Thursday, November 27, 2008

Say What??

I've been a bad blogger. What can I say - I'm very busy and important. Tuesday last week was the tango recital in Rotterdam. It was a lot of fun, and we got mad props for our killer tango playing. Unfortunately I couldn't join in the celebrations, since I had to run and catch the train back to Amsterdam for my Dutch lesson and another voorspiel (class recital). I think that if this classical thing doesn't work out, maybe I'll get a degree in tango viola. That would be awesome. On Wednesday last week I had my very first Couchsurfing dutch lesson. I'm in this weird in-between level, where I'm not a beginner but I'm not really advanced either. Last week I tried out the beginner class but it was way too boring, so this week I was in the advanced class and it was better. It's a little above my level, but it's better than learning how to say "I have, you have, we have" again.......The lessons are really nice though - the teacher are all locals who are volunteering their time, and the students are from all over the world. And I have to say I like the text we're using for this class much better than the text we used for my CvA class. It's laid out so much better, especially vis a vis vocab. Friday night was the Kammerorkest Tryptich concert in Utrecht. The Walton was interesting (as always), but it was a really fun concert. Afterwards we went out for a drink at a bar nearby the church, and then caught the midnight train back to Amsterdam. I was so exhausted though - I went out with Hayley to Karma's on Thursday night and was working on Friday with 4 hours sleep. My own fault of course, but by the time we got to the train station in Utrecht to go home, I was so exhausted. And then I didn't get home until around 2 because after we got the train back from Utrecht I had to catch the night train to my station from Amsterdam Centraal. Ugh. And Saturday morning was our Dutch lesson, bright and early. THEN Saturday night I went out again with Hayley, first to Karma's and then to the Kring. Then after the Kring we met up with some people from school, but I bowed out early because I was so horrifically tired. On Sunday I got to sleep in a little, but I went to school in the afternoon to listen to my friend Simona's run-through of her concerto for the competition to play with the orchestra in April. And I also make 2 presentations - one for my Musical Body class, and the other for my dutch class. So I hung out at school working on my presentation until it closed, then I wandered into town to meet up with Josh (from TO) for dinner. It was snowing on Sunday night, so I got to bike in the snow! We ended up going for tasty Indonesian food, because the place I picked out was closed. There was a street full of restaurants, and it was the only one closed. Just my luck.
Monday I gave my presentation in my Musical Body class, and it went well. My presentation was on everyday actions that can affect our body adversly when playing - ie carrying around heavy things, posture, not sleeping in a good bed. I was supposed to have a lesson at 9 pm but I rescheduled it with Sven because I was still really tired and didn't think I'd make it to 9 pm. I went home early, and was in bed by about 10. It worked better for Sven too, since he has to commute to Den Haag. Getting home earlier is always good. Then on Tuesday evening was our very last CvA dutch lesson. We finished up our presentations, then drank champagne and ate chocolate. Celebration! I also had a couple of Memos this week, and since Sinterklaasavond is around the corner a bunch of the kids I've seen have been dressed up like either Sinterklaas or Zwarte Piet. Seeing small children in Cardinal hats (Sinterklaas) or 17th century Spanish hats with feathers (Zwarte Piet). I just got back from watching the Concertgebouw Orchestra play Shostakovich 5. I absolutely love this symphony, especially the 3rd movement. It was so amazing, I wish I could go again on Sunday. I'll just have to put it on repeat on my iPod now.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Well, it was a weekend all right. Friday night I played a piece by Rudolph Escher in a concert of Dutch chamber music, and then headed over to the Couchsurfing weekly meet-up for a drink. It was pretty fun, but I had to head out early to because I had to get up early to catch the my ride to Gronigen. Luckily for me, Greg (the conductor of the orchestra) texted me at 8 am, because otherwise I wouldn't have made it. I slept right through my alarm - I don't even remember it going off!!! We were meeting at Central Station at 8:30 to leave for Gronigen, and I didn't leave my house until 8:15! But it's a good thing I'm a crazy fast biker. And also good that there was pretty much no traffic out, so that worked in my favour. I booked it to Centraal, and ended up pulling up just before 8:30. But then I had to find a place to lock my bike, which took me an extra 10 minutes. As it turns out, the orchestra had booked a whole lodge-type place outside of Gronigen. Oh yeah, and on our way to Gronigen we drove past Lemmer, which is the small town in Friesland that my Dutch side came from. We rehearsed there in the afternoon, and then went into Gronigen at around 4:30 for our dress rehearsal before the concert. The concert was in a synagogue in the medieval centre. It went well, but my plan to catch the train back to Amsterdam after the concert was foiled by the fact that the last train to Amsterdam left at 10:04 and our concert didn't end until 9:55. The one other person who was taking the train did make a run for it, but I had too much stuff with me to really be able to do that. So I ended up crashing with the orchestra at the lodge and coming back to Amsterdam on Sunday. It was nice to have a lazy weekend trip, but it meant that I didn't accomplish too much. Today I finally got my package in the mail from my mom, that she sent back in September. Moral of the story I guess, don't send mail to another continent by ground.....but I got some of my clothes left behind, and my rain gear, and socks! I love socks.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


It's been a busy week - and it's not over yet! On Monday evening I went with my friend Simona to check out a big band that her friend from Bucharest plays in - The Konrad Kosseleck Big Band. They have a standing date at the Sugar Factory once a month, and every month they are joined by some special guests. This month's guests were two tap dancers. At first I was skeptical - I mean, tap dancers? Seriously. But it was actually pretty cool. One of the tap dancers was definitely more interesting than the other to watch, more of a showman. But they ended up like being another percussion section. They even got their own improv solos just like all the other instruments. It was pretty cool. On Tuesday evening I went to Utrecht to rehearse with a community orchestra. The conductor is Canadian, and is a friend of my friend Melissa. He needed an extra violist to fill out the section, and I was hankering to do some orchestra-ing. It's actually kind of cool because they're playing the Walton Viola Concerto with a viola teacher from Amsterdam as the soloist. It's fun to be playing on the other side of the concerto, since you spend so much time practicing the stupid solo parts of concertos. The orchestra is all amateur players and they're all just playing for the love of it, which is refreshing. Somehow that joy can get sucked out of professionals, even music students. Music schools almost have a survival of the fittest atmosphere in that respect - I know many people who've finished their music degree and then decided to go to law school, or fashion design school, or business school. Or whatever. Anyways, I digress.
Wednesday I just had rehearsals and rehearsals and more rehearsals. Then this morning I had to get up ungodly early (7 am!) because I had to catch the train at 8:50 to Rotterdam for a coaching. On Tuesday I'm playing in an end exam for a friend of Melissa's, Xabier. He's in the tango department of the Rotterdam Conservatory. Yes, that's correct. They have a tango department. They actually have a whole world music and dance academy, and the tango department is within that. So we're playing a piece by a contemporary South American composer (that has tango influences), and then a Piazolla tango. The coaching was quite funny, if only for his teacher's declarations about tango. "Tango is like a conversation with your friends, and everybody's talking at once. Tango is the difference in a car between leather seats and plastic seats". But it was really interesting, and a good coaching. Unfortunately I didn't really get to enjoy Rotterdam, since immediately after our coaching I had to run for the tram so that I could catch the train back to Amsterdam to try and make my next coaching at 2. The difficulty level was that my coaching in Rotterdam went until 12:30, and I had to catch a tram to the station, and then the train to Amsterdam takes about an hour. Then I had to hi-tail it from the train station to school. Luckily school's very close to the train station, and when I arrived at Amsterdam Centraal in the morning I deliberately locked my bike up beside the station in the direction of school, so I basically ran to my bike, unlocked it, biked like a fiend for 4 minutes to the school, parked my bike in the square out front, locked it, and made a run for the coaching. I was only 15 minutes late, which was impressive considering that my train didn't get into Centraal until about 2:05. This coaching was for my viola flute and harp trio - the Debussy sonata for viola flute and harp. The coaching was with the flautist's teacher, and it was really helpful because it's a very confusing piece and it's easy to just be totally lost in the mishmash. So she really helped us figure everything out and make sense of things. By the end of that coaching I was kind of exhausted, partly from the lack of sleep, and partly from the stress of rushing around all morning. So I ended up sitting in the canteen at school for about an hour I think, just visiting with people. Then I ended up going for dinner with my friend Hayley at the new restaurant that just opened in the library next door. That frikkin library now has two gourmet restaurants in it. The big fancy one on the top floor, and this smaller one at the front of the building that just serves pasta and pizza. But they make it all fresh, including the sauces. My favourite part was how they cook the noodles - they have the noodles all packaged by serving, and they just grab a package of whatever type of noodle you want and pop it in what looks like a deep fryer. It's the same idea as the deep fryers for french fries at fast food restaurants, but instead of boiling oil you have boiling water - ie. you put the noodles in a little basket thing and lower them into the water. It was pretty nifty, I must say. And tasty. Now I'm just chilling at home, trying to take it easy. Tomorrow evening I have the concert of Dutch chamber music that we're playing the Escher in, and then on Saturday I'm probably going to Gronigen to play a concert with the community orchestra. I'm quite a prodigious traveller this week!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Don't worry - I will always be a purple ribbon

Obama! What a win - I mean, he won the popular vote AND the electoral colleges. What a joke of a democratic system. But at least he won. That's what counts. And now we all want to know: what kind of puppy will Sacha and Malia get??????!!!!! But on to my life. On Wednesday I went out with Melissa (who I'm playing Black Angles with) and her friend Jimmy (aka James) who was visiting from Ireland. He's also Canadian - they went to school together at Laurier. We went to this crazy underground club to see an experimental jazz show that some friends of Mel's from school were playing in. There were three acts, and the group from the Con was the first. The music itself was pretty cool, but they also had this projector that they put overheads up on - different colours of transparencies and little sentences. It was a little weird - some of the sentences were just hilarious in their absurdity, but overall it was a little silly. But that's artsy-fartsy people for ya. The second act was a one-man-band that was hilarious. His songs were all two chords, and lyrics like "Everything is hypocrisy! Everything is hypocrisy! Everything is hypocrisy!" repeated ad nauseum. We were just killing ourselves laughing at the back of the performance space. The last act was similar to the first one, and they were pretty cool. And no overheads, so that was a plus. It's always cool to go to things like this, because it's really easy to get into a bubble and never go to any concerts but classical ones. It's always good to experience new things!
Yesterday was my lesson with Nobuko Imai. She's a badass violist, and is pretty much as close as you can get to an internationally reknowned viola soloist. I played the Hindemith 11/4 Sonata I played in our studio class last week, and it went really well. She really liked my playing, and we basically just worked on adding more expressiveness to the piece. There was even one part that she just skipped over because she said it didn't need anything else. Hilariously enough it was a variation in the last movement in which the directions are "bizarre, with hesitation to speak". But I already knew I do bizarre well. Anyhoo, Nobuko was really great and it was a good lesson. This coming week I have rehearsals in Utrecht and Rotterdam for two different concerts, and I have the Escher concert on Friday. And I desperately need to do laundry.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Into the Void

So, Saturday was Museumnacht 2008! Museumnacht is one night a year, where 40 museums throughout Amsterdam open up and have all sorts of activites going on - live music, cheap beer, artwork, and a rumoured champagne fountain at the Rijksmuseum (but we never made it there, so I don't know for sure). Tickets were just 17 euros for as many museums as you could hit between 7 pm and 2 am. And considering the entrance to one museum can run you upwards of 10 euros, it's a pretty sweet deal. I went with a group of friends mainly from my Dutch class - Bernie (jazz bass player), Bernie's jazz friend Ben, Ana (pianist), Ana's boyfriend Guillaume, Simona (pianist/conductor), Takashi (chorale conductor), Niels (music theory), and Niels' brother Jens. Our first stop was the Pianola Museum in the Jordaan. They were having combiniation live + pianola performances, and I we ended up seeing a classical guitar player + pianola. Pianolas are those nifty old pianos that play a recording off a paper roll. The guitarist played some Granados, and then played a roll of Granados playing the same song recorded in like 1912 or something absurd like that. Anyways, it was the perfect place for a bunch of music geeks like us! Next stop was the Anne Frank Huis. I've been meaning and meaning to go here, but there's always a huge line and it's a private museum so my museumkaart doesn't work there. But it was surprisingly not packed, and we got to walk through the whole museum - they built it around her father's office building that held the secret annex that they lived in during the war. It was a little crazy to see how tiny the space was that they lived in for years. It was depressing, but also very interesting. Our next stop was NIMk, the Nederlands Insitute voor Mediakunst - ie. school for media art. They had all these wacky installation pieces, including a super trippy Bjork music video in 3-D. Very cool stuff. Then we went to the Huise Marseille Museum voor Fotographie - a photography museum. This venue was a little boring, but they did have a cool jazz ensemble playing in one of the rooms. Then we headed over to the Rembrandt Huis. I'd already been there in June, but it's a cool place to visit anyways. And the big attraction was the "low-cost bar" in the basement - 1 euro beer! At 1:30 we decided we had to hit one other place before the night ended, so we ended up going to the Portugese Synagogue nearby. It's the big old brick synagogue, and was lit entirely by candles. There was no electricity - so no heat and no light (other than the candles). Earlier in the night they had choirs and stuff in there, but since it was pretty much closing time we just wandered around and then left. It was pretty nifty though. So I guess the count is 6 museums in a night, which is pretty good.
After the Portugese Synagogue the group split up due to differing ideas about what to do next. Ana and Guillaume went home; Bernie, Ben, and Niels went to a pub at the Nieuwemarkt; and Simona, Jens, and I went to the Leiseplein to go clubbing. Part of museumnacht was that they had "afterparties" at certain clubs, which basically meant that by showing your ticket for museumnacht you got dicounted cover into the club. First we tried Paradiso, but they had an actual show happening and it was sold out. So we headed over to the Milkweg, and partied the night away. And I mean that literally. Amsterdam knows how to party, and when we left at 5:30 am the party was still going. Needless to say I was exhausted on Sunday and spent pretty much the whole day in bed. And no mom, I wasn't hungover. I was just really freaking tired - the kind of tired where you've been up for 23 hours, biked all over the city, and then danced for a couple hours. Today is US election day - very big news all over the world. In fact, the Milkweg is having a big election party tonight that's completely sold out, and the idea is to stay up until the results are in (which over here is expected to be about 4-5 am). It hypothetically sounds like a good idea, but I have stuff to do tomorrow! I guess I'll just find out in the morning if Obama lost. But this morning I had a Memo at a preschool run by the Universiteit van Amsterdam, and one of the little girls was wearing an Obama T-shirt. I thought it was pretty funny. In fact, on the weekend they did a poll of Dutch people and something like 80% wanted Obama to win, and only about 8% wanted McCain to's a little scary that we have to trust in the American electorate to make the right choice!!!!!