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Why should you go to the Grachtenfestival? Programmer Mirjam Wijzenbeek tells all.

Published 9 Aug 2016 at 16:49 by Liedewij Loorbach

With a focus on hyper-talented young musicians, Het Grachtenfestival will take you places, alongside and far from Amsterdam’s canals.

For beginners: what is the background of the Grachtenfestival?
“The core of is it this: young classical musicians with the city of Amsterdam as their stage. Guided by this year’s theme ‘Bridging’, we’ve also included excursions to jazz and world music. It’s truly a festival for audiences, with a multitude of free concerts and affordable tickets.”

Why young musicians in particular?
“They deserve a stage, in order to develop themselves further. They are incredible amounts of great young musicians. Some are still enrolled in the conservatorium, or are yet to begin their schooling. The musicians we provide a stage have already been noticed for their immense talent; they are certain to succeed. It is wonderful to see the musicians that will perform in the Concertgebouw in ten years, today.”

The festival has a preference for locations that don’t normally host music. Why?
“It’s our way of making the festival more attractive to more people. Some people wouldn’t mission out to see an unknown violinist, but are interested in a unique location. They get the violinist as a bonus. And vice versa.”

What are this year’s exceptional locations?
“We have a concert taking place in a bridge cellar – a play on our theme, Bridging – by Perforator. They work with oboes, electronica and joysticks. They have an intense sound that really suits this strange, dark place. They are even capable of incorporating the sound of the trains rushing by.”

There’s also a concert in the Roei- en Zeilvereniging (Rowing and Sailing Club)?
“Yeah, that’s a reference to the Olympic Games. We thought: while everyone is in the mood for sports, let’s take part. We’ve also got a concert in a gymnasium and a concert in The Hollandsche Manege. Jerboah, an ensemble that evades categories, will perform in the Rowing and Sailing Club. They play the instruments they were trained in, but perform totally new music. Not avant-garde but you’ll like it. Haha, that description doesn’t quite clarify what you should expect to hear, but one thing’s for certain – it’ll be worth your while.”

Which young talent do you want to spotlight?
Aiden Mikdad is a Dutch pianist, who is only fourteen of fifteen now. He’s won prize after prize, even when competing against adults. He plays with such ease, with so much feeling and outstanding technique. Mikdad will perform in the Hermitage. Ella van Poucke, a fantastic cellist in her early twenties, and pianist Sophiko Simsive will perform a beautiful programme together in the Noorderkerk. Simsive is one of the three nominees for the Grachtenfestival Prize this year.

What might she win?
“An artist-in-residency. Violinist Mathieu van Bellen won last year. He received a carte blanche from us: what do you want to do? He will perform a mere six times during this festival. He wanted to perform all Bach violin concertos on one night, and he did just that. He will perform hymns in a cafe and give an afternoon performance in which he will juxtapose his favourite composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold with Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart and asks the audience: who is the greater prodigy? He will also pay tribute to Franz Schubert together with the Busch Trio.

Even Porgy Franssen, who we know from theatre and tv, is on the bill?
“Each year, we issue a pitch. This year, musicians could pitch a concert in the Remise Lekstraat, a truly unique location, where trams are repaired. One of the 6Sense members, an ensemble made up of six transverse flautists, gives flute lessons to Porgy Franssen and came up with the idea: a musical about what it feels like to be on the road.”
[English members please note: this event will include storytelling in Dutch. Hence: it has not been included in the English selection.]

View an overview of all the Grachtenfestival concerts We Are Public members can attend.

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