“It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.”



Let’s talk about an organization that has long been part of the social life of our city. Its history begins in 1899. From its very beginning, it has campaigned for the less fortunate members of our society. Moreover, it has become an integral part of Lübeck’s cultural scene. This article is dedicated to the association CVJM Lübeck e.V.

My first encounter with it was at a concert in September 2021. I can’t remember the name of the band. It was by chance that I had stumbled across them. They performed in the so called Kneipen-Café of the CVJM Altstadt hostel. Despite the somewhat arbitrary circumstances, I still remember that particular evening and its music very well and with some nostalgia.

I had just moved to Lübeck. Those were the years of the pandemic. Corona had just taken a breather in this wonderfully late summery early fall. Social life was awakening and people were hungry for social life. It was my first concert in a long time. With my eyes closed and my senses heightened, I followed the events from a dark corner of the club. The two musicians took their seats behind their instruments. Warm piano tones flooded the room. Filled me up. Such joy to be among people again and to experience music together. Today I would like to return to this place with you. On one hand, this is about music. My second concern is to give the YMCA Lübeck itself a stage.

“It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.”

The Village People

Frankly, I had never heard of the CVJM before. That may have had something to do with my atheistic upbringing in East Germany. Of course I was familiar with the Y.M.C.A.. Who doesn’t know the Village People ‘s 1978 disco earworm? This shrill collage of exaggerated masculinity clichés is said to have contributed greatly to making homosexuality acceptable in pop culture at the time. “Young man, ’cause you’re in a new town, there’s no need to be unhappy”, it goes and the chorus adds “It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.”

The association was founded in England in 1844 and even then its mission was helping men in need to get back on their feet. Faced with the success of the Village People, the YMCA was not really happy with that kind of attention and even resorted to legal action. Soon thereafter, they came to their senses and withdrew the complaint, grateful for the publicity.

125 years of CVJM Lübeck

In 1985, the German “Christlicher Verein Junger Männer” (Christian Association of Young Men) changed its name to “Christlicher Verein Junger Menschen” (Christian Association of Young People) to take account of the ever-increasing number of female members. This year, the CVJM Lübeck e.V. celebrated its 125th anniversary. Now, the association is a colourful bouquet of different initiatives and organizations. Its main concern continues to be social work. The association runs youth clubs, a day-care centre and school childcare; it offers tutoring and organises youth trips and holiday camps. There is a gospel choir, discussion groups and various initiatives to support immigrants, students in need and lonely people. The CVJM Lübeck e.V. was named Provider of opportunities of the Year 2018 by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Employment Agency for its integrative work.

Let there be music

The jazz club at Grosse Petersgrube 11, in the shadow of St. Peter’s Church on Lübeck’s Old Town Island, is where everything comes together. Große Petersgrube is probably one of the most beautiful and architecturally stunning streets in the city. Barbara has already dedicated an interesting and informative article to this street. Today’s star is the brick Gothic gabled house on the corner of Kleine Kiesau that looks back on a long and proud history. It was first mentioned in 1287 and served as a bakery for many centuries. Since the 19th century, it has been home to very different businesses, the first of which was the “Rose und Schweighoffer Cigarren und Kautabak Fabrik” from 1872. Following extensive renovations, the CVJM Lübeck e.V. finally moved into these historic walls in 1982.

Today is a beautiful sunny spring evening and the “Lage Nordling Electric Ensemble” from Sweden is on the program. Jazz with hip-hop influences and a touch of progressive rock.

Passing through a heavy wooden door from the street we enter a dimly lit foyer. There is a seminar room on the second floor that you can hire for various occasions. Streight ahead, a glass door opens into the so-called “Kneipen-Café”. A cozy room with a high ceiling and a gallery on the upper floor. Mighty beams of dark, almost black wood. White-painted walls alternate with unplastered brickwork. Candles spread warm light. Large windows look out onto a courtyard framed by high walls and ivy and shaded by a large rowan tree. A bar counter dominates the room on the left. Next to it is the stage. Ground level. Close to the audience. A drum kit and a grand piano throne on a bed of oriental carpets. The atmosphere is cozy.

Five young musicians take their seats behind their instruments. Guitar, bass, drums, electronics and saxophone. Jazz is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, I am rather ambivalent about it. However, jazz is a broad field and there’s growing something for everyone’s taste. Today I am putting my hopes in the musical orbit of progressive rock. Metallic, scratchy guitar riffs. Sometimes sluggish beats, then driving percussion. I am gliding through space on dreamy waves of sound. The saxophone takes me back to Pink Floyd’s “Us and them”. I feel at home here at the YMCA Lübeck. Musically, the evening is a mixed bag. The audience is correspondingly colorful. A colorful mix of all age groups. Young couples, older gentlemen, a larger group of different age groups and a few quirky birds.

For Joachim Lipfert, head of the CVJM Lübeck and former pastor from Swabia, jazz is a matter close to his heart. You can see that in the CVJM concert program. And there is his commitment to the TraveJazz-Festival
which starts its 10th edition this year from September 5 – 7.

“Life is a lot like Jazz: it’s best when you improvise”

George Gershwin, US-American composer, pianist and conductor

It is the cooperation with a prominent neighbour to which the CVJM club owes the musical diversity : the Lübeck University of Music
Today is no exception. After the five Swedes wrap up their performance, the evening takes a musical U-turn and leads into the Brahms Night Lounge – one of many events at the 32nd Brahms Festival.

The Swedish Lage Nordling Electric Ensemble performing at the CVJM Kneipen-Café in May 2024
The Swedish Lage Nordling Electric Ensemble performing at the CVJM Kneipen-Café in May 2024

In addition to regular blues sessions, there is also the entertaining Magic Music Monday. Once a month, music students take the stage at the YMCA by storm. Jamming around, improvising, impressing with their skills. It is not uncommon for their lecturers to join in. You shouldn’t miss out on this spectacle. The Magic Music Monday is very dynamic and it rarely ends before midnight, letting off a firework display of different musical styles: from modern classical to rock music. On top of that, admission is free.

It’s well worth keeping an eye on the CVJM concert program. I have often made surprising musical discoveries, that have enriched my Spotify lists ever since and which I often listen to at home. Incidentally, the Village People are not one of them😉

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written by:

Stefan Gehrhardt