Brahms in Hamburg

case study: conference hits the high notes for
manhattan string quartets annual meeting

exclusive, knowledge sharing program steeped in music, history & culture

The Why – Executive Summary

For hundreds of years Germany has been known as one of the world’s strongest epicenters for classical music, and is associated with many beloved composers and pieces.

When the critically acclaimed Manhattan String Quartet and their independent meeting planner — Karan Spanard of Maryada Strategies — looked to create a highly customized program for their 2016 Annual Conference they looked to Germany, and to Hamburg specifically.

Hamburg has been a vibrant place of music for over 500 years. Handel, Telemann, Mendelssohn and Brahms were among the great musicians to call it home, and today the city proudly features the 175-yr-old Hamburg Philharmonic.  Hamburg was also where the first German public opera house was built in 1678, and opera is still alive and thriving in the city with performances given by the Hamburg State Opera.  On more of a “Pop” note, Hamburg’s famed Reeperbahn – and its cool musical vibe – was a springboard for the Beatles’ meteoric rise to international stardom in the 60’s, and it serves as a hot spot for all shapes and sizes of musical festivals, performances and venues today.

The Where, Who & How – Meeting Details

During the two sessions held in January of 2016, two groups of 60+ musicians settled into Hamburg to devote themselves to better understanding and performing one piece — Brahms String Quartet in B-flat major, Op.67.

Tapping into the rich music and Brahms landscape in Hamburg, each and every part of the conference program was finely tuned to the professional, semi professional and amateur players participating.

Fascinating lectures hosted by Dr. Michael Struck and Dr. Jakob Hauschildt  – of the nearby Brahms Research Institute and Musicological Institute of the University of Kiel – helped participants literally and figuratively peel back the layers of edits made to Brahms’ piece over the centuries. Doing this allowed the musicians turn back time and get inside the head of the composer, by playing more closely to the original creation and vision of Brahms. These highly popular sessions took place at the Lichtwarksaal building in Hamburg’s Composers Quarter, an area devoted to the history of music in the city and featuring museums for Brahms, Mendelssohn, Bach, and Telemann who were born or did much of their work in Hamburg.

Six, in-depth coaching sessions during each week were also given by the Manhattan String Quartet at the Adina Hotel and a special concert was performed at the neo-classical Spiegelsaal (hall of mirrors) at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe. This museum features one of Europe’s most influential Arts and Crafts collections, and a unique and extensive historic musical instrument collection which delegates truly enjoyed.

Additionally, and dovetailing perfectly with the knowledge-sharing goals of the conference, delegates visited the Brahms Museum in the Composers Quarter (in a building built in 1751,) and the Brahms Institute in Lübeck, a city that is part of the Hamburg Metropolitan Region.  Together these historic and musical gems allowed delegates to see and study Brahms’ handwritten letters, original manuscripts & composition sketches, documents & photos, concert programs and even his piano used for giving lessons in 1861 and 1862. A special visit to the Jakobi Church, also in Lübeck, gave delegates the rare and exclusive pleasure of hearing a stunning Stellwagen organ — one of the best preserved examples of North German organs from the 16th century.

Finally, many of the conference goers also brought along a spouse or partner to Hamburg who enjoyed many behind-the-scenes and private looks at local treasures thanks to a well-planned, sophisticated guest program. This program included visits to the AIRBUS factory — Hamburg is the world’s third largest commercial airplane manufacturing region behind Seattle and Toulouse — and the Hamburg Steinway piano factory for starters. Guests and spouses also made VIP Visits to the Kunsthalle Art Museum, the Hamburg History Museum, and Miniatur Wunderland (the world’s largest model train set). They also enjoyed a culinary Walking Tour of the St. Georg district, the oldest “neighborhood” in Hamburg.

The Wow – The Results & Destination Difference

The depth of industry expertise that Hamburg has to offer for music – which can also be found in the city for maritime, aerospace, and urban & green design conferences as well – made it one of the most sought after programs the Manhattan String Quartet has ever done. In fact, some attendees from the first session found the program so valuable that they stayed on for the second session to repeat the experience.

Even the hotel space at the Adina Hotel Hamburg Michel accommodated the participants’ unique need for in-room rehearsal space given its apartment-like suites – an advantage of the wide-range of hotel options available in Hamburg and a feature which Ms. Spanard noted is not available in many cities.

In the evenings, the central location of the hotel had delegates walking to live performances, with many taking in the opera every night they could. “This conference hit the nail right on the head of our delegates’ interests and needs with each and every activity we did,” said Ms. Spanard of Maryada Strategies. “The delegates invested their own money and time to come because they are so passionate about their craft. They were delighted in what was delivered and are still raving about the program and Hamburg.”

The Hamburg CVB, working with Ms. Spanard, helped bring a sense of personal touch and local expertise to life for the conference. “The Hamburg CVB was excellent and just what a meeting planner wants,” said Ms. Spanard. She added, “Their ultra-responsiveness, highly personalized service and detailed recommendations for truly tailoring our program was appreciated and invaluable from start to finish. It was a great collaboration that led to a unique and extraordinary experience for our attendees.”

In Cooperation with the German Convention Bureau e.V. | Photos: Christina Czybik, clipdealer