Running songs for marathon

This Sunday 30th September 2018, my ukulele group in West London will be playing for two hours at UK’s number one half-marathon — Ealing Half-Marathon. We will be at the corner of Cuckoo Lane and Greenford Avenue in Hanwell. I missed it last year while transiting in Dublin. What songs will we sing to cheer them on?

Continue reading “Running songs for marathon”

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How to get to concert venues in Amsterdam during “Dam tot Damloop”

I am sure Amsterdammers know the back streets of Amsterdam by bicycle. I am sure they will figure out how to bypass and circumvent the roads that are blocked for cars and buses on Sunday 19th September 2010.

Ironically, a marathon as large as the annual “Dam to Dam” can cause the central part of Amsterdam to come to a standstill. Luckily all metro and trams should work. [Metro map of Amsterdam and other maps of public transportation in Amsterdam.

Walking is possible. Cycling is possible. Even taking a boat on the canals is possible. Just don’t drive to Amsterdam in your car on Sunday 19th September 2010.

…continued from “Concert in Oosterkerk, Amsterdam

I am sure Amsterdammers know the back streets of Amsterdam by bicycle. I am sure they will figure out how to bypass and circumvent the roads that are blocked for cars and buses on Sunday 19th September 2010.

Ironically, a marathon as large as the annual “Dam to Dam” can cause the central part of Amsterdam to come to a standstill. The first race begins at 8 am from the Amsterdam Centraal station and ends in Zaandam. The last run leaves Amsterdam just before 3 pm. [See map of the Dam tot Damloop race.]

Anne Ku at Oosterkerk in Amsterdam, September 2009
Anne Ku at Oosterkerk in Amsterdam, September 2009

Luckily all metro and trams should work. [Metro map of Amsterdam and other maps of public transportation in Amsterdam.

Walking is possible.

Cycling is possible.

Even taking a boat on the canals is possible.

Just don’t drive to Amsterdam in your car on Sunday 19th September 2010.

For out-of-towners, you can take the train to Amsterdam Centraal and get a metro to Muiderport station and then walk to Oosterkerk for the free piano guitar duo concert at noon.

From the east end of the central station, you can take tram 26 (it goes in a loop) and get off at the third stop: Rietlandpark and then walk to Funen Park 125 for the piano and French horn concert at 15:00 at Funen Concerts.

Anne Ku in concert at Oosterkerk, 20 September 2009
Anne Ku in concert at Oosterkerk, 20 September 2009

Concert in Oosterkerk, Amsterdam

On Sunday 19th September 2010, we classical musicians will once again compete with the famous “Dam to Dam.” I say we will compete WITH not compete IN this “Dam tot Dam” because we are competing for the attention of the audience and the logistics of getting to the church on time. The Oosterkerk, like other central attractions, will not be reachable by private car or bus. Thus it’s vitally important that anyone what wants to attend our concerts know just how to get to these two concert venues with respect to the marathon.

On Sunday 19th September 2010, we classical musicians will once again compete with the famous “Dam to Dam.” This 26th edition of “Dam tot Dam” (Dam to Dam) is the largest running event in the world and the largest business run of its kind. The name comes from the start and finish cities of AmsterDAM and ZaanDAM. [More information in English here.]

I say we will compete WITH not compete IN this “Dam tot Dam” because we are competing for the attention of the audience and the logistics of getting to the church on time. The Oosterkerk, like other central attractions, will not be reachable by private car or bus. The main roads will be closed to traffic to allow the 10 English Mile, the 4-English Mile, and the mini Dam tot Dam.

The organ in the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam
The organ in the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam

A year ago, the third Sunday in September, we gave a free concert of contemporary works in this 17th century church. No longer used for religious services, the church offered regular organ concerts and art exhibitions for the community

We were being paid a flat fee so it did not matter how many people came. The concert itself, like this year’s, was entirely FREE to the public. Unaware of this marathon, we arrived to a deserted Amsterdam that Sunday morning. We got off at Muiderport station and walked a good 15 minutes with our costumes, guitar, music stand, and music scores. It was all quiet on the eastern front (oost means east in Dutch). There was enough space for several hundred.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Oosterkerk in Amsterdam, September 2009
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Oosterkerk in Amsterdam, September 2009

Only 20 people came to the free concert.

We wondered how the Funen Concert at nearby Funen Park 125 (also on the east of central Amsterdam) fared at 15:00.

This year, I will be giving a concert with French horn player Emile Kaper at 15:00 i.e. AFTER the Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo concert. Unlike the Oosterkerk concert, the Funen Concert pays the musicians based on a percentage of total revenue. This year it’s 10 euros per ticket at entry. The maximum capacity is 40. Reservations are not required but requested. Thus it’s vitally important that anyone what wants to attend our concerts know just how to get to these two concert venues with respect to the marathon.

Empty seats at the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam
Empty seats at the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam

—- continued on next blog post: How to travel around Amsterdam during the Dam tot Dam

The marathon to Paris

“Are you musicians?” he asked, pointing to Robert’s black guitar case.

“Yes! In fact we are on our way to Rotterdam to give a concert. And then we’ll go to Paris from there.”

After getting comfortable on the intercity train from Utrecht to Rotterdam, I noticed the T-shirt of the man sitting across from us. It said something like

Swiss marathon: 350 km from Geneva to Basel

I motioned to guitarist Robert Bekkers next to me. He was looking out the window when I got his attention.

A half-marathon is 21 km. A full one is 42 km. But 350 km? How many marathons is that?

“Did you actually run 350 km?” I blurted out.

“Excuse me?” the dark-haired man in his early 50’s awoke from a reverie. “Oh!” he pointed to his T-shirt. “You mean this? It was 7 days in the Swiss alps.”

“But that’s 50 km a day! Still more than a marathon!” I exclaimed.

Robert began talking to him in Dutch.

The man looked like a long distance runner, with a lean and subdued body of zero percent fat. He explained that it was a small marathon consisting of 50 runners who woke up at 7 am every day and ran until 3 pm with an average speed of 8 km per hour. It’s important to keep a steady tempo because of the long distance and the mountains.

I asked if he had run in the Bordeaux.

“Medoc!” He knew the marathon. “No, I don’t like wine,” he replied in English.

I continued in Dutch. “Our running club coach in Bussum told us it’s the most amazing and sought-after costumed marathon with the best wines, champagne and oyster. He said he could get us in. But we never made it past the half-marathon. I’ve done 5k and 10k only.”

“That’s pretty good,” he said in English.

I pointed to Robert. “He has run several half-marathons but his body is more like that of a sprinter.”

“Yours too,” he said in English.

“Are you not Dutch?” I asked after his insistence upon speaking English.

“No, I’m French.” A Frenchman who does not like wine? Now that’s a curiosity.

“Oh! We’re going to Paris today. My Finnish friend is taking his sabbatical there. He just started running a year ago and already he’s won a silver medal. Robert is going to run with him.”

The Frenchman revealed that he ran for the scenery and atmosphere, not for competition. He said that the hardest moment was the second day. We agreed that once you get over the hard part, it was plain sailing.

“It’s asymmetric,” I drew a graph in the air.

“Are you musicians?” he asked, pointing to Robert’s black guitar case.

“Yes! In fact we are on our way to Rotterdam to give a piano guitar duo concert. And then we’ll go to Paris from there.”

“I am also a musician,” he smiled and waved his right hand. “I’m a conductor and a singer. I conduct seven choirs.”

“Really? What a small world! I graduated from conservatory last year.” I began enthusiastically to tell him about the two choral pieces in my second chamber opera “Culture Shock!”

“I got my friend Nicky, the alto soloist playing the part of the foreigner, to write down what the Dutch train conductors said on the train. I then used those words in the libretto.”

“Dames en heren! U kunt hier overstappen….” I sang.

The French conductor chuckled.

“You wrote the libretto yourself?” He was impressed. “Have you ever thought about writing an opera about a marathon?”

“No, I haven’t,” I pondered. “I like to work with musicians and singers to develop a composition. But that’s an interesting idea.”

I could almost hear his brain switch into dream mode. “The choir will wear shorts and run and pant. Hoo, hoo, haa, haa!”

Robert laughed. I giggled at the thought of a choir doing a marathon on stage. We exchanged email addresses and promised we’d explore the possibilities.

The train was getting close to central Rotterdam station.

“What will you do in Paris?” he asked.

“I wish we could give a concert. We want to perform wherever we go,” I said.

“You can play under the bridge,” he pointed to Robert’s guitar.

“Which bridge?”

“Any bridge. It’s beautiful.” He meant that Robert could busk under any bridge and collect money for it.

“I should have brought something sexy to wear,” I mused, imagining my role in getting the onlookers to donate their coins.

“No need. Don’t wear anything.”

It took me a second before I understood what he meant.

He was French after all.