Today I assisted at a wedding in our local Anglican church (no, that isn't it in the picture—you'll have to read on); the groom, a practising Catholic, had obtained a dispensation to wed his Anglican inamorata there, and I was keeping our end up. The hymns were not outstanding, I'm afraid. The first was 'Lord of the Dance'—we had a version of it in the seminary which went:
I danced on the altar when the Mass was begun
I took my guitar out and had a damn good strum
I giggled and I gurgled and I waved both my arms
With modern liturgy you need have no qualms.
Dance, dance, it's modern liturgy!
And we'll all dance around on the sanctuary
And sing silly songs fit for kids of three.
So give three cheers for modern liturgy!
But that isn't the point I'm getting at today. When the chorus of the wretched hymn began (me pretending to enjoy it), I nearly jumped out of my skin: this extraordinary tinkling of little bells emerged from the organ. It was a zimbelstern!
Now, the organ I learnt on had a celesta stop—no, not a voix celeste, but chime bells—the instrument that one plays the dance of the sugar plum fairy on. That was pretty unusual, but I have never heard a zimbelstern in England before. It takes the form of a star shape on the front of the organ case which, when switched on, rotates and rings a set of little tinkling bells. Very charming. Sometimes the bells are tuned in D or G. I was taken right back to my first encounter with a zimbelstern.
It was my first (and so far, only) trip to Poland. Usually, people head straight to Cracow, but I had to be different; I went to Warmia, because I have a good friend in Olszytyn. That neck of the woods used to be East Prussia until the various ethnic cleansings which followed WW2. Now the population is nearly all Polish, though I got by now and then with my sketchy German. It was the area where the Teutonic knights held sway: they governed from the extraordinary castle of Marienburg, modern Malbork—an intact mediaeval huge fortress curiously built in brick. By coincidence, I have a parishioner from Malbork. Anyway, there is also a Marian shrine in that corner of Poland called Święta Lipka, or Holy Linden (or lime tree) (German name, Heiligelinde). Web site here.(though the photo link doesn't work; use this one instead). It is, as you might see, a lovely church, and a beautiful Madonna in that rather severe northern European way. But what did it for me was the organ.
It was made by Jan Jozue Mosengel around 1720, and it incorporates two zimbelsterns, which you can see on the photo if you enlarge it (just click on it), positioned on the towers at either side of the organ. They spin round gently, tinkling away whenever the organist pulls a lever. But that's only the start. All those figures that you can't see very well in this picture also move. The angels blow their trumpets, turning from side to side; the putti play. And, best of all, on the very top of the instrument is a very large pair of figures (more than 6') representing the annunciation. The archangel Gabriel bows low before our Lady, asking her to bear God's son, and Mary graciously nods yes back to him. The whole thing is very moving in more ways than one. The unexpected sound of a Zimbelstern today transported me right back there. I must suggest to our vicar that he invest in some moving statues for his organ. I wonder if Ballinspittle has some to spare?
I have a tape of the organ, including with the zimbelstern. I wish I knew how to post a track for you.
Another link to Święta Lipka here.