Monday, February 25, 2013

Amsterdam's Mozart Requiem

Remember back in December when we went to the Christmas concert at the St. Martinuskerk in Amersfoort, ca. 30 miles east of where we live here in Gorinchem, NL?  And how one thing led to another...namely that the PR man of the choral series, Peter Streefkerk, gave us 2 tickets for another concert in appreciation for my images?!

The concert we choose was the Mozart Requiem in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw. 4 reasons:
  1. I had sung Mozart's requiem in the Columbia, SC, Choral Society back in 1971.
  2. I have always wanted to see the inside of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw after seeing the outside many times.  It's considered one of the world's top concert halls because of its acoustics.
  3. Mozart never finished this piece before dying in 1791:  he was 35 years old!  The movie Amadeus is one of my favorites which I'm now eager to see again.
  4. We wanted to pick a concert in February, before our up-coming river cruise in March (yes, you heard me).
No sooner had we picked our concert than Peter had the above tickets in the mail to us for last Sunday,
a week ago, on a gloriously crisp and sunny winter's day.

We were there in plenty of time to mosey along from here to there.
It helps that we both are familiar with the city!
The famous Magere Bridge and Heineken Experience just happened to be on our way.
Interestingly, that's the Amstel River...and another beer altogether.

 Did I mention that the Concertgebouw faces the Rijksmuseum from across the Museumplein?
It's getting ready to show Rembrandt's Night Watch after years of museum renovation.
Once you see it, you never forget it, trust me.

But it was the Concertgebouw that held our interest this day, even if in the shadows.
At least the entrance around the corner (bottom above) was in the light.

Our seats were in the North Balcony, so first thing was to climb the stairs.
Talk about red-carpet treatment.

And before we did anything, we peeked in and found our seats while the place was still basically empty.
From the stage viewpoint (top left) we saw our balcony (top middle).
Little by little the heavenly space started filling up.

But first, we went for our gratis drink that came with our tickets.
Did I mention red-carpet treatment?!
And don't you love how Het Concertgebouw marks the stop line for the wine!

The Concert Hall's organ, built in 1891, is it's crown jewel.

But as you can imagine, I was short of eyes, bouncing off all the walls!
Schumann was right behind us.  Mozart was in front of us on the opposite wall.
All the ghosts of music past wrapped themselves around the hall.

 When the concert master started tuning up the strings...ahhh, it would begin.
It really was gonna happen!

Have you ever seen this kind of basset horn?  It was new to me.
Mozart asked for 2 of them and got them.
(click any image/collage to enlarge)

During the concert the tympani was hidden from us, under the balcony.
But I had fun watching her tune it up beforehand.


So all these images are before and after pieces, often during applause.
Don't you love the prima donna...standing out like a sore thumb brilliant jewel!

Not to mention the conductor, Pieter Jan Leusink!
It really doesn't get any better than this....

...or this!  
They deserved every accolade in the book.

I wanted to watch them coming and going over and over again...
especially for the encore, which is my favorite piece of the Requiem:  Dies irae.
(Yes, I sang along under my breath!)

mozart requiem - dies irae door algeva

We hated to leave, but loved seeing Conductor Pieter signing his autograph in the downstairs lobby.
What a great way to end a beautiful concert!

We ended the beautiful day at one of our favorites, Wagamama.
And then picked up our car at the AJAX arena for our hour's drive home.

This was a Christmas that kept on giving.  We'll never forget it!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Neighborhood Demolition: Part IV

Just when I was sure there wasn't a thing left to demolish or repair, guess what!

It's a good story, which is why I made it into a Vision and Verb post for today:  Seeing is Believing!

Those weed-control tarps saved someone's ass day, trust me. 

Ironically, of all those hundreds of images I had processed and collaged over 9 months last year, the only ones I didn't get to were these from early December that somehow got lost in the holiday hubbub.  Until I found out how important they were for Hoomer!

Pay attention to those worteldoek (weed-control tarps) above.  They were CLEARLY laid down on the ground, side by side, before all the dirt was piled on top.  Those images are proof that Hoomer did it!   However, when the environmental agency got his bill, they said he'd have to prove digging through the dirt to show them.  But I'm spoiling my story....

  Hoomer told me they dumped 4234 cubic meters of dirt to shore up the ground.
It's below sea level, collecting water that messed up the sewage and drainage systems, 
which is why the apartments had to be torn down in the first place.

4234 m³ at 16 m³/truckload = 265 truckloads of dirt.  WOWSER.

 Many times they came and unloaded just under our balcony.
Lucky me, right?

See the tarps?  YUP.  He did it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gorinchem's Dutch Carnaval, 2013

Two months after moving to the Netherlands in 2009, I experienced my first European carnaval, coinciding with America's Mardi Gras, and I blogged about it here.  That was in 2010, 3 years ago.

After 2 years of not going outside the apartment to witness the same ol' thing, I had a hankering this year to see it all over again...the kids!  Astrid still has nothing with carnaval but in conjunction with our Saturday café date, she agreed to a spot where we could see the parade march by while we were eating.

Lucky for me, two of the biggest cuties of them all were inside the cafe, waiting with us:

This little princess sat with her g'pa up at the bar before and after.
See the confetti on his jacket?
I'm not sure who was prouder.  She really wanted me to know this was her opa!
And later, the lady of the café made sure we knew opa was not in costume.
He's one of their regulars.

Not to be outdone, this little cowboy was at the table next to us.
A real gun-slinger!

Once we finshed eating and paid our bill, we stood outside the café and watched.  The best way I can descibe carnaval here in our city is American Halloween without the floats.  I guess that's why I didn't take pictures of the floats!

I started taking pictures of the kids across the street from us...
when suddenly a pushy lady was in my face saying "GINNIE!"
She probably had been yelling at me across the street but I hadn't noticed.
It was dear Gerrie, one of my Rummikub co-players at our senior complex.
And yes, I then took pictures of her and all her kids...2 sons and 3 g'kids!
Wake up, Ginnie!

See what I mean?  How can you resist these cutie-pies!

They were having so much fun, scooping up the confetti and throwing it like snow.
All the boys against the one girl.  HA!  Go get 'em, Girl!

I think I've told you before how much I love family togetherness in these events.
Sometimes it's the Daddy who does the care-giving, which I love to see.
This one spent a lot of time looking at the real-estate ads in the window.  Hmmmm.

Daddy's and g'pas are so proud of their little girls...
and boys, even it they're little devils!

Don't you just want to eat them up!  Well, some of them.

What do YOU want to be when you grow up????
(He sure reminds me of Sean Astin!)

Maybe you'd like to be the Prince of the Carnaval?  Prins Jacobus, in fact.
That's the man with the pheasant feathers...head of the parade this year.
Who knows who the other diplomats were!
It's all big stuff...that's all I know.

 Like in most of Europe, the festivities span 5 days, Friday - Fat Tuesday!
But the actual parade was on Saturday.

  We didn't stay long but long enough to catch those still arriving..
Kids really do wait for this...well, like for Halloween!
Remember those days as a kid?

No pumpkins or spider webs...but lots of confetti and plastic spray everywhere.
What a mess!

I'll try to pay attention to how long it takes to clean the place up...just a couple blocks from where we live.  But as far as I'm converned, it's totally worth it!  I might not even wait 3 years before I head outside again to take a peek.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Our 3rd Wedding Anniversary

Have any other 3 years passed so quickly or been as packed to the gills!

Tomorrow, 5 February, Astrid and I celebrate 3 years since we became legally married here where we live in Gorinchem, Netherlands.  Back then, I wasn't yet making collages or video clips, so I have decided to embellish the memory this year, just for the record.

The wedding party and photographers met at our apartment before our 2 p.m. ceremony at City Hall.
It's when we put on each other's corsages and made sure we all were buttoned up and zipped.
Let's just say we were all trying to loosen up!  HA!

Ingeborg is Astrid's best friend who stood up for me (bottom left above)
Jeroen is Astrid's son (21 at the time) who stood up for her.

From the apartment we all drove to the Gorinchem City Hall a mile away to prep the wedding room.

It was a rainy day but as you see, nothing rained on our parade.
Were we nervous?  HA!
(at the back door of our senior complex)

At the front door of City Hall...yup, still nervous!

Once inside the lobby, the kiosk proclaimed to everyone this important event.

Wedding guests were already congregating in the City Hall lobby while we prepped the room.

Every Dutch city hall has a wedding room because city hall is where marriages are legalized.
You CAN get married in a church if you wish but you HAVE to get married first in City Hall.
The church does not legalize marriage in the Netherlands.  City Hall does.

Astrid and I met up with Cora, our City Hall officiator, for last-minute details.
Days before she had  spent a couple of hours getting to know us in our apartment.

Daughter Amy from Atlanta ordered a wonderful bouquet of tulips which was placed dead center.
I felt her presence, representing my American family, throughout the day.

 The wedding service began at 2 p.m.
Astrid and I walked in last, after Cora, to the strains of Anne Murray singing,
Could I have this dance for the rest of my life.  YES!
By the time we sat down, I was bawling like a baby (bottom left above).

Wim Brik (top) was our 80-year-young videographer...and next-door neighbor where we live.

There were 34 of us total, mostly friends of Astrid from her tennis and soccer teams.
A few friends joined us from our senior center, after 2 months of knowing us.

During the service, Cora was dead-center officiating.
If you were in the audience, the 2 witnesses (Ingeborg and Jeroen) were seated on the left.
Astrid and I were seated on the right.  Very Dutch typical.

When it was time to say our vows and exchange our rings , Cora asked us to stand in front of her.

This is long and more for Astrid and me.  I'm including it for us to remember.
The main thing is that I wrote and said my own vows in Dutch and English to surprise her:

"Astrid Martha Alida Wijdekop. Ik hou van jou met mijn leven, mijn hart en ziel. I love you with my life, my heart and soul. Jij bent mijn Liefste; jij bent mijn Amazone. You are my Dearest; you are my Amazon Woman. Jij bent NU mijn vrouw; ik ben nu JOUW vrouw. You are NOW my wife; I am now YOUR wife. Ik ben zo trots op jou; ik ben zo trots op ons. I am so proud of you; I am so proud of us. Ik hou heel erg veel van jou. I really really love you. Met alles wat ik in me heb. With everything within me. Wij zijn getrouwd. We are married. NU kussen! NOW we can kiss!"

 Right then and there, in the middle of the service, the documents were signed by the 5 of us, in duplicate,
while Anne Murray and Dave Loggins sang Nobody loves me like you do.
(And yes, we picked our own music for the entire ceremony.) 

This part alone was quite educational for me.
What I liked is that the audience witnessed this signing by everyone,
including Cora, the last "official" signature.

If you make it to the end of this clip, Jeroen finally lost it and broke down in tears.
I wanted to take him in my arms and hold him forever and tell him it would all be okay.
 It was, of course, and he and girlfriend Eva are part of our life.
We were then surprised when City Hall presented us with this symbolic glass-sculpture gift.
The painting in the back of the wedding room shows that others have gone before us.

It will remain one of our most prized possessions forever!

Then it was time for the reception line!
(with k.d. lang's version of Hallelujah in the background!)

Notice how the Dutch greet each other:  3 kisses, left-right-left!
3 kisses is a charm, you know.  :)

It was the first time for me to meet many of Astrid's friends.
And BTW, that's Wim and Jan Willem in the bottom center image...our videographer and photographer.

The last ones in the reception line are friends from De Lindeborg, where we live.
That was very special.  They still remain our friends!

After the reception was just us....

...with Cora, the City Hall officiator.
Are we all RADIANT or what!

 And then, right outside the wedding room, we all gathered on the City Hall stairway.
Apparently it's become a famous photo-op for weddings over the years.

The voice you hear mid-way is Wim's, the 80-yr-young videographer.
He's actually a real nut-case!  More alive than a lot of people I know!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

It was now time for the reception at our nearby neighborhood 't Grand Café Gelagh.  Astrid and I had reserved most of the restaurant for the mid-afternoon toast.  Instead of a wedding cake, we did the typical Dutch thing:  appeltaart with koffie and tea.

 All 32 of us (minus Cora and her assistant) joined us for our reception toast.

As guests arrived, they gave us their gifts.

Then we had the wedding toast...the PROOST!

And finally...all was sealed with appeltaart and koffie or tea!

Our dear Wim, videographer, made a video of all the clips (many not shown here) as his wedding gift to us.  Guess what we'll be watching tomorrow on our special day!