Belgium- Chocolate and Beer
Very rarely do I get to have a gig over Christmas. Normally singing “O Holy Night” or “Carol the Bells” this year I was able to bring my better half with me to experience all the glory of Belgium during the holidays.
In the States, it is without saying that from the time Thanksgiving ends, we are in full-blown countdown mode until Santa makes his appearance and we ring in the New Year. Having just had my husband return to the States, we were incredibly overdue for him to join me as my “body-guard” on the gig. I love to experience a country through the music and musicians that I share the stage with through my role with LOTR. However, as my dad always says music is made between meals and what better way to bond and enjoy traditions than through food.
We did a chocolate tour tasting all the unique twists chocalatiers have made famous with their individual pralines in the tradition of serving the king since the eighteenth century. We made sure to make our way to one of the famous Maisons to enjoy some of Belgium’s most famous fries. But of course what goes better with fries than beer! Tinnemans and other delicate, yet strong beers filled our gullets- all of this of course in the days prior to me having to go onstage and squeeze into my stage dress. But that’s what usually happens over the holidays : )
Nicknamed “Tapas” by my husband, even though we weren’t in Spain we nibbled our way through the streets of Brussels, Antwerp and were absolutely amazed whilst enjoying the Christmas Markets of both cities. This is definitely not something found in the states! Little huts and shops lined alongside one another with different crafts, arts, foods and delicacies. My favorite dish was eating a true Belgian Waffle covered in crème de fresh, while my husband made a point to stop and refill a couple times on the Gluwein, spiced hot red wine that was all to perfect with the snow and cold temperatures. We made our way to the Main Place and every hour on the hour was a full fifteen-minute light show on all the guild buildings in the heart of the city. With accompanying music, it was a spectacular setting for the huge Christmas tree and live nativity (yes real animals)! We enjoyed Christmas Carols and traditional hymns at St. Michael the Archangel on Christmas Eve Mass- nothing more beautiful than a baroque choir serenading you as the city lulls itself to sleep before Christmas morning. Even though we were not with our two kids and families back stateside, it was comforting to keep up a family tradition of making it to New Years Eve Mass.
In Antwerp where our actual concert was myself, and one of the most flexible and truly brilliant choirs we have worked with in a long time joined one another under the baton of Maestro David Reitz. Very different than many of the other conductors I have worked with, his expressions and passion as a conductor are incredibly guttural! His façade is always changing, and in as complimentary and professional a way possible he is a show in and of itself. One of the greatest challenges I have noticed that faces not only myself as soloist, but also the choirs and other singers with the show is the necessity for as innocent and simple a sound as possible. There is very little vibrato in the music of Howard Shore and his scores with these movies. Whatever the musical nuances, it is a difficult challenge for vocalists to remove this integral part of solo singing and then try to blend this mode of singing with others. Despite the challenges and rehearsing around the holidays the show was a huge success and I can’t wait to come back next year! It truly was a triumph thanks to all the fabulous musicians.
It was a wonderful audience, and an arena full of over 9,500 fans! Even though we were not singing Christmas tunes, the music of LOTR kept everyone in the spirit of the holidays and was a cap stone performance on 2014. 2015 will be even more exciting I am sure. As I have my husband back home safely, there truly was no better gift than doing what I love, alongside my hubby with friends and good food!
Happy New Year everyone- onwards and upwards to 2015!