Impromptu duo concert at midnight

At 9 pm on Saturday 4 September 2010, the phone rang towards the end of a home-cooked dinner of prawn and squid tempura and zarusoba (Japanese buckwheat noodles).

Robert, our guest Joe, and I were getting very comfortable after sharing a bottle of chilled organic white wine, finishing left-over organic red wine, and trying a just-opened bottle of organic rosé.

The pianist Liesbeth asked,”Is Robert playing with the flute player tonight?”

Robert took the phone. “The violinist cancelled. The flute player didn’t want to play. It’s just me. I can play solo. How much time do you have?”

Robert glanced at me while he listened. “One hour?”

I nodded.

“Anne and I will play together. What time?”


I grimaced. “Midnight?!! It’s my bed time.”

“Awww…. c’mon!” Robert hung up the phone. “We can do it. We’ll just take a nap. Look, I’ll set the alarm so we’ll have enough time to rest. Okay?”

“But we’ve had so much to drink already! We should never drink before a concert.”

“We have 3 hours,” he protested.

“Besides, I’ll have to put on make-up and change into something. What should I wear?”

“Don’t worry. Don’t even bother changing. Just wear what you have on. We’re just going to play as we are.”

Bridge over Merwedekanaal between Lombok and Oog in Al in Utrecht, Netherlands

Merwedekanaal between Lombok and Oog in Al in Utrecht, Netherlands

It’s the 10th anniversary of Het Wilde Western, a loose association of volunteers, teachers, students, and parents all dedicated to cultural education and activities in the communities in west Utrecht, hence the name the Wild West. The Night of Nostalgia was an evening event taking place on the wide pedestrian bridge that connects the neighbourhood of Lombok to Oog in Al.

A dozen or so white tents were erected during the day on both sides of the the Merwedekanaal and the bridge itself. Robert had talked about giving a solo performance when he found out his team members had bailed out last minute. He tried to get me to play but I said that I would rather sleep.

And so we slept. The alarm woke us up at 11:30 pm. We packed our music, picked up a stand, put on our shoes, and walked over the bridge in front of our house. The bridge was built in 1902.

The night felt young though it was nearly midnight. We saw faces we recognised but couldn’t quite place. It’s strange to see people out of context.

As we approached the last white tent, we saw several big people in period costumes and heavy make-up. Later we learned that a Mozart opera was performed in that tent.

Why would professional musicians risk their reputations and give such a free impromptu concert? We could have easily declined and finished the evening with more organic wine and great conversation indoors. But we didn’t. In fact, I regretted not volunteering earlier, for then we would have been listed on the programme.


  • there is a piano (outdoors in a tent) = a rare opportunity
  • there is an empty slot (one hour) = another rare opportunity
  • we contribute to the community we’re in = participation in something bigger
  • we show who we are and what we do —> and get known = free publicity
  • it’s a true test of how ready we are (when we’ve not practised or prepared) = we like challenges


Filed under audience, concert, venues

4 responses to “Impromptu duo concert at midnight

  1. Brava! Did you have fun? I think that’s one of the most important reasons. Sometimes last-minute impromptu engagements are the best if you really do have the time (or if you want to make the time), because you don’t have to worry about promoting it…and, as you point out, you don’t have to prepare anything. Just show up and do your thing!

  2. Thanks! It was incredibly fun and exciting!
    We’ve been told that we’re spontaneous. But this was super spontaneous. Apparently lots of people passed by, sat down, or just stood outside the tent, kind of lingering in and out. Afterwards, we had some great comments from people we didn’t even know were watching. The ones who did sit and watched also stayed until we ran out of music.

  3. And I am glad that I phoned you, because now I could experience live how good you are, solo but also very much as a duo, and the chemistry between you both, and with the public. Your choice of music is lively and daring and shows the fun of playing. And in between some jewels of more meditative music…
    Thanks and good luck!

  4. Pingback: 2010: a year in reflection | Concert Blog

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