Words and images from home and away
Heavy snowstorms these past few days, the most we’ve had so far. Small children are now being pulled along the footpaths on sleds. On Saturday afternoon we went to Sankt Petri Kirke for a Christmas concert — Liebe alte Weihnachtslieder. This is the parish church of the German-speaking community in Copenhagen, and it was a beautiful concert given by the main choir, children’s choir, brass ensemble and other musicians from Sankt Petri’s. Lots of German carols, with some instrumentals thrown in including a couple of movements from a Bach trio sonata and a gorgeous galumphing piece by Johann Hermann Schein—the brass ensemble was like a stampede of drunken elephants high on Christmas glögg who’d broken into a music shop full of slightly out of tune sackbuts. But the Padouane joyfully bellowed around the transepts of the city’s oldest preserved church.
And I loved some old favourites —Die Könige (Peter Cornelius), and the early baroque Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (Michael Praetorius, who like Shakespeare died on his birthday). The wintry metaphors of northern carols make much more sense when it’s dark not long into a concert starting at 3pm … the rose that has flowered in the middle of a cold wintry night etc.
When I came to Copenhagen a month ago now I wondered about my German-speaking Danish ancestors the Dietrichsens. It turns out that the seven children of Paul Ludewig Dieterich and his wife Elisabet were baptised in this very church between 1733 and 1746, so listening to German Christmas carols in their parish church and thinking about family past and present sent quite a shiver down my spine. Under the church are huge burial vaults dating from the mid seventeenth century—have to get down there for a look before I go home and maybe I’ll find some old family bones.
One of those children Christian Dietrichsen ended up marrying in London in 1768, and his son Frederick was a military clothier, habit and stay maker. A couple of weeks ago I braved the Copenhagen City Archives—amazing what you can do with a laptop, wireless internet connection, google translate, and a bit of a sixth sense for archival sleuthing. In the Borgerskabsprotokol [citizenship lists] I found a reference to my Paul Dieterich (Diterich/Diderich/Diedrich), whose occupation was given as skrædder [tailor], and who was registered in the citizenship register on 18 February 1832, the year before the first child is baptised at St Peter’s.
Another source— Registre til Indvarterings Mandtal 1733-34—gives his address as Snare Gaden 5. Snarens is one of the old quarters of the city, and this small section of street (now known as Snaregade) is still there.
The citizenship register suggests that he may have been born in Saxony, though I’m not sure that my reading of the handwriting is accurate. The tracks of ancestors come in and out of frame like the bird footprints that stamp the driveway in the snow. Perhaps only the wise owl who watches over the archive will ever know.
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