Thursday, June 14, 2012

Festival Classique den Haag

Do you ever have times when things just flow and everything seems to fall into place?  That's how Dr D and I felt during the 9 days we spent in Europe.  MYA hosted the Versailles Youth Orchestra this spring, and from what I've heard from many MYA families, the social bonding that occurred during their stay is continuing nonstop with the ease of communication on the internet. Our trip was to check out concert venues in and around Paris where we could perform when we reconnect in France next June.  Within three packed days, we confirmed three and maybe four concerts in and around Paris.

What we didn't expect was that a contact in Amsterdam would lead to the possibility of performing at a unique European classical music festival.  If funding is maintained (a big concern in the Netherlands where the government is the largest patron for public art and culture), we were offered the opportunity to perform at next year's Festival Classique den Haag.  This festival is just 6 years and takes place in and around The Hague, the seat of Dutch government, foreign embassies and 150 international organizations including International Courts (Rwanda and Serbia war crimes trials).  Although the Hague is not the capital of the Netherlands (constitutionally it is Amsterdam), the phrase we heard is that in the Netherlands, money is made in Rotterdam, divided up in The Hague, and spent in Amsterdam!  

This year's festival starts this week and the goal is to keep classical music fresh and fun, while maintaining the integrity of the music.  How do they do this?  By bold programming, played in unexpected places, and concerts where new audiences may be attracted as much by a theme as by a composer, artist or piece of music.  The highlight is two nights of concerts played underneath the stars on the most beautiful floating outdoor 1200 seat stage in Europe.  The Hofvijver stage is build on 256 pontoons on the pond in front of the government buildings pictured above, and if all goes well, we'll experience this most unique venue next June.

For a better idea and more information, check out the festival website.   The big nights this year feature dancing to Holst's The Planets on Friday, and bringing the arts back to the Olympics (yes, the Olympics used to include art!) with top class athletics by both dancers and musicians on Saturday.  Let's hope the weather is beautiful and not rainy as it was our whole day in The Hague!


Friday, June 8, 2012

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium

And it was!  The final day of our nine day concert tour planning trip was in Antwerp on Tuesday. After eight days of intensive travel, connections and visits to potential concert venues, we arrived in Antwerp.  We were told by people at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague that Antwerp had transformed itself since the year long ago when Allan studied there.  The day in Antwerp was a wonderful end to a very productive trip!

Although the city did look very different to him, Allan was able to take a tram out to the suburb and even walk to the house where he lived with a Flemish family.  The best night of our travels was the reservation Allan randomly made at a Coco-Mat hotel simply because a on-line review said it was a short walk from the train station pictured above.  You should really click on the CNN link about the Greek company who owns this hotel.  When we entered the lobby, it was set up with furniture, including a large bed and bunk beds for kids.  It looked more like a showroom than a hotel.  In fact, although it was our most expensive night's stay (130 euros), we took the elevator and opened the door to a two bedroom suite complete with kitchen, dining/living room, and a bath and a half, all furnished with furniture and linens manufactured by Coco-Mat.  Wished we had had family there to enjoy the expansive accommodations. Never in a million years were we expecting this in a European hotel. The company has gotten into the hotel business by partnering with hotels that fill their rooms with all natural furniture made by Coco-Mat.  Great marketing strategy!  It was truly the best night's sleep I have ever had (12 hours), which I'll attribute to the fabulous bed and luxurious bedding and not lack of sleep prior to this night.
The next morning, we discovered the great bicycle system in Antwerp.  From the hotel, we received a card for 3 euros each that enabled us to swipe at bike racks throughout the city.  You ride thirty minutes, park the bike, and then pick up another bike.  The best stop for Allan was a Frituur'tsteen near the harbor (french fries with mayonaise)! And, talk about real bike paths. . .traffic lights just for bikes and pedestrians and motorists all look out for anyone on a bicycle. Missed this when, inspired, we rode our bikes to MYA yesterday!
Oh, and did I mention the huge chocolate fountain in the train station selling the best chocolate covered strawberries I've ever had?  Then, the r&r was over, and we were on a fast train to Paris to take a plane back to the States.

I didn't blog while we were gone; too busy a schedule, and it was easier to post a few photos on MYA's Facebook Page.  Check back for more to come as we introduce more details of our June 2013 concert tour plans.