Monday, January 7, 2019

Connecting, again

Whittaker's Music Museum is quite the local treasure here on Waiheke, and about three times now I've enjoyed Lloyd and Joan's weekly shows demonstrating all their instruments. I've also been to some of the recitals they arrange, and yesterday was the second visit of the orthographically challenging Zbigniew and his wife, daughter and son, playing violins and the Bechstein concert grand piano (once beloved of Paderewski, also Polish). Although he has a slight, and no doubt personally regrettable, resemblance to Donald Trump, Zbigniew is cheerful, enthusiastic and musically highly talented. His effortless technique on the violin was remarkable, and a real pleasure to watch and listen to as he worked through the programme.
It was when they were playing a Romanian gypsy-esque number by Mareczek that a vague memory drifted into my head, of another concert, in another place. I had to look it up when I got home, and it turned out that it was in Prague, in 2012, on an Insight Vacations coach tour through Eastern Europe. It was a really good trip, from Budapest to Vienna, pretty heavy on the grim history, naturally (especially Poland, so how Zgibniew managed to stay so chirpy I can't imagine - or maybe that was the result of escaping the Polish winter for a Waiheke summer); but there was fun, too.
Still, on an itinerary like that one there's a lot to see, especially if you're a dutiful tourist like me, so I was pretty tired by the end of our day in beautiful, ancient Prague. There'd been a morning walking tour full of dramatic history and fine buildings, but after two pages of scrawled and now indecipherable abbreviations (when will I ever learn?) my notebook records "Suffering from arch/hist fatigue now - far fewer photos - be glad to get home to no arch merit". But I gamely persevered, continuing after the tour to prowl through the city's confusing muddle of narrow pedestrian lanes, poking into churches, crossing and re-crossing the Charles Bridge, dodging clanking trams and stepping awkwardly around motionless, kneeling beggars.
Regular readers 😃 will recall that on this trip I was suffering from a recently-dislocated shoulder, so that wasn't helping either, and once back at the hotel I really didn't feel like stirring again for another group meal heavy on the meat and potatoes. But, obligated by being hosted (thank you, Insight Vacations), I trudged out again for the evening's function - and (presumably you were expecting this) was very glad I did. 
Although my notebook indicates that my initial wow! moment was having the wine waiter pour generous serves from a long glass bulb slung over his shoulder, very precisely controlling the flow with his (presumably clean, if stained) forefinger over the opening, I soon got swept up with the entertainment energy.
We were in a big room with long tables and the music was organised by a team of ladies in national dress playing a hammered dulcimer, double bass, clarinet and violin - although more esoteric instruments got their moments of glory later. There was dancing, singing, foot stomping, thigh slapping, spur jingling and girls being flung up into the air by vigorous young men. Even my tch! moment during the international musical welcome that included Waltzing Matilda but nothing from NZ had to be retracted later when, in the audience participation section, one game man from Christchurch played Pokarekare Ana on the dulcimer. It was a brilliant evening: a fun, professional, energetic and colourful celebration of local culture. And last night Zbigniew brought it all back with his gypsy tune.

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