March 15th, 2008

Madonna del "Magnificat" (detail)

Matthaus Passion Lauren

Yesterday me daughter and me took the 6.30 train to Amsterdam in the morning to be at 9.00 in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam were she sang with her children choir in the Matthaus Passion with the Groot Omroepkoor en the Concertgebouw Orchestra under the direction of Iván Fisher. 

Sitting in the train we realized that we had forgotten a pin for her hair. These little things are important during concerts: no hair before your face, no fiddling, the children must sit still and upright, and you are certainly not allowed to put your hair behind your ear once a minute, what she is used too. Happily a drugstore was open at a train station. I did not know for sure, but I was afraid my daughter would have worried about it all day. We bought a pin and were still on time! I was happy to be there on time. We went to the Concertgebouw on Wednesday for the piano rehearsal and we were late for that. There was a heavy storm. There even had been a weather alarm, I did not know that, but suspected it, because the streets were suspiciously empty. On top of the weather the train had a defect, and it was not just me and my daughter, but I had five babbling and giggling girls in my trail, with worried parents at home. But yesterday we were on time! 

I heard the first part of the concert. In the morning I was lucky to be able to buy a pin, now I was lucky to get in. We had reserved a card, but it was not there….no red envelope with our name written on it. It was early, and she trusted me -it was a card for a reduced price, for parents of the children choir and family from the orchestra- so she tried to find me another seat. It took a long time to find it; it was sold out, but there was one left. 

My place was behind and above the orchestra and the choir looking the director in the face. We have a Bach Passion tradition in Holland, many people go the Matthaus Passion. Concerts are all over the country. It is something else than just a concert,  I knew that, but had never been there, and did know what it was like. Now I have experienced it. It is the Passion. I was sucked into the story. At first it were just bit and pieces, but when story enfolded it became different. I was gripped. The high notes of the hobo were penetrating, the evangelist (Mark Padmore) sang supple, had a friendly voice, it showed many emotions and took us with him in the story. The ‘Agony in the Garden’ in which Jesus (Kristinn Sigmundsson) wants the cup to pass him, but takes it, was moving and the betrayal by Judas very sad. At the beginning and at the end of the first part the children stood before the director (he was at their backs), right in front of the audience. The last choral, one of the two moments the children stand at the edge of the stage, is about sin and failure of men. It is a complicated choral, with many voices in which the children sing the melody. This little bunch of children standing there in their white blouses on the edge of the stage, singing with pure voices about the failures of mankind, that was quite something.

Just after that, when I fetched Lauren to go home at the artist entrance, the first thing she said was: “We had a milk shake this afternoon, and I can climb on the letter S from I AMSTERDAM!” These letters are big statutes on the square in front of the Concertgebouw. I loved that. 
shrouded crucifix

Sacred Therapy, Thoughts on Suffering

Yesterday I was all day in Amsterdam. Part of the time I have spent in the new library in the Oosterdokkade, next to the Central Station. It was exhilarating to be and read in this building. It is seven storey’s high. The front has a view on a river and behind the river is the centre of Amsterdam. On the front side of the building are windows from top to bottom on each level. And on each level are big armchairs in front of these windows. I sat on the sixth storey in such an armchair with a stunning view on Amsterdam. No camera…so these photos are not mine. Yesterday there was sun. Still, this is the view. The other picture shows the childrens department.


Sitting on my confortable couch I read the book Sacred Therapy by Estelle Frankel. The book shed light on the two five cards I have drawn from the Voyager in the Way of the Cross. Since it were two Fives, coming from the same deck, they must have a message for me. The last five card was at the fourth station where Jesus meets his mother. I pulled the card called ‘Negativity’, Five of Crystals (Swords). 


While writing the entry I felt that this card was not only an answer to the question I asked at that station, but also showed me something about my attitude to the Way of the Cross which is mainly about suffering. My attitude is: “negativity”. The stations force me to relate to suffering so much, and the images are so gruesome, that I find it hard to walk them. 

Frankel uses the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to explain that darkness and brokenness is necessary for healing and restoration. I am aware that I am way too short here, but I cannot expand on it, I must weight my words so much, it takes too long and I am tired. All in all I liked her view very much. Frankel does not mean: “Suffer a bit, it helps you to heal!” Frankel means it as a comfort for people who already suffer, to make their suffering easier to bear and to make life, which is imperfect for everybody, easier to live. Important in her view is the Lurian thought of how the world is created. Luria says that in the creation there were vessels through which Gods light came, but these vessels could not contain Gods light. They broke when they received it. In our creation the different pieces of the vessels are all over, each containing a spark of life. Our task is to put them together again. She tell this story over and over again in different words, and applies it to the suffering of individual persons. Reading those words again and again while I quietly sat in the library looking over the skyline of Amsterdam, I felt comforted, and a less uneasy with the stations. Who knows it is easier to look and contemplate the stations now. 

My insights from Sacred Therapy also made me add a layer on my interpretation the Hierophant, the first five card that I pulled this week. The comfort in this card is that brokenness leads to wholeness, not only to wisdom. 


I do not know when I am able to write again. Tomorrow I cannot. I am off to Amsterdam again and now already I am pretty exhausted, after going to Amsterdam two times, and making easter-crosses with children all afternoon.