenberg, the Organ Grinder.
Although not unique to the Christmas season, organ grinders performing on city streets were a popular form of entertainment in Europe and North America in the 1800s and early 1900s. The organ, powered by turning a crank, operates similarly to a player piano – a stream of air is created by a bellows, forced through a series of pipes and then through a punched paper roll – creating the unique sound. Each paper roll plays a different tune, the notes based on the size and spacing of the holes.
Historically, organ grinders – sometimes known as hurdy-gurdy men – were often accompanied by a monkey who was trained to collect coins from the audience while the busker entertained.
Want to know more about the traditions of Christmas? Ask your local library to borrow:
Judith Flander’s book Christmas: A Biography, published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2017.
As a member of the Zither Club Heusenstamm, Germany, Ruth Anna Lindemeir had the opportunity to attend music academies and national competitions. Since emigrating to Canada she has performed at the Chateau Lake Louise, AB; North Dakota, USA, and at many cultural events in Winnipeg and surrounding areas. As part of “Die Heimatquelle” she played at Folklorama at the Alpine Pavilion for twelve years.
In the late 1990s, Ruth Anna joined a band called "The Myth," and began recording adult contemporary music. The project resulted in the recording of new original material and the independent release of an album titled "Dream Harbour." Looking back on her career, Ruth Anna points to her work with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 2003 with Conductor Andrey Boreyko as on of her major highlights. After moving to Stratford, ON, she performed at the Christkindl Market in Kitchener, ON, since 2010.
In the fall of 2015 Ruth Anna has been the Zither consultant to Hannah John-Kamen, the lead actress of the Canadian Sci-Fi TV-series “Killjoys.” 2016 continued with exciting events as she was invited to play at the Viennese Winter Ball in Ottawa. In the summer she performed at the Music & Beyond Festival in Ottawa at the Diefenbunker, at the Canadian Museum of Nature, and to an audience at the Mayfair Theatre before the screening of the movie classic "The Third Man." In 2017, The Music & Beyond Festival invited her again to play at the Diefenbunker and at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, just outside of Ottawa.
“The Zither has been a friend for so many years and it has been an honour keeping the sounds of this traditional and well-loved instrument alive.” ~ Ruth Anna Lindemeir
Ruth Anna Lindemeir is a Christkindl Market crowd pleaser at Kitchener's City Hall. For more information, visit the RuthAnna Lindemeir-Zither Facebook page.
"Greetings from Ovambo, Wurzelsepp, and Hurdy Gurdy Klaus. The little monkey would like to jump in step with the traditional tunes, and the wooden dwarf wants to belt out those tunes in his quiet way, but we all, and the barrel Organ, shall take a Covid rest - until next year‘s 25th anniversary. We shall miss your smiles and your helping us crank the hurdy gurdy, but trust that we shall have a good time again, at our 2021 Christkindl Market. We are giving you a virtual embrace, and wish you and your families the best possible Merry Christmas!“
Hurdy-Gurdy Klaus Wehrenberg, The Organ Grinder, Ovambo and Wurzelsepp
Every December since 2000, organ grinder Klaus Wehrenberg has been cranking out melodies and entertaining crowds at Christkindl Market at Kitchener City Hall. He was born in Germany, where itinerant street musicians would use trained monkeys to do tricks and solicit payments with a tin cup.
Klaus uses a monkey puppet called Ovambo instead and a hat for tips. When he cranks the organ, bellows pump air through holes in reinforced music paper stored on spools. As the spool unwinds, air pressure flows through the holes in the paper, triggering music from the wooden pipes of the organ.
His motivation for entertaining is simple: “My music brings joys and smiles to the faces of people.”
"One of my greatest joys as former President (from 2007 to 2016), of this Top 100 Festivals in Ontario, was to greet our visitors that would return each year. They would remind us that we had become a part of one big family. And, that the holiday season was not complete until we had a chance to enjoy catching up on each other's lives. Christkindl Market somehow has the ability to bring out the warmth, wonder and joy in our visitors, volunteers, vendors, entertainers and sponsors. It's almost magical.
I think that is one of the reasons the Christkindl Market Committee members are so committed to ensuring the festival continues to present a traditional festival of German Christmas - for decades to come."
Sincerely, Astrid Braun