A Visit to the Concertgebouw (and the joys of Dutch queuing)

Ciao Readers!  And Happy Birthday Honey!!!  (and Michelangelo back in 1475)

Today I am taking you to one of the great concert halls of the world – The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.  And, as an added bonus, we’ll get to attend a free lunchtime concert (offered every Wednesday at 12:30 from September until June).  The construction of this lavish hall began with an idea in 1881 and culminated with its grand opening in 1888.  It is considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world – usually ranked among the top three music halls worldwide.

The Concertgebouw is home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, also considered to be one of the world’s best orchestras.  Oftentimes (like the first time we visited), the free Wednesday concerts are short practice runs for the orchestra’s full-blown evening concerts taking place the same week.  Sometimes (as we learned on our recent trip), the concerts are completely free-standing venues for new and upcoming artists.  But before we get to enjoy the concert, there’s the matter of that long line out front….

When we got to the hall at about 12:00, the line was already ridiculously long (sorry I didn’t take a photo) and it was about 30 degrees out (from extrapolation of seats available [a little over 2,000], there were at least 1,000 people in line before us).  Now, I guess I have become jaded from Italy, because upon seeing the line I immediately assumed it would take us hours to get through, people would be pushing and shoving and cutting (and I’d likely get my broken toe stepped on in the process), and we’d never get through the line fast enough to make the 12:30 concert.  I was discouraged and suggested we just give up; Steve, who is more patient than I, suggested we wait it out a few minutes and see what happens, which we did.  And lo and behold, about 10 minutes later they opened the doors…and literally about 3 minutes after that we had all filed into the hall in an orderly fashion and were taking our seats!  I think I was so excited about how fast and orderly the line went (and how unscathed we were) that  it took several minutes for me to begin to look around and appreciate how amazing the hall itself is.

Okay, now that we’re in our seats we can enjoy the concert.  While we just showed up knowing it was a free concert day, we had no idea what concert it was.  While we were expecting a practice run for Bach or Beethoven, we actually stumbled upon a full-blown performance of the group Jazzmania Big Band – performing music from various crime movies and t.v. shows.  It was pretty unexpected, especially considering the surroundings, as you’ll see below, but was a great time.  Here’s the playlist from the concert:

  • Newborn – Theme from The Naked Gun
  • Mancini – Theme from Peter Gunn
  • Shumann – Theme from Dragnet
  • Barry – Theme from James Bond
  • Barry / Bricusse – Goldfinger
  • Theard – Let the Good Times Roll

Now, just imagine that music playing as you sit and enjoy from your seat in this amazing hall (photo of outside courtesy of the Concertgebouw website):

Concert hall

Thank you, as always, for letting me be your tour guide!

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