29 July 2006


Seven different appliance stores (count 'em!) with Elvo as my valiant search party leader, yet not a single fan! Every store was out of stock, and only the last of them expected a shipment at some time TBA next week. Apparently this is a very hot summer for Belgium--the highest averages are for the months of July and August, and they are a mere 71° F. Rather like summer in San Fran sans fog!

I've been so ill that Ingrid has fled to Paris for the two days that I'm playing concerts in Gent and Ieper. I'm excited about Ieper since I have nothing to prove and it's a new stomping ground for me, but with Geert and Liesbeth listening in Gent while I struggle not to get to ill in the playing cabin, I'm not feeling enthusiastic.

28 July 2006

side effects

I don't know why I'm compelled to write now, when my room is baking (particularly near this hot laptop) and I can hardly sit up or type, but the past few days have seemed a harsh unreality and I need to confirm that fact by stating it. I want to describe what has passed, and yet words fail me as my body and mind ask for rest I cannot supply. I can only hope that the antibiotics are working and that the illness doesn't severely affect my concert in Gent.

Joris just smsed me back a second time, giving me the slightly comforting sensation that I am still connected to an outside world that is thinking of me. I have little other confirmation that something exists beyond my window or front door... perhaps if I stepped outside, I would fall into nothingness. This mobile-phone reassurance is a strange reflection on the old Samsung phone that was my sole connection to the outside world during my confinement with a broken leg. Where is that phone now? I called the number in Spain this afternoon from Go Bananas but nobody picked up.

27 July 2006

business as usual

Welcome back early in Belgium on a Thursday afternoon due to continued food poisoning symptoms--

Doctor's office: Closed.
All three bakeries within an ill person's cycling distance: Closed.

25 July 2006

madrid in one sentence

Camera stolen, cell phone stolen, inexplicably sore left arch and heel that prevents me from walking far, mediocre shopping, disappointing 1-euro admission botanical garden, accomodations with worst bedbug infestation even Ingrid has ever seen, whiny girly-girl roommates, and food poisoning from paella that didn't even taste good. I miss Barcelona.

21 July 2006


I'm in Belgium for not more than 12 hours, and within the first few I get two new mosquito bites, both of which I am reacting to worse than to the couple of bites I got while practically living outdoors in Poland. Another reason for me to live on the coast.

12 July 2006

lekkerer in belgië?

If those Jules de Strooper cookies that Elvo bought today were the same ones I finished off for him weeks ago, then this is ultimate proof that chocolate is better in Belgium, regardless of the make. Because I ate these same cookies in the USA during the most stressful part of the exhibition setup, and they only tasted half as good even though I was twice as hungry for Belgian chocolate.

08 July 2006

rounds campanological

Has anyone ever done a campanological-linguistic-onomatopoeic study of the many versions of Frère Jacques?

Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous, dormez-vous,
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines,
Ding dang dong, Ding dang dong.

Vader Jacob, Vader Jacob,
Slaapt gij nog, slaapt gij nog?
Alle klokken luiden, alle klokken luiden,
Bim Bam Bom, Bim Bam Bom

Bruder Jakob, Bruder Jakob,
schläfts Du noch, schläftst Du noch?
Hörst du nicht die Glocken, hörst du nicht die Glocken
Ding Ding Dong, Ding Ding Dong

Fra Martino campanaro
Dormi tu, dormi tu?
Suona le campane,
Suona le campane
Din don dan
Din don dan

Bratez Jakow, bratez Jakow,
spish li ti, spish li ti?
Slishish zwon na bashne, slishish zwon na bashne
Ding dang dong, ding dang dong

Broder Jakob, Broder Jakob
sover du, sover du?
Ring i dina klockor, ring i dina klockor
(or: Hör du inte klockan, hör du inte klockan?)
ding ding dong, ding ding dong


After all Justin's worrying me about how Bernard Winsemius would hate my romantic interpretation of van Noordt's Sonata, Bernard's main advice was to play with far more expression and drama, to bend the tempo, to make theatrical contrasts in volume... to make people weep, as he demonstrated to great laughter. It's just too bad that, as the last person to play, I could only listen to him speak rather than actually try out what he suggested. Next time, I'm going first.

After our recital in Veere, the neighbors of the City Hall randomly invited us in for drinks. And the one that drove us back took us by the most roundabout way possible, passing by a most interesting lighthouse in Westkapelle.

07 July 2006


VlissingenToday we reached the point at which we could spend the day goofing off, especially after Jos was nice enough to give us free run of his car. We met him in the morning and commented on his new haircut and other car... "Other job, other wife," he added cheerfully. He drove us to a lovely recently restored Petit & Fritsen carillon in the Sint-Jacobskerk in Vlissingen and demonstrated the 1968 Flentrop organ, driving by the beach on the way back. How I miss large bodies of water!

FlentropA kleine frieten that really was tiny substituted for lunch until I was able to run home. The small fries in Flanders, in comparison, are enough for two hungry people. And I could really taste the difference; even the Andalouse sauce was less satisfying than that in Belgium. Oh how I'll miss you, Frituur Veemarkt and Frituur No. 1!

bootThen Jos handed Janno the keys to his car and we navigated our way to Veere, which is so small we could put the map away. On the Veerseweg, we tailgated a car carrying four bikes on the back, two with child seats! Only in the Netherlands, this strange and delightful place. Squeezing much more deftly than yesterday through the three tiny stairway passages, we took turns at a workshop in improvision with Kees van Eersel--my first official instruction in the discipline (a relief now to go to Bill Porter in the fall with the most basic experience). To pass the time before Kees' concert, we wandered--me stopping for cinnamon and oma's appeltaart gelato--and came upon the river cruise upon which Janno had lost one shoe as a little child. We set out on the windy cruise to find the shoe with the assistance of some beer, and great hilarity, joke-telling, and jabs at Japanese tourists ensued.

pannenkoekenFollowing a brief but desperate search during which Janno insisted that it was the ladies who wanted pannenkoeken, we found the Veerse restaurant specializing in them and sat down for a scrumptious Dutch dinner accompanied by Kees' brilliant improvised recital. My ginger pancake was amazing but a bit too bold to stomach in its entirety. Kasia finally arrived by bus, train, and bike from Poland, just in time to join us for drinks and dessert--which for me consisted of poffertjes that I managed to mostly get rid of while currying favor by sharing with everyone (for the calories, not because they weren't delectable)! Afterwards Kees joined us, informing us indignantly that his listeners think he's practicing when he's playing a concert.

This was incomprehensible to us. His improvisations could hardly be distinguished from composed pieces (and he had only written down one melody for the entire concert), and the sound of those ancient Van den Gheyn bells exceeded all expectation.

Back in Middelburg, who should come by and see me practicing the finale of van Noordt's Sonata but Albert Clement and faculty from the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Antwerp, including director Pascale De Groote! Dr. Clement gave me the chance to speak with her, which was a pleasure, although I wish I'd remembered to put in a good word in for Geert. Not as if he doesn't have enough people of greater influence to put in a good word already. But they seemed to respect my playing, at least. The Conservatory is planning a choral collaboration next year with the Roosevelt Academy so the two can complement each other in performance and theory/history. I was skeptical of RA at first, but with Dr. Clement at the helm, I'm expecting great things of the university in the years to come.

He promised to show us his recording of the news segment and give us photocopies of the newspaper article. Hot!

06 July 2006

Zeeland cuisine

After a generous amount of playing time in the modern city hall tower of Vlissingen, we returned to the Roosevelt Academy, and from there I took a quiet alleyway towards the market. And just like in the movies, distant accordion music swelled to full blast as I came from the quiet alley into the bustling Friday market. My first purchase was a small slice of basil-garlic cheese. Thinking it'd last me the whole week, I ended up nearly finishing it off in a few minutes. Next, I bought a packet of assorted island poppy seeds (after an entire year of searching in Belgium) that I'll bring home with me, reversing my original plan to grow California poppies in Belgium--both of which are probably forbidden by customs.

Best of all, I found the black A-line summer dress I had been actively seeking for an entire week...in the first market stand I've ever seen in the Low Countries selling clothes I'd wear! The dress is unfortunately tainted with a white pattern and not of quality manufacture, but for 20 € and after so many hours of searching, I can't complain.

As if things couldn't get any better, I bought raw herring and smoked eel sandwiches, thinking I could finish both as they looked quite small. Now I have the eel sandwich waiting in the fridge. Man is that stuff delicious!!! Way better than the filets I was buying at HEMA. Even the woman selling some sort of special Zeeland caramels exclaimed "Lekker!" when she saw me toting two plates of fishy things, and the repair guy hanging around the Bagignhof wished me "Smakelijk!" When I left the house again to practice, he and his buddy were still seated in the lawn chairs in the same direction, and exclaimed "Bye!" in unison when I waved at them.

How is the food so good here? Chiaki says the restaurants serve much more interesting food than they do around Amersfoort. It must be the proximity to Flanders. This is the Burgundian Netherlands, after all. Not the super-Calvinist north.

The most difficult belltower staircase I have ever navigated is officially that of the former Town Hall of Veere. Veere is an incredibly charming seaside village that never even filled its city walls or its grand church, which Napoleon later wrecked and renovated as a hospital. (It's now a museum... amazing the fates that befall churches.) The automatic drum is connected to the carillon via an incredibly complex and lengthy--to the point of being slightly hilarious--broek system. The Van den Gheyn carillon itself is very fine, and the view from the tower splendid. Even the pistachio soft ice on a cone was the best I've had so far this summer, with the ice cream going all the way to the bottom of the cone so one doesn't have to choke on dry cone--or feed it to the dog, as Bauke suggested.

Bauke is very tall and perhaps that's why he plays so high... but he's damn good. I need more carillon classmates like him. Although I guess I'll get my fill of formidable classmates in the Eastman organ department.

Unfortunately we had a little run-in with another car in Middelburg. All the passengers saw the truck, but none of us reacted in time to say a word! I feel rather bad about it, but at the same time the resultant dents hardly compare to the damage done and experienced firsthand last November.

Besides that unpleasant experience, I realize now that I have somehow managed to combine study with vacation. I wish life was always this way.

04 July 2006

minor celebrity

We arrived at the Lange Jan tower this morning to be met by radio and television news reporters eager to interview us. Apparently an interview with me was broadcast on the radio at noon, as was footage of me and two other students playing the carillon and answering questions on the televised Zeeland evening news at every hour. (Not much news in this province, I suppose.)

Then we were received by the City Hall of Middelburg, which organized a reception, speech by an alderwoman, and lunch for us in the magnificent Keldermans Stadhuis--the former city hall turned Roosevelt Academy building. I guess any smart city would be willing to donate one of its most magnificent structures to the first university in the entire province! I picked the brain of the Project Manager about starting up the program and his work in the organization of a graduate School of Music. Having a project manager is a damn smart thing to do. But the funding of cultural events and education in the Netherlands is quite curious. The mission of private foundations is to give the underprivileged access to the fine arts. However, private foundations don't support the fine arts--they leave that up to the government.

Grote of Maria Magdalenakerk in GoesA drive to Goes and Zierikzee at 34° C... and playing in much higher temperatures in the playing cabin at the top of the curiously-named "Great or Maria Magdelena Church" tower in Goes, temperatures that made the ground climate seem paradisal by comparison. Kees van Eersel wowed us with organ and carillon improvisations, as did Margreeth Ch. de Jong that evening in the Middelburg Nieuwkerk, but unfortunately the piano tuner in Zierikzee needed every last second for his job and we couldn't visit the organ or carillon. We did, however, get to hear one of the oldest automatic plays in the Low Countries in said city, an automatic chime by Pieter I van den Ghein that sounded, frankly, like a kitchenware band. Again, the program covered our drinks at the bar... atypical of the Dutch and of any other country, really. We already had plenty of free eats in the morning. But clearly this program is more important to the city than any importance we bring to it, even if we are the main component.

Middelburg AbdijAfter Jacques' nice recital, which could have benefited from a bit more Mozart practice, we also examined the oldest organ case in Western Europe (Peter Gerritsz) right here in Middelburg. Later it occurred to me that the only responses Jacques sends to GCNA emails are announcements that he has recorded or performed the piece being discussed. But he took a keen interest this morning in the GCNA Congress and wanted to speak further later in the week. What motives do we have here?

Donker boterhamkorrels (commonly known as muizestrontjes--mouse $417--as Elvo informs me) are soft chocolate sprinkles that the Dutch often put on their toast. I bought a bag today as it was super cheap... and am finding that those things go down easier than water, bread or no bread. And the cheap Winny hazelnootpasta tastes just like the dip for Pokky sticks that I always run short of before I've eaten all the sticks. Heaven help me.

My beach towel took up so much room in my luggage that it has to double as a blanket. And boy does it match my orange fitted sheet.

01 July 2006

through the antwerpen sewers

Did the Ruihuis sewer tour of Antwerpen today. Photos to come.

Even hurrying through the streets of Mechelen and Antwerpen, I can't get over how beautiful the cities are in Europe. New England charm and New York majesty don't do for me what these little Brabantine façades do.