Hard though it is to believe, we’re already three days into our time in Antwerp! Today, the group enjoyed a later start with some time to recover after last night’s concert – which started at 10:15pm! The concert was absolutely stunning – it was such a privilege to hear this amazing group introduce themselves to the audience in Antwerp. And what better way to do that than with some weird, wonderful, complicated Okeghem?!
I was not familiar with Okeghem’s Caput Mass before this tour, and I’ve loved having the chance to get to know the work a bit. It’s a great piece – constantly surprising and unexpected. After a brief but intense rehearsal period, and in sweltering heat, the musicians brought this fabulous music to life.
The spectacular setting certainly played its part – the concert hall at AMUZ where many of the Laus Polyphoniae performances take place is a former monastery church of Augustine monks. It was restored and converted by AMUZ, and while it’s not hard to imagine the monks going about their prayers, it is now a great concert venue, and very well suited to Blue Heron’s sound and repertoire.
So, with concert number one under our belts, we look ahead to tomorrow’s second performance. The group had a very productive rehearsal this afternoon, and we are lucky enough to be joined by the legendary lutenist, Paul O’Dette, for this second concert. The story of how this came about is a funny one. Scott and I had been scratching our heads over who to engage to play lute for this concert. We work with some wonderful lutenists in the US, but none of them were available for this concert. So, we started to wonder about hiring someone already in Europe – easier travel, a chance to collaborate with someone new… and then Scott had a brainwave. Why don’t we ask Paul O’Dette, who just happens to be performing a concert at Laus Polyphoniae a few days after us?! Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to have this master join the ensemble for a few days! Luckily for us, Paul was available, and was willing to make a mad dash from Bremen, where he played a concert last night, to Antwerp – arriving in time to join us for rehearsal this afternoon.
I was able to sit in on this afternoon’s rehearsal, and it was a magical experience. There is something incredibly special about watching this process unfold. The communication between the musicians is extraordinary, and watching them try new things and work out a path forward is so inspiring. The rehearsal is full of “what if we try it this way…?” or “does this feel a little slow to you?” – such collaborative spirit, without a trace of ego. It’s no wonder that the performances are so special!