Well, looking out at dwindling daylight at 4 pm, from the window of my shack in Yellowknife and remembering only 2 short weeks ago, I was with “The Spirit Sings” Netherlands tour, getting ready for our last performance. After the 9 hour KLM flight back to Canada the next day and the 2 day 1500 km. road trip back to Yellowknife, I feel like I have finally landed and caught up to the time zone I exist in. In this post, I would like to give you a summary of the tour and add a few pictures to bring you along.
I got a call from Laura Vinson back in July or so asking if I would like to join her and the cast of her world class expose, “The Spirit Sings” on a tour of the Netherlands for a couple of weeks in October. I had pretty much decided then and there to join the show but took a day to make arrangements so the tour wouldn’t conflict with my other projects. A few short months later “The Spirit Sings” ensemble, Laura Vinson, Maria Dunn, Karen Donaldson Sheperd, Bela and Paul Martineau along with Dancers Jesse V. Sparvier and Elijah Wells and Dancer/Drummer/Singer Qwolqweltin Shawnrae Gabriel rehearsed the show at Chateau Martineau, ( Paul Martineau’s home) in Edmonton over the Thanksgiving weekend. We were all missing guitarist/musical director, Dave Martineau and Bagpiper Harold Burden who were unable to join this tour because of health issues.
Thanksgiving Monday morning, we were joined by Videographer Susan Feddema-Leonard who documented pretty much everything during the tour. All 10 of us jumped into the passenger van for the drive to Calgary to catch our KLM flight to Amsterdam.
The 8 hour flight went quickly with excellent service and fine company as I sat with Shawnrae Gabriel. I didn’t sleep a wink and was stoked to land in Amsterdam into the hustle and bustle of the airport/train station. We got picked up by Eric Vermeulin and Diego Van Gent of Mc-Ent Management (www.mcent.nl) and were whisked away to the comfortable yet oddly designed Apollo Hotel in the nearby city of Almere for some much needed rest.
We picked up rehearsals again the next day in East Amsterdam at a facility named “MuzyQ” that boasts some 300 rehearsal rooms and halls, equipment rentals as well as a coffee shop/restaurant. The lobby was postered with pictures of alot of my musical influences so I knew I was in the right place. That day we met the two musicians from Holland filling in for Dave and Harold. Wim de Boer played Bagpipes in the show and Rob van Duuren seamlessly covered the Pedal Steel, Dobro and Electric guitar parts. Everyone in the band had done their homework with the tunes and the final rehearsal with the dancers had a wonderful energy and vibe.
Our first two shows were in the “Stadsschouwburg Sittard – Geleen” theatre in the town of Sittard and the “Theater Purmaryn Purmerend” in Purmerend. There we got to meet and set the stage with the crew from BTV Productions. These 3 techs had the complete sound, staging, backline and lighting rigs put together and tour ready so that when we arrived at each show, all we had to do was set up our stations on stage!
“The Spirit Sings” received standing ovations at every show on the tour. In place of an encore, we would invite the audience to join us in a Round Dance in the theatre lobby. Shawnrae would drum and sing for us as long as his voice could last. After the first night, I saw how this was such an inviting and gentle way to break down the barrier between performers and audience with everyone dancing, smiling hand in hand to complete the evening’s experience.
By the end of the second show, we were all feeling the 8 hour time change, jet lag and the pace of our first 4 days of the tour so we appreciated having a couple of days off to recharge. Our schedule on a performance day began with getting picked up around mid day, driving for 1 – 2 hours to the theatre, set up and sound check, chase down a quick supper and back to the theatre for 8 pm show, pack up and drive back to the hotel in Almere, usually arriving about midnight or 1 AM. On our second day off, Shawnrae and I jumped on the train and ventured into Amsterdam for a day of awe inspiring sightseeing. Stepping out of Amsterdam Central station felt like diving into the deep end of an Olympic sized swimming pool of Humanity and Civilization I had not experienced since my travels to London and Paris in 1977. Exhilarating yet overwhelming and exhausting!
Our next two shows were at the “Rabotheatre” in the town of Hengelo and the “Theater Hanzehof” in the town of Zutphen. It was a beautiful day when we arrived in Zutphen and I managed to catch some shots of the early fall colors. Our show in Zutphen was a special one that night with the debut of the documentary film, “Women of the Willmore Wilderness”, produced by Susan Feddema-Leonard . (http://www.peopleandpeaks.com/Page%20Folders/Movies/Riding_The_Rockies.html) I had the opportunity to warm up for the showing with a couple of my stories and backed up Laura as well. Afterwards, audience and performers enjoyed a dinner of Canadian cuisine catered by “Restaurant Mondani” ( www.mondani.nl ), after which the audience was treated with the full show of “The Spirit Sings”.
After these shows, we had all of 4 days to relax and explore more of Almere and Amsterdam, enjoying all of the fine cuisine and grog being offered. The weather for the most part was great, sunny and cool with the odd rain squall rolling through. Over our days off, we experienced the glancing blow from a hurricane that hit Great Britain. We had a few days of very strong winds but still made it out along with some brave locals, not really thinking that this was a significant event compared to back home. It wasn’t until we saw some of the trees that had been uprooted in the storm and heard of the casualties in other parts of the country that we realized how powerful this storm was.
Our final 2 shows were at the “Schouwburg de Lawei” theatre in Drachten and “Theater aan de Schie” in the town of Schiedam. At this point in a show, my internal video recorder is rolling as I take in as much of the theatre performing experience, the sights, music, smells, smiling faces and good vibes of the night to carry with me when it is all over. Every theatre we performed in was a centerpiece, a treasured facility of the community, beautifully crafted, expertly maintained and staffed, providing such an exquisite live performance experience for audiences and performers alike. Kinda like the theatres in Newfoundland! This observation was not lost to me when I first experienced it back in 1977, when even then at 15 years old, I was in awe of the beautiful concert halls Europeans had built for their artists and musicians. Performing in such an environment really encourages an artist to rise to the occasion and it was an honour to be on the stage with the musicians and dancers who brought their “A” game to each and every show with nary a word spoken in vain.
Also at this point in the tour, you take the opportunity to sleep when you can, no matter how brief it may be. “You can sleep on the plane” became the most often quoted phrase those last days. With our last show and 4 hours of sleep under our belts, we were picked up that morning at the Apollo Hotel for the trip to Amsterdam airport, heartfelt goodbyes to our hosts Eric and Diego at the airport curb and the entourage of 10 of us traipsing through the airport to the KLM ticket counter to check in with video cameras, fiddles, drums, flutes, guitars, traditional head dresses in tow. We all rested on the 9 hour flight back to Canada and breezed through the Calgary airport customs before parting ways for our own respective beds and time zones.
Anyone who has produced or been a part of a tour of this scale can appreciate how much time, energy and resources is invested in planning and putting together all of the necessary components to make it happen. In the months and weeks preceding, Laura Vinson rose above unfortunate to tragic circumstances to manage and front this world class show and tour through to a successful conclusion, all of the above with a professional, positive and enthusiastic style where others would have faltered. Her strength and conviction is an inspiration and I will be grateful always for the opportunity to be a part of “The Spirit Sings” Netherlands 2013 tour.
Special thanks to Susan Feddema-Leonard for permission to include her photographs in this post
For more about Laura Vinson and “The Spirit Sings”, go to: www.lauravinson.com
Copyright © 2010 Pat Braden