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An Unassuming Citizen of the World – In memoriam Bert Kaempfert

4_8_1-90_birthdayBert Kaempfert’s 90th Anniversary was celebrated on 16 October 2013 with reminiscences and a wealth of music.

Associates from the world of music, friends and relations commemorated the composer and bandleader Bert Kaempfert at a ceremony held on 16 October 2013. To celebrate this event Kaempfert’s daughter Doris had invited guests to gather at the casino at Hamburg’s Stephansplatz, where Bert Kaempfert’s career began after the Second War War.

The casino at Hamburg’s Stephansplatz was not only a fitting place for celebrating the anniversary of the bandleader, arranger and composer who died on 21 June 1980, it also represented an important stepping stone in Bert Kaempfert’s life. For it was the Tarantella Bar, located to this day in the casino, which witnessed Kaempfert’s breathtaking career after the end of the war and where he made his first appearances in Hamburg.

ssociates from the world of music, friends and relations gathered on 16 October to commemorate the international star’s 90th anniversary. Some of his most famous compositions were presented by a trio consisting of pianist Wolfgang Köhler, bass player Marc Muellbauer and drummer Kai Schönburg, who lent their performance a lively swing. In addition there was the outstanding jazz singer Marc Secara, who took turns at the microphone with Pe Werner, as well as two musicians who worked with Kaempfert. Trumpeter and flugelhorn player Ack van Rooyen and trombonist Jiggs Whigham turned this celebratory event into a top-flight musical highlight.

Together with two further former players from Kaempfert’s orchestra, the guests numbered saxophonist Herb Geller and bass player Lucas Lindholm. The many others who had made their way to the casino included Bill Ramsey, the chief conductor of the NDR Big Band Jörg Achim Keller, Moritz Trapp (Universal Music), Dirk Mahlstedt (Edel Kultur), as well as Dominik Seidler from the Deutscher Musikrat (Project Director of BuJazzO), Kristine Kresge (Conductor of the Hamburg Police Band), representatives of Schacht music publishers, Marc Boettcher (author and documentary film maker), Ladi “Knackbass” Geisler’s widows, and Rolf Ahrens (Kaempfert’s dummer).

The speakers shared many personal memories with the public. Music publisher Dagmar Sikorski told of her time as a young girl on Majorca where she was introduced by Bert Kaempfert and Freddy Quinn to the art of playing skat – “we played hard, in other words, for money”. For Dagmar, Kaempfert was the personification of “a new type of a surprisingly laid-back German”. By which she made clear that Kaempfert was not only an outstanding musician but also cut a fine figure as an unassuming citizen of the world. Jiggs Whigham, whose wife is American, told an amusing anecdote that demonstrated just what a good name Kaempfert enjoyed in the USA: Jiggs was only fully accepted by his mother-in-law after she found out that he was a member of Bert Kaempfert’s orchestra.

t was not, however, reminiscences alone that were exchanged; the anniversary celebration also included an inauguration. With the Bert-Kaempfert-Stiftung, Kaempfert’s daughter Doris established a foundation with the aim of providing nationwide support for talented young professional musicians making their way through life. As a consequence, the foundation’s first sponsorship award went this year to the composers’ competition of the Federal Youth Jazz Orchestra (BuJazzO).

Hamburg’s Senator for Culture, Prof. Barbara Kisseler, presented a sponsorship certificate, adding appropriately: “Without a doubt, Bert Kaempfert deserves a chapter of his own in the history of music in Hamburg.” Professor Kisseler recalled that “Wonderland By Night” was the first title by a German composer that became a number one hit in the USA, and that Kaempfert, through highly detailed work, developed a sound that was immediately recognizable. This foundation will surely carry Bert Kaempfert’s legacy well into the future.

Photo copyright G2 Baraniak/Bert Kaempfert Music