Jan 29 2008

When you Stay in the Monkey

Published by at 12:44 pm under PSO 2008 European Tour

Jim with bicyclesEven in winter, everyone rides a bicycle in Amsterdam. It’s in the 40’s and gray today, but whizzing in front of the hotel are the cyclists who ride single-speed bikes without wearing helmets, and talk on their cellphones while pedaling. They’ll be coming to Pittsburgh this summer as part of the Keystone State cycling event announced last night at a big reception with Allegheny County’s Chief Executive, Dan Onorato; Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on his first trip to Europe with Mrs. Erin Ravenstahl; Dennis and Mrs. Unkovic, whose law firm is a tour sponsor; arts aficianado and PSO Board member Jim Wilkinson; Tom Sokolowski, Director of the Andy Warhol Museum, and many Dutch business contacts. The Pittsburgh boosters listened to Ibert and Auric played by clarinetist Ron Samuels, bass clarinetist James Rodgers, and oboist Scott Bell. Then, a DJ played pop hits like Get Down On It. A three-day hotel stay and transportation to Pittsburgh went to a lucky Dutchman in a business card drawing. Other prizes included a Steelers football autographed by Head Coach Mike Tomlin, and a Terrible Towel. A table full of literature, including Heinz pickle pins and ketchup bottle pins, pedometers, brochures and books on cycling in Pennsylvania, were all available. Slides of Pittsburgh’s blue-sky days were projected on a big screen, and a wonderful evening was enjoyed by all.

ConcertgebouwThis morning, the orchestra rehearsed with Marek Janowski, who was introduced by the PSO’s President & CEO Larry Tamburri last evening. I joined Tom Sokolowski and a contingent of friends of the Orchestra including Board Chair Richard Simmons and his wife Virginia for a guided tour of the Van Gogh Museum, just a few steps away from the Concertgebouw where they will play in just a few hours. Tom introduced the Director of the Van Gogh, who explained that the Museum has grown from its original collection of 200 paintings owned by the Van Gogh family, and now entertains 1.5 million visitors. The Warhol Museum, by comparison, enjoys about 100,000 each year.

old Dutch buildingPittsburgh Post-Gazette Music Critic Andrew Druckenbrod and I wandered through the Spui Straat to one of the oldest houses in Amsterdam, built in the 15th century. Only one wooden house remains from Amsterdam’s ruinous fires. It’s called The Monkey. Sailors stayed there. So if you stayed at the monkey, it meant you might have acquired critters–or worse, disease. The Dutch still use the expression for when you have bad luck, “In de Aap gelogeerd,” although Alex Petrovic, the Amsterdam-born concierge behind the the hotel counter, explained that the young are more and more using their own slang. Let’s hope the Pittsburgh Symphony musicians have good luck tonight and don’t sleep in or at the monkey.

steps at the Monkey