Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

It smells like spring. The cold air is fighting its way out the door and the fresh scents of grass and sunshine are falling on the Herengracht. Even the wafting cigarette smoke from neighborhood cafes smells lighter, sweeter. Today was overcast but still warm which, had I closed my eyes, may have convinced me I was experiencing Indian summer, not April's thaw.

I took Remmie for his evening walk and had the pleasure of running into many neighbors who are quickly turning into good friends. From a dog's vantage, our area is a perfect breeding ground for lots of great doggie friendships. There's Mrs. Van Baerle, the Cairn terrier across the canal. Rintje, the sweet-faced Fox Terrier (the subject of a famous Dutch children's book series, written and illustrated by one of his owners). Lotje, the Jack Russell Terrier who diligently guards his owner's chocolate shop. And - new to the friend list - Piraat, who lives on a ground floor apartment. Her owners cut a hole in the door big enough for her to stick her head out of when someone passes. Remmie is making friends all over.

Our new address is ripe with all sorts of great memories waiting to happen. And starting with summer, when seemingly everyone brings tables and chairs onto the sidewalk to eat dinner and drink wine, this should be no task at all.

Taking a deep breath of everything around me,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Just a few more shots...

Een hartelijke verjaardag...

Dave put together a wonderful gathering at our house to celebrate my...ahem...27th birthday. What a wonderful group of friends we have here.

A few snapshots to give you a glimpse.


p.s. - That gal with the newly-bobbed brownish-reddish hair would happen to be me. :) I've left the ponytail behind for now.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Had je wat?...

Dave and I checked out a band that a few friends of mine are playing in. New Generation Big Band. I had heard their recent release and was impressed, and the live show did not disappoint. It's a 17-piece band (5 sax, 4 trombone, 5 trumpet and a rhythm section) that plays mostly groove-oriented stuff (think Herbie Hancock, Earth Wind and Fire, etc.). Most of it is original. Written and arranged by their leader, a young Dutch trumpet player.

They are doing some really cool stuff. Mixing "old school" big band sounds (more from the '60s than the '30s) with electronic elements, like synthesizer and dj's.

Check them out by clicking here.


(Bro...this band is what would've happened had you, Dunham, Polucha, Perron, Tollas and the rest of the gang decided to stick it out and go pro. Playing-wise, it's right up your alley.)

Happy Easter!...

A few shots from our own little Easter brunch. This cute little chocolate bird is named "futuro kip." Future chicken.

(Unbeknownst to him, the only future he has is to be a nice compliment to tomorrow morning's cup of coffee.)


Friday, April 6, 2007

St. Matthaus' Passion...

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. A holiday I associate with people in bunny costumes, egg hunts, sunrise services, light-colored Easter dresses, and songs like "Christ the Lord is Risen Today" (Aaaaaaaaal-le-lu-ia!).

And today is Good Friday, the most tragic observance in the Christian church year. The day of Christ's death. For this, I have memories of candle-light services, leaving the church in silence to the sound of "O Sacred Head Now Wounded".

As most of my new perceptions of Holland come directly or indirectly through the world of music, it shouldn't surprise you that a significant musical tradition of this holiday stands out to me.

For the last week, throughout the country, you can catch a performance of the St. Matthauw's Passion by Bach, in its entirety, in about fifty different places. Both professional and amateur musical organizations partake. It's nearly an epidemic. An outbreak, if you will.

The performances generally take place in the week or so before Easter. Interestingly, performances on or surrounding Good Friday often begin around 11:30 in the morning, so that the work ends near 3pm - the recognized time of day when Jesus died.

Among musicologists, there is often agreement that, should all other music disappear, as long as the work of Bach remained, everything could be re-constructed. And if it's possible to temporarily forget what our ears have heard in recent centuries, Bach's indubitable inspiration and genius are that much clearer.

Treat yourself to a listen sometime. I take full responsibility if you are left unsatisfied.

Other interesting tidbits about how Easter is celebrated here:

There are two days of Easter...the First (Sunday) and the Second (Monday). Generally, stores are closed on Good Friday, and both Easter days.

The Dutch word for Easter is 'Paas'. Look familiar? The famous US brand of Easter egg dying supplies is also called Paas.

To wish someone Happy Easter, you say "fijne Paasdagen."

From what I understand, the general consensus in Western Europe is to recognize Ascension Day (a week and a half before Pentecost...so sometime in mid-May) as the day of celebrating Jesus' resurrection. Not Easter Sunday morning.

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter and a beautiful spring,

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

40 is the new 30 (which is the new 20, so...)...

A big huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to both Zanny AND Mike Johnson whose new ages this week will be divisible by 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 20, AND 40!

Sorry we missed your big bash, Zan...we were there in spirit. We love you and miss you! Hugs to the whole Johnson clan!

Lynn and Dave

p.s. - There's a creepy life-size statue of a priest in the window of the little canal house on Blauwburgwal that you stayed in. Don't really know what's up with that, but I think of you guys every time I pass it. :)

From the heart and soul of a Netherlander...

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to accompany my arranging teacher (Jurre Haanstra) to a day-long rehearsal he had with Paul van Vliet (in my estimation, a Dutch cross between Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye). Jurre wrote the orchestral arrangements for the hour and a half long concert program which was performed two days later.

Mr. van Vliet, also the Dutch ambassador for Unicef, is a seemingly gentle man who wears sentimentality on his sleeves throughout every song he sings - most of which he has written. He writes about the sea, he writes about growing old together and watching the world change around you, he writes about challenges of parenthood. Not always the cheeriest of topics, but seemingly a bastion of aged observations, Paul seemingly touches many a Dutch man or woman with his music.

Somehow, this is all characteristically Dutch to me. I wish I could describe exactly how. Maybe it's the straight-forward honesty about the kind of feelings that not everyone would deal with so directly. Maybe it's the ability to write about true love while still (at least to my American ears) making me think I should be swinging a beer stein along with the rhythm. I'm not quite sure. But it was truly interesting to observe. A few steps removed from watching Mariah Carey from backstage at the American Music Awards a few years ago, but still interesting. (There were definitely fewer body augmentations involved!)

These days, getting any kind of inside peek at what makes an orchestra go round and round has me locked in at full attention. Beautiful arrangements take good songs to whole new places. Jurre paints the texts so well. I'm glad to be learning from him.

Oh! And you can cue "It's A Small World After All," because the pianist in the orchestra played a gig with my old boss Suzie in LA a few years ago. Spooky how small the globe is becoming.

Here are some of the lyrics of one of Paul's songs, titled Misschien Vannacht (Maybe Tonight). My translation is below. It might not be perfect, but you'll get the idea.

(Uh...you might want to get a handkerchief out for this one. Like I said, unabashed sentimentality.)

In elke vrouw - in elke man
Zit een verlangen groot of klein
Om in dit leven als het kan
Eén keer gewichtloos vrij te zijn.

Vrij van verdriet en niet meer bang
Niet meer alleen en los van toen
Omarmd door oeverloos geluk
In staat iets kolossaals te doen.

Die ene dag, die ene nacht
Niet meer te vragen van: Waarom?
Maar zeker weten: Dit ben ik
En dit gevoel daar gaat het om.

In every woman, in every man
There is a longing, big or small
That in this life, if possible,
One time, to be weightless and free.

Free from sorrow and no longer afraid,
No longer alone and free from when,
Embraced by overflowing (?) good fortune,
In the process of doing something important (colossal).

Which day, which night
To no longer be asking "Why?"
But to know for certain: This I am
And this feeling goes on (?).

(or something like that! Laura, Bas, or any other Dutch friends checking in...have some mercy on my Dutch comprehension!)

As ever, another fascinating day on this side of the Pond.

Signing out for now...

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The huis that launched a thousand trips to Ikea...

Oh Helen...Your many corners, angled walls, and sloping floors have us a bit mystified. Although I'm rather certain Paris will keep her hands off of you this time, Dave and I won't stop singing your praises for many months to come.

In short, we love our new house (whom I have affectionately named "Helen").

Check out some of our new additions to the house. Namely, furniture - which Helen was lacking nearly in entirety when we moved in. A time-staking and somewhat costly undertaking, we are still loving the whole process and can't wait for the next delivery to come.

Dave made huge progress this weekend in our technology department. He wired the main room with surround sound speakers, which lovingly emit the soundtracks for whatever our high definition projector is throwing on the wall. Yes, it's about ten years beyond my understanding, but Dave loves it and I am easily dazzled by the beautiful quality of the movies we watch. I foresee plenty of movie-watching parties in our future.

It feels a little self-important of me to go on and on about Helen, but many of you have asked about her and how the furnishing is going. So here are a few snapshots.

(And as ever, I'm trying to temp uncertain visitors to commit to buying plane tickets and coming out here. I hope these pictures take me one step closer to my goal.)

The first one is of the great room. It's still missing the couch and dining chairs (the current couch is a loaner), but you get the idea. The next one is of the guest room, followed by a picture of what is, perhaps, Dave's favorite part of the house...a turn-of-the-century safe built into the wall in the guest room. And last but certainly not, the kitchen. By Amdam standards, this could be the kitchen in the Topkapi Palace. It's about three times the size of our last kitchen with all sorts of cooking ecoutrements. We love it!

Missing are pictures of the master bedroom, my office, and the patio, but those will be sure to come at some point.

Love to all,