Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gooikoorts Festival

Brilliant blue sky and a sign pointing to the water closets,
 what more could one ask?
"Yes, that is a waltz. But smoother and not so bouncy." I was playing what I had intended to be a waltz. This comment made me think that I might be making progress on my musical journey. The speaker, a dancer and an instructor, had previously stated that in her opinion too many musicians play for musicians rather than dancers.

Gooikoorts is one of the many European weekend music festivals this summer. Held in Gooik, a small town about 25 km west of Brussels, it was a first. I had seen pictures and video of festivals but never before observed the mazurka in its natural habitat.

Spelling it is easy but saying it?
To get to Gooik, we ventured out from our apartment early on a Sunday, clutching elaborate handwritten instructions enumerating the tram, train and buses we would take. This paper was to show the various conductors and drivers so they could nod yes or point us in the right direction. Remembering which platform or stop at which to stand, the destination to be shown on the front of the vehicle and the name of the stop can be a challenge, so the list was helpful.

Pronouncing those place names in a question? Totally impossible. Over and over we have experienced asking, "Is this the bus to Enkhuizen?", or the like only to be answered with a puzzled look followed by, "Where?" This from trilingual speakers whose English sounds like it is straight from the USA. Or sometimes a bit like Homer Simpson or other TV characters, since shows for the Dutch audience are subtitled rather than dubbed and children pick up their accents from, well, us in all our diversity.

Pointing to the same name on a map or scrawled on my cheat sheet always resulted in an answer like, "Ah you want Enkhuizen . . . " To my ear it was the same word, but to the Dutch ear, obviously not so. Perhaps my Texan drawl is incompatible with de-voiced consonents and diphthongs that sound only superficially like their English equivalents.

Naragonia Quartet at Gooikoorts Festival
The highlight of Gooikoorts Festival was Naragonia Quartet's concert. Anita, bless her heart, managed to score two seats up front by scooting into the tent moments after they raised the flap. Wow. I glanced up on stage and there was Pascale Rubens, arranging accordions. Close enough to touch, those three Castagnaris.

As we were waiting, I struck up a conversation with Anita (a different Anita, this one from Holland) about Naragonia's music, why we were at the festival, and my wanting to learn to dance. This led to her offering to teach me at the ball that evening. Alas, when I consulted my paper, it said that we had a bus to catch well before the dancing started. As a consolation, Anita mentioned that she had taught a workshop for musicians to help them play for dancers and offered me a similar session after the concert.

Wilko plays a waltz and a mazurka
Anita and Wilco demonstrated waltz and mazurka, she dancing and he playing hurdy gurdy. Then I outed my box from its new Visseur carrying case and tried it myself. My Valse Tarde passed muster but my Valse des Jouets was declared to be more like a mazurka than a waltz.

So, at last I had finally played a tune that the listener thought to be a mazurka, even though by accident. Definite progress.

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