May 2005:
Barbara Dennerlein

see her biography and discography, click here!

Barbara Dennerlein Barbara tells her story
how she came to the organ:

The Beginnings
Christmas 1975, a small single keyboard electronic organ was to be found under our Christmas tree. It was my Christmas present from my grandfather who was of the opinion that a child should be able to play an instrument. The fact that it turned out to be an organ was thanks to my father.
In his youth my father played the piano, he even studied at the music academy. Whilst there, he was under threat of being expelled, because he had been forbidden by them to indulge in his passion for jazz. This led, unfortunately, to my father no longer wanting to play the piano and instead of studying music he took over the family decorating business.
Piano playing was neglected and it was relegated to an amateur status. Decades later my father sold the family decorating business and was reminded once more of his artistic streak this led to his taking up the study of painting and design. Today he is no less creative than his daughter which can be seen in his sculptures and paintings.
When my grandfather suggested the idea of the Christmas present to my father he thought with horror of the all the recorder playing children who had to play for their families at Christmas time and about whether I would be at all interested in playing an organ. If I had found no pleasure in it, then at least my father would have been able to play it. But as we know it all turned out differently.
My grandfather agreed and that is how I obtained my first small organ. I entered the living room on Christmas Eve, saw the instrument and cried out spontaneously, "hey an organ" (this was said in Bavarian dialect in order to express my enthusiasm for the instrument). I sat down at the organ, my very first of all my instruments, and I immediately started playing Christmas Carols by ear.
In order to make sure that I would be able to play properly my parents started looking for an organ teacher and with the help of the music shop where they bought the organ they were successful. Fortune smiled on me and my first and only ever organ teacher was someone who played on the legendary Hammond B-3 - and he played jazz (above all swing classics and numbers from the American Songbook).
After my first music lesson I came home and revealed to my parents that one could also play this instruments with one's feet and that I could not practice without a foot pedal. As my parents were in agreement they soon bought me a somewhat larger organ with a keyboard and foot pedal, and then sometime later an even bigger one with two keyboards and a foot pedal.
I was eleven years old and it was love, not at first sight, but at the first "tone"! I heard my teacher playing jazz on the Hammond organ and was spontaneously touched, moved, enthusiastic and fell in love with this sound and this music. Well, as far as jazz was concerned, I was already prejudiced by my parents, as they were always listening to jazz and I must also have "listened" subconsciously. The parental taste in music left its traces and what had to come had to come!
I was, however, at that time miles away from my dream instrument of a Hammond B-3. Nevertheless, I was the only pupil of my teacher who was allowed to play on his B3, at that time with a "Hohner Keyboard Instrument" attached to it. That one day I myself would own such an instrument was for me beyond my wildest dreams.
I learnt very quickly and played almost from the very beginning parallel to the organ practice book, jazz classics to be found in the immense collection of sheet music belonging to my teacher. Although I did not always know the pieces of music, I played them intuitively correctly according to the music notes of the melody and the accord symbols. After only one year I gave my first recital in a small setting and after approximately one and a half years I left my teacher and continued to teach myself auto-didactically.
In the meantime my enterprising father had found out where one could buy a Hammond B-3 and I was the proud owner of my very first original Hammond B-3 organ. There followed a time of practice and rehearsal with other musicians at the weekends, and at the age of fifteen I had my first longer engagement in a Munich jazz club in which from then on I played regularly for ten days at a time in the school vacations.
I graduated in 1983 with an average mark of 1.6 (straight As) and instead of enjoying my new found freedom I immediately went on a music tour. That is how it has been right up until the present day. The rest is a long and well known story, which up until now has brought me much success and a loyal audience.
Barbara Dennerlein

translation by Sybina Richter - with many thanks from the IAJO!



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