So the Dutch, Portuguese and British walk into a bar…

It is an often mentioned musical curiosity that the three colossi of classical music, Bach, Beethoven and Brahms share the same initial of their surnames. Clearly there is great musical prowess and genius associated with the letter B. So logically, being in possession of the nickname ‘B’, I should be set to establish myself as Emperor of Classical Music in approximately five years. Three if I exert myself.

And where better to begin than with the music of the Great-Granddaddy of Western art music and fellow B-buddy, Bach?

This last week was largely dedicated to rehearsals of a program of Bach and Zelenka, culminating in performances in The Hague and Rotterdam. This was the first performance of any kind I have been involved in since arriving in the Netherlands. So when adoring historians chronicle my life, they will be able to pinpoint this exact moment as when I started to extend my influence and establish my dominance in Europe.

In case anyone is struggling to interpret my tone of voice through text, I’m joking. In musical terms or otherwise, I don’t have any plans to take over Europe. Yet.

This project was actually a huge amount of fun. I immensely enjoyed working with our conductor, who knew exactly what he wanted from the music and also how to communicate his ideas with clarity and simplicity. His enthusiasm and love of the music was infectious, and pretty much the entire choir broke out in dance at certain moments. We were only copying him. He was the embodiment of the idea that musicians should take the work seriously, but not themselves.

It was also quite convenient that this weekend was also a celebration of Oktoberfest at one of the bars/pubs/I-don’t-quite-know-how-to-classify-these-establishments in The Hague. So whilst drinking our own brilliance after the performances, we were surrounded by men wearing dirndls, pigtails and more occasionally lederhosen. Who needs Munich?

I spent the majority of these evenings in the company of the Portuguese Mafia. So I was able to witness the effect of alcohol on both large numbers of Dutch and smaller numbers of Portuguese. Here are my observations:

Sober Dutch: uninhibited multilingual bicycle riding hipster giants.

Drunk Dutch: uninhibited giants standing on tables splashing beer on everyone within a 10 metre radius while shouting along to strange brass music.

Sober Portuguese: Harlequins who communicate largely through insults and practical jokes.

Drunk Portuguese: Harlequins who communicate largely through insults while putting mint and salt in other people’s beer and setting things on fire.

I’m about 135% certain that my next travel destination is going to be Portugal.

I also came awfully close to offending the British contingency through my unbridled use of heavy sarcasm and ‘expressive’ hand gestures. I have never considered myself a larrikin, but the slightly nervous laughter accompanied by repeated utterances of “I literally cannot believe you just said that” that follow whenever I make a quip or call seem to indicate that I’m in possession of a colonial sense of humour a little too rough for the delicate British sensibility. Whatever would their neighbours think if they knew they were associating with the likes of me?

To be fair, one has to have a fairly decent sense of self-esteem in order to be friends with me, as on occasion my caustic social observations are, well, caustic. Though 99% of the time if I’m teasing, it’s because I think the object of my comments is a cool enough person to be able to handle it, and it’s likely to be a sort of school-yard showing of affection. The other 1% of the time, I’m not actually joking and I just really don’t like you. But perhaps I should rein it in a little, otherwise my life might end up a little like this:

What did the Dutchman, Portuguese and Brit say when they walked in to a bar?

Damn it, the Australian’s here.


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