Ernestine Stoop

harp harfe harpe arpa

Diary of Ernestine Stoop's New York concert tour in July 2000

Wednesday 5 July 2000

9.30h we have to be at the Dutch airport Schiphol. The two ensembles ASKO and Schoenberg Ensemble are going to New York for 11 days to perform the opera of Louis Andriessen : "Writings to Vermeer". Conductor is Reinbert de Leeuw, scenery: Peter Greenaway. The opera is about 3 women, who are in love with Johannes Vermeer, the famous Dutch painter from the 17th century. His wife, cousin and girlfriend write him they love him, and about political affairs e.g. the tulip war. Creating and growing new tulips was big business, like on a stock market and so big money involved. Since NY is one big stock market, maybe that's why we are invited to play this opera here on the opening night of the Lincoln Music Festival. It'll also be the first time a Dutch opera is going to be performed in NY, so they tell us. The Dutch secretaries of Culture and Foreign Affairs will both attend the premiere, so we'll have a party afterwards. Meanwhile we are ready for take-off, but something has to be prepared at the plain which 'will not take long'. Meanwhile they open the emergency door to have some more oxygen (mixed with other gasses), so when they repaired the first thing , the door is not closing anymore: 'it will not take long to fix it'. So after 3? hours, sitting in our chairs, we finally start flying. Quite tired we arrive in our hotel Le Parker Meridian, W 57th Street, close to Central Park and Columbus Circle (Charles Ives lived there for some time, writing e.g. his "Central Park in the dark"). This is a very well to do area, a lot of Deli's and coffee shops. Next day is rehearsing day in the State Theater. Nice building, bit dry acoustics, very cold pit and unfortunately some harps that need intonation and new strings. The other harpist Carla Bos plays a Wurlitzer and I play on a Lyon 3793. We have to find out how they'll sound best, but since we are amplified we'll be heard anyway. This is my first time to NY so we walk, walk, walk with blisters and all. We draw the conclusion that no foreigners live in NY. Everybody is very much part of the city and makes it flamboyant. We visited two jazz/pop music clubs: The Knitting Factory and Cornelia Street Caf. Both very nice places, dark, small, smoky (!) and very attentive audience. As a smoker, which I am, you feel very easily like an outcast. One is only allowed to smoke outside. Well, it doesn't yet make me feel like quitting yet on the contrary. Sunday we went to see the Fantasticks, an off-Broadway musical, which is already performing in its 5th(!) decade. The music was performed by a pianist and harpist: Hank Whitmire, who really did a good job, already performing this musical for 10 years. Tuesdays are free. So we invited him to the general rehearsal today (Monday 10th July). I hope he will be there.

About the opera; we had our general rehearsal this afternoon. It's such nice music to play, beautiful notes and very written for the instruments. Besides string- and wind instruments, there are two groups composed of 2 harps, 2 pianos, 2 guitars and 1 cymbalon. We are sitting at both ends of the pit and so we make a nice stereo combination. My part consists mostly of the high notes, of which Louis Andriessen tells me, he learned to like them, since I showed it to him. The conductor wants me to play 'edgy' so I'll have to show my character tomorrow at the premiere. First I'll do my fitness schedule, have fruit and coffee, later on a bagel and salad in the evening, which seems to be a very good diet here. The weather until today has been great, mostly 28C and not very humid. Some of the buildings are immense and impressive. e.g. the Chrysler building (Art Deco), of which we discovered has been build by a Dutch architect William van Aalen. Another beautiful building has sculptures by Giacometti inside and a piece by Mario Merz outside. Amazing those pieces are not in musea, but in the open for everybody to touch and see. There are a lot of shops in NY, but since there are so many, I don't seem to want to buy anything, which is good for my purse, since everything is incredibly expensive. Tomorrow is the premiere and after that the reception, where we will see the Dutch conductor Hans Vonk, who will conduct a piece by Messiaen with the NY Philharmonic the same night. When I still had a job at the Dutch Radio Orchestra's, he was one of the main conductors, so it's very nice to see him again.

Tuesday 11 July 2000

Today will be the NY premiere of "Writing to Vermeer" by Louis Andriessen in the New York State Theater at the Lincoln Festival. The general rehearsal yesterday was a mess, and we really have to check the balance between the harps, pianos and guitars. Since I cannot practise in my room and not enter the theater before 18.00h I go with a NY friend to see the Frick collection. A coke and steel magnate who collected paintings and sculptures, had his mansion built on 5th Avenue along the park, around 1900. Wonderful! His idea behind the gathering of art was: he could live with it. So no violence. Very famous paintings by Dutch masters, like Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals etc. One feels at home immediately, contrary to the collection in the Guggenheim museum. Later on we went to the Cooper-Hewitt museum: industrial design. I like that. Most of the time those articles are not for use, but made with a lot of fantasy. I bought some beautiful earrings and bracelet. The premiere that night is much better, and the audience's reaction is quite enthousiastic. After that there is a big party outside on the Lincoln Plaza with fireworks and all. A lot of other Dutch friends and musicians seem to be there especially for the occasion, the first Dutch opera in NY. Very nice. Only after one hour the drinks are finished and we have to look somewhere else to fulfil our liquid needs. NY closes early except for some night bars. We survive in a late night bar.

Wednesday 12 July 2000

The harpists have a day off. The ensemble is going to play a concert in the Alice Tully Hall. "Salome Fast" by Ron Ford, "Desert" by Edgar Var?se and "Trois petites Liturgies de la Presence Divine" by Olivier Messiaen. This turns out to be a wonderful concert in all respects: beautiful music and very well played (only no harps involved). A party given by the Dutch government completes this evening. Quite official with detaches from the cultural department and department of foreign affairs. I went to do some shopping with my college harpist Carla Bos, and came across a gallery in Soho, who represents James Rizzi. A NY artist, who makes three dimensional paintings and is going to build a house in Braunschweig (Germany). I could not resist his art (I have already a cookbook, which he decorated) and bought a small painting, which I'm going to give my husband for his birthday. Good excuse for buying it. After an exhausting walking trip through the city, we treated ourselves on a cocktail in the Paramount hotel, with its interior designed by Philip Starck.

Thursday 13 July

First I like to read the review in the NY Times, which is at the door of the hotel room every morning. One couldn't wish a better one. They were very enthousiastic about Messiaen and Ron Ford's piece, which is very nice for him, since he's American, living and working in The Netherlands. With one of the guitar players I go to Brooklyn Bridge, Wallstreet and the World Trade Center. Things one has to do and see in NY. The performance that night is not very concentrated, but the audience is still enthousiastic, but one way or another everybody feels a little tired.

Friday 14 July 2000

Some of us are going out to see the Metropolitan Art Museum. This is big! We see some French paintings, newly achieved Picasso's; an African exhibition on spiritual sculptures. Technic and design like Raymond Loewy, and Goya. Then we go to the park, where for the first time it starts to rain, and really heavy, too. Thunderstorm etc. We shelter and later on we find the IMAGINE memorial for John Lennon. The performance that night is a really good one, we think. Everybody smells we are getting to an end here. Only one more performance to go. After the performance we go to Staten Island, to admire the skyline of Manhattan at night. At the moment there is a cow exhibition in the city. 500 cows decorated by artists and sponsored by companies can be seen everywhere in the city. The only thing is, the cows have horns, so they are not American, but from Switzerland, we read in the newspaper. And also: the idea came from Switzerland, then to Boston, then NY. So the NYorkers don't consider it very original. Anyway I like very much to see those dressed, undressed and strangely positioned cows.

Saturday 15 July 2000

With a friend to Harlem. Somebody read our hands and so we know now what to do, hopefully... Tonight is the last performance.