It’s 13:00 Saturday afternoon in Utrecht.
“I have to leave. I’m late already,” the Dutch guitarist said. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning at 9 am in Heerlen.”
Heerlen is way down south, past Maastricht, near the German border. We had given our first concert in Heerlen in July 2003.
With that, the guitarist drove off to Maastricht where a flamenco project awaited. This is the second year of a project to capture a famous gypsy guitarist’s riffs in notation form.
He told me to catch the earliest train from Utrecht Centraal.
At 11:00 pm I checked the Dutch train timetable. The earliest train on a Sunday leaves at 08:08 and arrives in Heerlen 2 and a half hours later. The first concert begins at 10:00 am. I tried different configurations. Maybe he could pick me up in Maastricht? I would still miss the concert.
At 11:20 pm we spoke on the phone.
“I can’t get there before 10:30 am. You’re gonna have to give a solo concert,” I said.
“But they are expecting piano and guitar,” he protested.
“Well, I just missed the last train over an hour ago. So I can’t get there tonight.”
“I’ll come back then.”
“What? Drive from Maastricht to Utrecht NOW? How long did it take you to get there today?”
“There were roadworks. It took longer than usual,” he avoided the question.
“And then what?”
“And then we drive to Heerlen tomorrow morning,” he finished matter-of-factly.
“You mean you’re willing to drive 2 hours to pick me up and drive 2.5 hours back?” I could not believe him.
“What else do you want me to do? Cancel the concert?”
“Give a solo concert. You can do it. You have enough solo stuff memorised. Improvise. You’re good at that.”
“Well, it is an electric piano. The railroad tracks are being worked on. That’s why there are no earlier trains. I suppose these are good reasons why you can’t be there,” the guitarist reasoned.
“I can meet you for lunch before the second concert though,” I said more positively.
“Yes, I’ll pick you up at the Heerlen train station. What time is the concert in Valkenburg?”
“Some more news,” the guitarist added. “Gaston wants to record me. The only time I have free is evening. I’ll miss the Egyptian dinner if I do.”
Gaston is our friend who returns to Belgium every two months to see his sweetheart and follow his passion: sound recording.
“You can’t do that,” I exclaimed. “You have to come back for the dinner. I’ve invited so many people. Your daughter will be there.”
Such is the busy life of a Dutch guitarist: piano guitar duo concerts, flamenco guitar transcriptions, solo guitar recording — all in a day’s work, not to mention his private teaching practice, his uberfaster and uberlouder guitar course, and a demanding wife.
The phone rang again.
“Honey, why don’t I come home now? Then we can go there together in the morning, as a duo.”
“It’s nearly midnight! You’re tired. Stay where you are. Get a good night’s sleep in Maastricht.”
“You know what will happen, don’t you?” He sounded faint. “We’ll never get another booking with Fenna.”
“On the contrary,” I said. “She should be grateful. How could we have shown up for the 10 am concert when the roads are blocked and the trains leave late? She would have had to cancel the concert! Luckily you are there. At least there will be a concert.”
“Yes, you’re right. We would have had to leave a day earlier and spend the night.”
“So, will you give a solo concert tomorrow?” I pressed on. “Have you got enough repertoire?”
“You know I have. I guess I am too tired to drive back. I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch then.”