TPE on tour – Belgrade

It is Saturday in Belgrade, and we are at the airport on the way to Santander, Spain. First we will fly to Amsterdam, then back to Bilbao, followed by a bus ride into Santander, arriving around midnight. It will be a long but easy day as long as everything goes smoothly.

We have had two very eventful and rewarding days in Belgrade with a repeat of our ‘large’ Zagreb program on Wednesday night and then a varied and fascinating small chamber program on the Thursday night which featured most of our ensemble in groupings from solo to quintet. If was a terrific musical experience to perform in the Belgrade Student Philharmonic Theatre Wednesday. It was a clear and resonate acoustic, and we had access to a pristine Leon & Healy harp for Janelle, 9 different double basses to choose from for David, and top-line percussion instruments. It was rewarding to play again in this venue with Rivka Golani, Robyn Driedger-Klassen, and together. Rita Ueda came with us from Zagreb, and we used this time her home-made rainsticks in her composition.

On Thursday, we were at the Guarnerius Centre, an intimate small hall that felt like an old salon. Apparently it was a night club some half-century ago, but now is operated by our Belgrade hosts, the Kolundžija family which include the distinguished musicians violinist Jovan and pianist Nada. We performed several solos from our 1 + 1 + 1… film series (Ingrid, Janelle, Mary, Domagoj, Brenda and Robyn), and also several works with Serbian/Belgrade connections including premieres of works by Boriša Šablijc and Michael Pepa, and also performances from Ana Sokolovič (who is originally from Belgrade) and Katarina Curcin. We had a great response to the concert from a friendly audience who appreciated the diversity, and the opportunity to hear 11 smaller works. Thank you to the Canadian embassy who were represented by the Chargé d’affaire David Morgan, and who also sponsored a friendly reception after. We warmed up for the concert with a group dinner at a local restaurant arranged by Dom with not only amazing food but also spontaneous performances of members of our ensemble joining the live folk band which was serenading our table!

I should note that there was a sombre backdrop that was palpable during our time in Belgrade following the tragic mass shooting here at an elementary school on May 4th. Our bus on the trip to the hotel drove right by the school and we saw hundreds of flower bouquets laid there in commemoration of the children that lost their lives. I was told that the week before we arrived most concerts and other public events had been postponed. As we left for the airport, preparations were building for another mass protest against gun violence.

I will report again from Spain.

Owen Underhill
Artistic Director, Turning Point Ensemble
From Belgrade and Amsterdam Airports