Saturday, May 5, 2007

Quatuor pour la fin de temp...

In Holland, May 4th and 5th are days of remembering World War II. May 4th, also known as Dodenherdenkingdag (day to think of the dead), honors those lost in or because of the War. There is a two minute period of silence on this day at 8:00 pm. May 5th celebrates the liberaton of Holland from German occupation.

Interestingly, from what I understand, German dignitaries and politicians have only in the last five years been allowed to be present at remembrance services here. Furthermore, cars with German license plates have been targeted for vandalism and in general, there seems to be a little unrest on these days for Germans living here.

This long ago history isn't really that long ago at all.

Last night, Dave and I attended a brief remembrance ceremony held in the Noordemarkt (a town square near our house...where the weekly market is held). A military brass band played a few pieces, including the Dutch national anthem and what I assumed was the Dutch version of Taps. They processed out of the square, and the crowd - numbering at least 1,000 - went silent for two minutes.

After that, we attended a performance of Olivier Messiaen's Quator pour la fin de temp (Quartet for the End of Time) in the Noordekerk. Messiaen was a French pianist and composer who wrote this piece while a prisoner in Gorlitz, a concentration camp in Germay, during the War. He wrote the piece for himself and three other musicians he met there to play. Amazingly, they were allowed to premiere the piece in the camp. As the story goes, Messiaen played on a battered old piano on an outdoor stage along with his colleagues - a clarinetist, a violinist, a cellist - to a crowd of 5,000 in the middle of January. The temperature was even zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Today, I am honoring those the world over who served the fight for freedom and peace, those who lost their lives unfairly, those who helped others at the risk of their own lives, and those who carreed on after the War to pick up the broken pieces...

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