Grieg, Rachmaninoff, and leather jumpsuits: Berlin church holds concert for fetishists

In a Berlin church, a piano and flute duo are holding a recital of music by the romantic composer Edvard Grieg to an attentive audience. But unlike most classical concerts, both the musicians and the listening public are dressed completely in leather.

Grieg, Rachmaninoff, and leather jumpsuits: Berlin church holds concert for fetishists
Guests, fully clothed in leather, take their seats at the "Classic meets Fetish" concert at the Twelve Apostles Church (Zwoelf-Apostel-Kirche) in Berlin. Photo: John Macdougall/AFP

The organiser of this soiree, Tyrone Rontgagner, could not be prouder to bring together in this house of prayer about one hundred members of the queer community, displaying their love for everything leather, from chaps and braces to masks and vests.

“Lots of people think that the fetish scene is all about sex, but they’re just the clothes we wear,” says the long-time LGBT activist at the “classic meets fetish” event. “It’s just another way to express yourself, like music. Music brings people together just like our dress.”

Photo: John Macdougall/AFP

A translator by profession and two-time “Mr Leather Germany”, Rontgagner has been organising the concert in the Twelve Apostles Evangelical Chuch to promote everything queer since 2015.

For the event he has the blessing of the minister, Burkhard Bornemann, openly gay and an active figure in the local community providing support for drug addicts and prostitutes. The audience, almost exclusively men, are by and large not regular churchgoers.

“Religion? Not for me,” confesses Pup Luppi, a fifty-something year old man in a leather jumpsuit with a wagging dog’s tail.

“Classical music on the other hand calms me, and like BDSM, it’s a sort of game in which the excitement rises and falls.”

Photo: John Macdougall/AFP

‘Typical Berlin’

“At the start it was a bit strange for me but I think it’s great,” says Ronald Hartewig, who looks distinctly like Victor Willis from disco group Village People in his police officer’s uniform.

The musicians, among them an organist and a violinist, all follow the dress code while playing interpretations of Rachmaninoff’s “Valse and Romance”, Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” and more Grieg.

“It’s fun to be all in leather rather than in a suit. It lets you build a bridge between the gay community and our everyday life as a musician,” says Eric Beillevaire, a bass-baritone singer. “It’s such a pleasure to perform in front of an audience again after such a
long time,” he adds, while noting that the choice of venue is “typical of Berlin”.

Photo: John Macdougall/AFP

Located in the Schoeneberg neighbourhood, the centre of Berlin’s gay scene, the Twelve Apostles Church is not a place of worship just like any other.

Also known as the “gin church”, its windows were donated by the local distillery to replaced those destroyed during the Second World War and are designated as an historic monument.

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REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. German is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, comes with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.