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Casual Classics concert review

by Mala Raman
The Casual Classics concert, a new initiative sponsored by Theaters Tilburg featured a casual and relaxed atmosphere to draw in new enthusiasts to classical music.  The concert took place in the Tilburg Concertzaal, which TIC had the pleasure of touring backstage in 2014.  This hall could arguably by called one of the most colorful in the south of the country.

The fresh and lively classical music on offer was made more accessible by the relaxed atmosphere where the public was invited to attend in casual garb and encouraged to grab a drink and head into the concert hall to enjoy what the Tilburg Festival Orkest, conducted by Marcel Geraeds, had to offer.  The program consisted of pieces from the Romantic period by German composers including Reger, Mahler and Mendelssohn.

Reger: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Mozart. 132 
Max Reger presented a recurring melody played by the orchestra in the abridged version of this piece that is sweet and haunting (his music is often heard in music boxes). Parts of his music (to my untrained ear) is a bit abstract, perhaps like looking at a Picasso piece where none of the ends meet up, and can be a bit busy. Though I had a hard time connecting to the music itself, I appreciated that Reger gave the audience something pleasant to listen to while also providing a broader canvas of tonalities to think about in the intricate weave of opposing sounds.

Mahler: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5
This particular piece is often used to convey a bittersweet feeling and is commonly heard in heavily emotional film sections or in figure skating pieces. Mahler employs the instruments in continuous and fluid notes that have clear crescendos and diminuendos where the ear receives a clear break. In this way, the listener is forced to go on an impassioned journey and see it through to the end.
Mahler takes the listener on an emotional rollercoaster that is filled with moments of conflict, sorrow, regret, heartbreak and longing. The music is designed to draw out an emotional investment from the listener who is finally released from the turmoil and angst as the piece comes to a final resting place by way of a pillow soft landing.
By far, my favorite piece of the evening.

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4
This work is described as being happy and fun for which Mendelssohn took his inspiration from the landscape, culture and people of Bologna, Florence, Rome en Naples.
Personally, this was not one of my favorites.  I found the music to be much pomp and circumstance with little to no emotional draw.  The very staccato-like music contributed to a feeling of repetitiveness without any variety to break up the monotony of clanging instruments. In a way, it was a shame that they ended the evening with this piece, instead of Mahler that would have given the audience something more substantial to talk about after the show.

I very much enjoyed my evening and for those of you who do not regularly listens to classical music, don’t worry. The concert series was developed for non-traditional classical music audiences. Be sure to try and catch the next concert in the series! Hearing orchestral music in the Concertzaal is well worth the effort.

Tour of the Carnival Floats

by Katia Soriano

Those who have been living in this part of the Netherlands, that is North Brabant, must be familiar with all the festivities surrounding this time of the year: The “Carnaval”.

The Carnival is a traditional celebration and has religious origins.  It takes place immediately before Lent, with the main events and parades usually occurring during February.

Last Saturday some of us had a chance to visit and witness the impressive elaboration of the Tilburg Carnival floats.   It is a collective work that involves members of eleven carnival clubs. These members meet regularly in a warehouse where they dedicate many weekends to produce these giant impressive floats, called in Dutch: “Praalwagens”.

The TIC visited the club, located at Jules de Beerstraat in Kraaiven, where we were warmly welcomed with our kids.  There we had a chance to see, touch, and most of all smell all the materials that are involved in this long process of:  “praalwagens maken”.

We were told that there has been a reduction in the government funding during the last few years since the economic recession, from 3.5 million Euros to only half of that amount now. That doesn’t seem to take away the enthusiasm and dedication of the members involved in the making of the floats.   There is a feel of camaraderie between them that is transmitted in the air.  They were happy and proud to show us their work in process.  Enormous metal structures, original works of art that are designed new from the ground up every year after the theme of the parade has been announced.  The locals then have an opportunity to express themselves freely by building these characters that sometimes could resemble a public figure.  There is welding involved in the making of these metal structures that are mostly wire frames.

We could see how these structures get transformed from naked wire frames into colorful floats, step by step.  After the frame is finished they apply in some cases clay, or first polyester and a second layer of clay.  There are also other techniques like applying a layer of foam first and then paper on top.  Each one gave a different look and shine to the final product.

Perhaps this is the most complex part of the float design; the selection of materials to cover the structures and the number of hours of work in the application of different materials. With this process they can obtain different finishing and finally they can apply colors.

It was very interesting for all, and especially the kids, to see the hydraulic engines that actually move some parts of the characters that are part of the float.  There was a chance for us to take pictures and ask questions.  We shared snacks and wore the handmade masks provided by TIC.   We were happy to learn about this old tradition and to somehow feel that we were also part of it.

December bookclub: The Unlikely Pilgrammage of Harold Fry

IMG_2410What a nice evening we had at book club this month! There was a big, beautifully decorated Christmas tree, homemade cookies and tea on the table and lots of conversation with members we hadn’t seen in a while as well as those new to our group. Oh yes … and there was a book discussion!! As we sipped our tea, we began the diverse discussion of The Unlikely Pilgrammage of Harold Fry, written by Rachel Joyce. The general consensus was that the book was written in the style of “youth literature”, making the book seem a little more simplistic than its intended true meaning. Some felt the author didn’t share enough information about why Harold felt compelled to take the journey in the first place and waiting until the end for the “big reveal” still didn’t tie it all together. Others, however saw beyond the words on the page and could understand why Harold and Maureen had drifted apart and that the journey wasn’t so much about Queenie but more about finding themselves again. While we all had varying opinions and enjoyed discussing the book, none of us felt compelled  to read other works by Joyce.

Our next read is a spy thriller … Restless, by William Boyd. Happy Reading!

The TIC Annual Dinner

by Jean-Francois Hennart

This year the dinner was at Square, a mere slip and slide across an icy Heuvel. I admit that I wasn’t expecting a lot from a Lounge-Club-Restaurant, too much like never-ever-good dinner theater, but on the night was disabused of my spread-too-thin preconception. Our coats were deftly taken and the owner was pouring us a welcome drink before our cheeks had lost their winter-wind glow. The décor at Square is loft-simple, the lighting is kind, but not dim. Whole-group menus are hard on a chef, but the fresh starter and simple dessert seemed to go down well, as did the well-chosen and generously-served wines. Sondra and I hedged our bets when it came to selecting a meat-or-fish main, but need not have. My venison was just-right pink, and her cod with sauerkraut (a combination we intend to crib) well-nigh James Beard worthy. No doubt, we will again “be there”.

Never been to the post-holiday dinner? Are you thinking it might be like a Sierra Seniors do, with awards handed out, speeches made? Wrong. I’m tempted to compare the TIC answer to the winter blues to My Dinner with Andre, because what makes for a good time around the table is, if I can borrow from Roger Ebert, “conversation, in which the real subject is the tone, the mood, the energy.” The tone is set by mutually-held curiosity about what lies beyond our own national borders and by shared determination to make the most of living in the Netherlands; the mood is sometimes jubilant, sometimes mellow; and the energy comes from within.

So, if you weren’t there, you missed something. Now you could wait until January rolls around again, or long before then you could take part in a different event. You might just find yourself, as we did last night, caught up in a wide-ranging conversation touching on learning to waterski, a Lang Lang concert in Amsterdam, raising bilingual kids, a selfie with Henry Kissinger, Fontys fledgling Academy of Circus and Performing Arts, trailing penguins in Patagonia …

Cookie workshop

by Elaine Ferguson

On a chilly December evening I arrived at the Boomstraat in Tilburg not quite knowing what to expect. Although, I had baked biscuits (cookies) before, our tradition in New Zealand and Australia leans more towards slices and cakes.

I walked into a hive of activity with the chocolate already melted au bain marie on the cooker.  The Ingredients were all set out and the butter softened ready to be beaten into the flour, butter and sugar to make the following choice of cookies:

Jam Thumbprints, Grandma Edith’s Pecan Delights, Peanutbutter cookies and Ting-a-lings.

Anne supervised us while we got to work weighing out the ingredients and mixing flour, sugar, and butter together.

Myself, Thijs and Yiyi worked on making the Jam Thumbprint cookies.  Thijs ground the walnuts using a small hand mill while Yiyi and I worked together weighing and mixing the ingredients.  Anne showed me her Grandma’s method of beating the butter and sugar together. Once the mixture was combined we rolled the dough into small balls dipped them into egg white and then rolled them in the walnuts before making an indentation in the middle for the jam.

Meanwhile Yolonda, Patricia and Emerald got on with making the peanutbutter cookies and Grandma Edith’s Pecan Dreams.  Kris and Thijs made the Ting-a-lings by combining the Cornflakes together with melted chocolate to create small, hedgehog like mounds of delicious cookies.

Trays were being ferried back and forth to the oven under the careful supervision of Anne so that nothing got burnt.  Timing is everything when baking cookies because if they are underdone they will be the wrong consistency and overdone means picking off the charred edges.

Once the biscuits had been transferred to the cooling racks and allowed to cool sufficiently to either sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar or filled with jam, and of course tasted.  Although biscuits are usually better eaten the next day this is not always possible.

By this time the wine had appeared and the activity became slightly less intense as we packed our goodies into plastic containers to be taken home and shown off to the family.

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