Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Holland in the rain

On July 13th we set off by train (a relatively short 5 hours) to Zeerijp, where once again we would be privileged to stay in a small apartment owned by the Wierenga family through July 21. Weather: COLD, and RAINY. We were able to cook in the apartment, but it meant taking the bikes to Loppersum (3 km away) to buy supplies. Unfortunately, the damp meant that anything that got wet int he rain...never seemed to dry for days...Purchases: thick woolly tights; several pairs of warm knee-socks; a plastic raincoat (yes, now I had bought two!) for on the bicycle. Temperatures: 40 degrees at night; 60 in the daytime. I wore all of my clothes all of the time. Really. In fact I longed for my fingerless gloves for playing the organ!

On July 17, I played a concert in the Jacobikerk. Henk de Vries, a wonderful Dutch organist and choir director, joined me and together we performed Merulo's Organ Missa Domencia with alternatim Gregorian chant sung by Henk. He stood at the front of the church, I played from the loft. It was fantastic! The church has one of the best acoustics I've ever heard for voice and organ. The audience was very appreciative, and told me how nice it was to hear Italian music, which is not so often played in Europe. (However, I think Henk is going to be playing some concerts of this music now, too!) Below is a Youtube link for a clip of the Gabrieli I played as a prelude to the mass.

Mostly, I was happy in Zeerijp to just play the organ there every single day (heaven!) but we also made some organ visits. My friends Willem and Leny accompanied Samantha and me to Noordbroek, to show Samantha the beautiful Arp Schnitger organ where I had spent a week in June making a recording.

Then we traveled on the Germany and visited the organ in Rysum. This organ is one of the oldest in Europe: built in 1457, and last restored in 1960 by Ahrend. A simple one-manual, the organ was wonderful to play. You can hear me playing it on Youtube: an anonymous Lux Beata Trinitas verse.

The church was small, without the generous acoustic of Zeerijp, but still the ancient sounds of the organ swirl around the building in a perfect blend. I'd like to also mention that Leny succesfully conquered her fear of boats to allow us to take the small ferry across the river while in Germany!

We also had a lovely visit with Tineke Zijlstra to the museum/studio/home of Dutch painter Henk Helmantel - the Museum "de Weem". He paints marvelous pictures of Dutch interiors, still lives, and overyday objects (often antiques). The gallery and studio are a building that began is on the site of the original pastor's house/farm dating back as far as 1259. In the early 20th century, this building was torn down. Helmantel, clearly a lover of all things historical, completely rebuilt the medieval buildings in an exact reconstruction of its 16th century form from 1974 to 2004. Beautiful art, a great story - and Henk Helmantel came to my concert on Sunday, what a pleasure to meet him in person too. Here's one of his pictures:

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