Today was another fine spring day to make me forget that there ever was a long winter and all the indoor existence from October to March was worth the wait for today’s flawless weather.
What to wear? Good question. I still insisted on tights, a long sleeved dress, and a silk scarf to cover my entire body, including my neck and four limbs. The usual routine seemed risk averse in this spring weather. It did feel warm enough though to put away my Barbour jacket in favour of my Laura Ashley cotton coat hibernating in the loft.
I woke up too late to practise piano but didn’t mind too much because it was to be a short concert at a psychiatric clinic in a village I had never heard of before. Only 45 minutes instead of the usual 2 x 30 minutes or 1 hour concert of our most popular programme (reduced by two or three movements) —- it should be easy. I didn’t bother to read our Maandrooster (month schedule) what sort of piano and concert hall awaited us. After recent disappointments, I expected very little, if anything at all.
On the drive north towards Amsterdam and west towards Haarlem, I shared a pre-packed brunch of sandwiches and carrot cake with the guitarist. It was well past rush hour (10:45 am), and the journey to Bennebroek should be without interruption.
Bennebroek was the smallest municipality in the Netherlands before it merged with Bloemendaal, an extremely affluent area known for its hockey club. Probably formed in the 13th century, Bennebroek now serves as a commuter town for nearby cities of Haarlem and Bloemendaal.
To my surprise, we arrived at a big church (pictured below). I did not expect a church nor one in such picturesque surroundings. As the previous time we played in a psychiatric centre was unpleasant, I had mentally tried to block out the low ceilings and temporary location. A beautiful church was the last thing I expected today.
Halfway from the car to the church, we met a man smoking a cigarette. He introduced himself and shook our hands. It was 11:40 am. He had been expecting us.
Inside the big church hid even more surprises: a beautiful Bechstein grand piano on a stage. The 6 to 7 ft piano looked extremely familiar, like the 1920’s 5’6″ German piano I owned in London. It must be around 100 years old, I thought. Indeed I later read that it was built in 1910. Something about old German grand pianos makes me feel instantly at ease.
The man then led us to a big meeting room behind the stage which would serve as our changing room. He pointed to a big covered box containing sandwiches for lunch. This was most unusual as we never get more than refreshments and a tiny snack.
Before changing and donning make-up, we wanted to test the acoustics — as usual and as always. Unlike the previous two venues with dry acoustics, the hall had ample reverberation, typical of large churches. This meant that the guitar would sound very powerful and beautiful on its own. And equally so, the grand piano, but it would be not as easy to hear each other when we played together.
Indeed once we started playing, we found it impossible to stop. The sound was too beautiful. The combination of great acoustics and great instruments made us feel very free to play. [And I would say, if you want to lure musicians to play for you — give them these two things.]
At the end of our 45 minute concert, those that were not in wheelchairs stood up and applauded. The man who took care of us earlier then walked on stage with two fat bouquets and a beaming smile.
The day was too perfect to waste. We took our lunch in the gardens of this church. It was a rare occasion to have time to enjoy the good weather without rushing to our next appointments. And now was the time to test my mobile phone for good photos to remember by.
As we left the premises, we waved goodbye to the daffodils that adorned this village.
Larger photos of Bennebroek can be viewed here.