I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is,
prose = words in their best order;
poetry = the best words in their best order.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1827)
Poetry is certainly something more than good sense, but it must be good sense at all events; just as a palace is more than a house, but it must be a house, at least. (1830)
Competing against the weather
In the one-and-a-half hour drive to Den Haag (The Hague), I visualised how I was going to perform. It was a beautiful Sunday morning the 6th day of the 6th month, and I imagined that most people would not want to stay indoors. I had a concert to do, and nothing else could be more important.
The life of a performer consists of booking (or getting booked) paid concerts, selecting a repertoire, practising every single day, and performing well (so that you will get another booking.) In a solo performance, all eyes are on you. In a duo performance, you get to have the music in front of you but synchronising with the other musician(s) requires a lot of practice. The level of tension between the musicians grows until the concert is finally over.
As a pianist, I never know what kind of piano to expect or how it will sound with the other instrument. Pianists are status conscious. Even if it's chamber music, I still like to see a grand piano instead of an upright. Although some uprights sound better than a grand, it's less prestigious to play on an upright.
The concert on Sunday was a sponsored one, held five or six times a year in the old church of the Eik en Duinen, which translates directly to "Oak and Dunes." Den Haag is nestled by dunes beyond which lie the beach and the coastline. Eik en Duinen is the oldest cemetery still in use in the Netherlands. Old = 800 years. It is as famous as the people buried there. The place echoes of history, wealth, reverence, and serenity. The tombstones are surrounded by fragrant herbs like rosemary and lavender and colour flowers like azaleas and pansies, all shaded under large oak trees.
This sponsored concert paid for my piano guitar duo and waived all entrance fees for the audience. Despite this, it was not a full house. I was disappointed to see empty seats, especially since the programme notes were so well prepared --- all in Dutch and on very good paper too. There was not one familiar face in the audience, which for the lack of moral support, was also disappointing.
After the concert, the lady who introduced my duo to the organiser came up to congratulate us. She complimented me on my red ballgown. I told her that I had been collecting such vibrantly coloured dresses for almost 20 years, never realising that one day I'd have a use for them!
A choir conductor congratulated me on playing so sensitively to allow the guitar to be heard. I said that I was always worried when I play with the guitar, having to exercise control over the volume of the piano. He replied, "Ah! If the pianist is worried, the audience can sit back and relax."
The organiser apologised for the poor attendance, attributing it to D-Day celebrations. He guessed that many people had chosen to sit at home to watch TV. I highly doubted that. After the two hour concert, I saw where everyone had gone --- to the beach!
8 June 2004 Tuesday
Related entries & links:
Eik en Duinen - in Dutch
Eik en Duinen - history in Dutch
Photos of Eik en Duinen - in Dutch
The Hague - in English
Piano Guitar Duo site
Le Bon Journal newsletter, Vol 2, Issue 5: