Very sad news this week is the passing of a lady, known by sight at least, to everyone in Bonn who has ever attended a concert featuring local musicians and upcoming talent. Any meeting with Christa Franken would inevitably include the words “Kennst du…” and the name of a not so well known musician whom she considered worth checking out. She was always right of course, she had already done the groundwork of ‘checking out’ herself – heading out on her bicycle to film new talent – and promote it with her live videos.
A one-woman marketing agency with a smile as ever-present as her video camera. If Jan Loh was Bonn’s ‘Alle-Mal-Malen-Mann’ through his ever-presence in Bonn – sketching people for small change, then Christa was Bonn’s ‘Alle-Mal-Filmen-Frau’ although I would not have called her that to her face – I can imagine getting a wagging finger of discontent over such a remark. She would have preferred I suspect the affectionate description given her by local musician Christian Meringolo of ‘Omarazza’.
I doubt that there is a local musician who does not have a video or three filmed by Christa on her trusty monopod film camera. She was always filming bands. I’m not aware that she ever made any money from her videos, but that wasn’t Christa’s aim anyway. Filming musicians was better because “They like to see how they look and sound when they are playing” she once explained when I asked if she had ever thought of using a film camera.
I remember first seeing Christa shooting videos at shows when I was just starting out at concerts in Bonn. I didn’t quite know what to make of her. Many times since I have seen the bemused look of young music fans seeing see this slightly frail white-haired lady in their midst. Usually surrounded by a frantic crowd of gyrating dancers at a Sunny Skies gig in Rheinpark, or a Cynthia Nickschas sell-out at the Harmonie. Always though, just when I feared she might disappear under a pile of sweaty dancers, I would spot her up and actually dancing with as much energy as any of those around her could muster.
My fears for her safety, and that of her camera, disappeared after a few shows. I realised that everyone looked out for her (and that she had more energy than I did!). She became over the ensuing years one of those small group of local photographers/filmmakers that make taking pictures at Bonn concerts a pleasure in all weathers and all musical variations. I have already heard many kind words written from local musicians and local promoters. For all of them she was an ever-present source of inspiration and energy. So much a part of the live scene that I’m sure that for years to come people who saw her at concerts without even knowing her will be wondering where the white-haired lady with the monopod has got to?
I will know she is no longer here, but I will still look for her – at Stadtgarten, at Rheinpark, at the Bonn Musiker Day in the City Centre. Anywhere in Bonn with good local music on a stage. She had an eye for capturing not just happy musicians, but also happy listeners, young and old, dancing to the music as she so often did herself.
I really cannot imagine Christa not being at any of these places now. She was ‘one of a kind’ in Bonn, and without her videos and presence, the local music scene in Bonn will be very much poorer.