Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Last concert in Amsterdam – Choir Tour Day 13


Sometimes, when everyone gives everything they have to give, when everyone relaxes just enough, when the energy and focus is in the right place at the right time, and maybe even when the stars are aligned just right, perfection is possible.
Our last concert at the Westerkerk.  This church was built in the early 1600’s and is mentioned frequently in Anne Frank’s diary, as it’s clock tower could be seen from the house she hid in from the Nazi’s nearby.  Today the church is used for a variety of musical performances and we were part of their lunchtime concert series.

Often when preparing music for a concert, you only get to perform it once or maybe twice.  It has been such a joy to get to know all this music so intimately, to have come to know so much of it by heart without  even trying, and to constantly strive for the best performance each time.  There have been a lot of perfect moments in all of our pieces this tour, but today I think the entire concert was near-perfect.

Sign advertising our concert
The house was full.  We were all excited but so focused.   I love the high of performing like that.  When I try to describe it to people, sometimes I use the metaphor of being on a moving train.  If any one voice or part of the “train” falters, things can get derailed.  But that’s why trains/choirs have conductors... for this last concert, I felt like we were all so tuned in to each other and the conductor that even in the few places it felt like we might be inching towards falling off the tracks even for a second, we all watched and listened so intently that we remained together through the entire concert.  We were really one.  Through every piece.  Every moment.  Every place we had been not-quite-so-perfect in previous performances or rehearsals, we mastered them during this concert.  It was beautiful.  It’s still surreal to think about.  Here we were, at the end of a European tour, singing in the Westerkerk.  In Amsterdam. To a full house.  Moving people.  Moving ourselves. Performing choral music at a level that I sometimes still can’t believe I get to be a part of.  It’s a good thing I have mastered the art of holding back tears while performing... 

A very grateful woman came up to a few of us after the concert and said that she had come in while we were rehearsing and was completely stunned by the sound we were producing.  She stayed for the concert and seemed to have just been blown away by the entire thing.  She said she also sings in a choir, but nothing like this.  She also found it fascinating how professional we all looked.  It’s funny how the little things – everyone having the folder in the same hand, switching places and walking on and offstage so fluently, really make such a difference and add to the entire experience for the audience.


After the concert, some of us went to the music store where they sell music scores and CDs and we spent a couple of hours in there like kids in a candy store, spending way too much money on hard to find and  music to take home and learn.  We didn’t get to go to any of the museums as everything closes pretty early there.  I will have to come back to Amsterdam one day with some more time.  This trip it was all about the music.
Later that evening after a lovely dinner by the water, we again took over the hotel lobby with a rowdy after party, celebrating the end of a wonderful, exhausting, challenging, and moving tour.  The next day we would be on a 7am bus to the airport, but that didn’t stop some of us from partying until well past 3 or 4am... 

The next day also happened to by my birthday, and the choir waited until midnight to sing me a beautiful ~15 part harmony rendition of "Happy Birthday".  


And so ends one of the most intense but rewarding two weeks I've ever experienced.  I didn't set out to blog like this, it just sort of happened, and it surprised me that so many people were reading along, both in the choir as we were going through it together and people back home, so they could live a little bit of it with us.  I'm glad my words were able to capture the experiences, both for myself and for others.  I'm sure I will look back on this trip soon and it will all seem like a far away dream (it is starting to seem that way already).

It was just such an incredible tour.  Thank you to the Ottawa Bach Choir, to Lisette Canton our conductor, and to everyone else who worked behind the scenes to make this tour possible and deal with all the administrative things so we could put all our energy into the music.  These were a special two weeks that we shared together, and I will carry these moments with me always, and my future music-making will be all the more inspired for it.

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