Music – a bridge between Blind and Sighted People
A Motet performed by Leipzig’s St Thomas Boys’ Choir and Vocal Quartet »Pro Puncto«

Friday, 30th September 2011: The four members of the vocal quartet »Pro Puncto« are selfconfidently standing in the presbytery of Leipzig’s St Thomas Church. Their fingers proficiently run over the pages of their music sheets in Braille, which are lying on stands in front of them. Their precisely accurate four-part singing fills the high church, impressing the numerous international audience.

The traditional motet of St Thomas Boys’ Choir is a real magnet for visitors, to which the blind vocal quartet »Pro Puncto« will be an extraordinary asset on 30 September 2011. The two ensembles are quite different from each other, but their common love for music has brought them together. The programme consists of the first performance of »Ebed Jahwed – Der Knecht Gottes«, a peace by the German composer Joachim Beez, as well as works by Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Palestrina, and di Lasso.

St Thomas Boys’ Choir currently consists of roughly 100 boys and young men from 9 to 18 years of age, and will be celebrating its 800th birthday next year. Through its intensive musical training this choir has reached top level and is renowned worldwide. The most famous predecessor of today’s director Georg Christoph Biller was Johann Sebastian Bach, whose remains were buried in the St Thomas Church.

quartet »Pro Puncto« at a concert

The quartet »Pro Puncto« at a concert.

»Pro Puncto« is an ensemble of four blind professional musicians from all over Germany. Soprano Gabriele Firsching teaches music at the vocational training centre for blind and partially sighted people in Nuremberg. Baritone Mathias Gampe is a church musician and organ teacher in Bad Neuenahr. Soprano Bernadette Schmidt works as a cantor in Schirgiswalde, and Baritone Lothar Littmann is a freelance concert singer and singing teacher in Oldenburg. He also proofreads Braille music scores for DZB Leipzig.

For performing music together with others it is fundamental to know Braille music notation which allows blind musicians to study new works professionally. Among others, Braille music scores are available at DZB Leipzig, where the Braille music service »DaCapo« has been offering a quick transcription service of music scores into Braille since 2003. There are more than 5,500 music books available for sale or for loan. This way being blind becomes less important, when the St Thomas Choir and »Pro Puncto« perform together in the St Thomas Church.

The motet, a musical prayer meeting, on 30 September 2011 at 6 p.m. is open to the public. The entrance fee, payable at the church entrance, is 2 Euros per person and includes a written programme. For congress participants, who take part in the guided tour of DZB Leipzig in the afternoon, there will be a bus shuttle service from the congress venue to DZB Leipzig and from there to St Thomas Church.

Braille Ambassadors from all over the World for Braille21
Aleksander Pavkovic enjoys the transferability of the Braille alphabet into Slavic languages

In each issue of the Braille Post we introduce one of the Braille Ambassadors. They are people from all over the world who share their positive experiences using the braille system. Expressing their very personal views, they encourage the discussion on braille and thereby bring the World Congress Braille21 into every corner of the earth.

In this issue you can read from: Aleksander Pavkovic. He is a Slavicist and IT trainer in Nuremberg/Germany.

»Somebody who has learned Braille is nearly instantly able to learn languages whereby readers and writers of common print have to pick up a further alphabet. Braille does not distinguish between Latin and Cyrillic script but accommodates every language with few necessary special characters. Been born blind and as an enthusiastic braille user, I enjoyed the astonishment of my fellow students when I said: ›Regarding the writing, Russian or Bulgarian is absolutely no problem for me. As a blind person, I have definitely an advantage‹. Of course, nobody really likes being blind. But in our times of networks and enormous technological opportunities, we are able to show in diverse ways what we can move with the help of Braille. Don’t let us be illiterate by means of budget speech synthesis!«

Learning Braille is Fun!
Hanni Wüthrich presents her Braille Study Material at the »Market of Opportunities«

The »Market of Opportunities« on the German Braille Day (27 September) and during the World Congress Braille21 (until 29 September) gives people the opportunity to present their individual developments around Braille.

Unlike the exhibition of adaptive technology, this multi-facetted market focuses on the ideas of individual persons. Here visitors can find rarities like a special stylus for small Asian hands or elaborate embroideries with quotes in Braille on them. Many of the exhibitors have developed materials for learning Braille, e.g. playing cards or books in one of the languages spoken in multilingual countries like Burkina Faso. As a representative of all these original exhibitors, we will introduce Hanni Wüthrich from Bern, Switzerland and her entertaining Braille teaching material »Pluspunkt« more closely.

Ms. Wüthrich (53) is blind from birth. Since the mid 1990s, she has been teaching Braille to people who lost their sight later in life. During her teaching activities, she noticed that all the available teaching materials followed more or less the same patterns: First of all, you learn a Braille letter and then there are reading and writing exercises. »That’s quite boring,« thought Ms. Wüthrich and her friend Regula Schütz. So the two of them started to create their own, very different course material. Their Braille students learn sentences as quickly as possible, solve riddles or throw the dice. In short, they are shown that learning Braille can be fun. “Those who have to learn Braille are usually facing a difficult situation in life anyway. So why shouldn’t they have fun from time to time, when learning?” Says Ms. Wüthrich.

photo Hanni Wüthrich

Hanni Wüthrich: inventor of a Braille course that makes fun.

The course material is not suitable for selfstudies. The two enthusiastic readers have rather developed it as an inspiring course material for Braille teachers. They find it very important to strengthen self-help especially in this area, i.e. that blind people should teach those who are losing their sight and guide them through the first steps of their way into a new world. The study material comprises two folders in Braille and is also available in a digital format on CD. Ms. Wüthrich is very much looking forward to the World Congress, and, like all the other participants of the »Market of Opportunities«, she can’t wait to meet many interested visitors.

Fiv e Questions for ...
... Andrea Katemann, Member of the German Preparation Team and the Programme Committee of Braille21

Under this heading, each issue of the Braille Post features a personality, whose contributions are of utmost significance for the success of the World Congress Braille21. This time it is Andrea Katemann. She works for the German Institute for the Blind in Marburg, Germany, a partner organisation of Braille21, and supports the project with her contentual and organisational skills.

You are a member of the German preparation team for Braille21. Which tasks did you have over the last few months?

Our main task was planning the actual contents of the congress. I really enjoyed this job and do hope that the congress will be as diverse and multi-facetted as the programme suggests.

As a member of the programme committee you were responsible for the selection of contributions for the focus theme »Education and Literacy«. What impressions did you get?

Many of the presentations we received completely fulfilled the expectations defined in advance. Among others, there will be presentations on Braille and language development, motivation, learning software, deafblindness, and teaching Braille to children with multiple disabilities. It was extremely difficult to make an adequate choice, as we received a lot of high-quality papers containing new, important, and inspiring thoughts. I hope the selected contributions will give a comprehensive overview of developments of Braille in »Education and Literacy«.

How did you become involved in the preparation team?

I work for the Braille production service of the German Institute for the Blind in Marburg. Apart from that I used to work as a Braille teacher for a few years and made some diverse and interesting experiences. For these reasons I was asked, whether I was interested in joining the preparation team.

photo Andrea Katemann

Deeply engaged in Braille21: Andrea Katemann

Which role does Braille play in your life?

Without Braille, I could never have graduated from university; I would not be able to work and would not have the chance of making the sensual experience of reading by myself, which would definitely be a pity. By now, I do not read much on paper any more, but use a note taker or Braille display.

When you think about Braille21, what are you most looking forward to?

I have read approximately 50 abstracts of presentations, and now I’m eager to actually meet the people who sent in their reflections. Apart from that I am very curious about the »Market of Opportunities«. On one hand, because I’ve never come across anything similar during a congress for visually impaired people, and on the other hand I am just excited and looking forward to all the creative ideas that have been submitted.

Short Biography of Andrea Katemann

Born in
1995 – 2001
studies of German philology and political sciences
since 2007
proof reader and text editor at the braille printing department of the German Institute for the Blind Marburg.

Board member of the German Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Students and Professionals

Support Innovations in Braille!

Braille21 can only become reality with the help of others. Both big and small aides are welcome! If you would like to support our project, please transfer your donation to the following bank account:

Payee: Förderverein »Freunde der DZB e. V.«
Bank name: Sparkasse Leipzig
Sorting code: 860 555 92
Account number: 1 100 830 010
IBAN: DE44 8605 5592 1100 8300 10
Bank's address: Sparkasse Leipzig, Humboldtstraße 25, 04105 Leipzig, Germany
Reference: Braille21


Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde zu Leipzig (DZB Leipzig)
Gustav-Adolf-Straße 7
04105 Leipzig
Tel.: + 49 341 7113-0
Fax: + 49 341 7113-125
Editorial Work: Elke König, Katja Lucke, Clara Schneider, Jenni Schwan, Susanne Siems
Design and Layout: Annette Diener
Photo Credits: all photos private

DZB Leipzig is situated in Leipzig/Germany. Founded in 1894, it has now become the oldest public library for blind and visually impaired people in Germany. Today, it is a library, a publishing house and a production centre for Braille and talking books. DZB Leipzig belongs to the most important media institutions for blind and visually impaired people in the German speaking countries. Visit us at stand 19 on the second floor from 27 to 29 September 2011.