The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: The University of Wisconsin Pro Arte Quartet in Belgium — Day 6: The quartet plays its final concert -– a midday concert in an old converted farm barn on a new campus in an old country. A reception and dinner follow. Then the quartet splits up, one member traveling on and the others departing for back home and braving U.S. customs.

June 1, 2014
4 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Editor’s note: The Well-Tempered Ear has asked people on tour with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) to file whatever dispatches. updates and photos are possible — from iPads, computers, cameras and smart phones — so that they can to keep the fans back here at home current with what is happening on the concert stage and off.

By now it has become apparent that the Pro Arte Quartet’s week-long tour of Belgium is as big an event to the Belgians and to local residents there as it is to Madisonians, Wisconsinites and alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Pro Arte Quartet new 2 Rick Langer

All week long, Sarah Schaffer, who manages the University of Wisconsin-Madison Pro Arte String Quartet, sent text and photo essays.

Current members are violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia; violist Sally Chisholm; and cellist Parry Karp.

Today’s Part 6 covers the final concert and events at the Belgian campus of Louvain-La-Neuve (LLN) and the return to the U.S.

Once again, ones sees that a concert tour keeps a frenetic pace loaded with hard work. A concert tour is no vacation!

If you want background or need to catch up, here links:

To Day 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/classical-music-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-lands-in-belgium-gets-detained-at-customs-and-is-rescued-in-time-for-practicing-and-playing-concerts/

To Day 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/classical-music-on-day-2-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-is-offered-rehearsal-time-in-a-bar-meets-descendants-of-the-original-members-of-the-quartet-and-performs-its-first-concert-to/

To Day 3:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/classical-music-on-day-3-in-belgium-the-university-of-wisconsin-pro-arte-quartet-plays-at-the-royal-library-gives-a-gift-to-king-philippe-and-keeps-performing-a-lot-of-hard-and-varied-music/

To Day 4, Part 1:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/classical-music-here-is-a-photo-essay-of-the-pro-arte-quartets-day-long-homage-stop-at-the-belgian-hometown-of-dolhain-linburg-of-the-groups-founding-violinist-alphonse-onnou/

To Day 4, Part 2:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/classical-music-the-pro-arte-quartet-in-belgium-day-4-part-2-the-quartet-performs-in-the-town-of-dolhain-limbourg/

To Day 5:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/classical-music-the-uw-pro-arte-quartet-in-belgium-day-5-the-belgian-premiere-of-a-belgian-work-at-the-royal-conservatory-draws-a-big-enough-crowd-to-run-out-of-programs-and-bring-three-c/

DAY 6: Sarah Schaffer (below) writes about the Last Day:

Sarah Schaffer mug

Louvain-la-Neuve

PAQ in Belgium LLN poster 1 SS

Disembarking the train from Bruxelles Centrale we were once again greeted by paparazzi on the platform — the inveterate translator Alain Boucart (below right holding camera, with tour organizer Anne van Malderen on the left) is always on hand, camera at the ready!

Pro Arte in Belgium Anne vcan Malderen, translator Alain Boucart

The university at Louvain-la-Neuve or LLN (below) was created from scratch, out of nothing, in 1976, a consequence of the language/culture split, Flemish-Walloon, in 1968.

The Dutch campus of this Catholic college remains in Louven, the new French campus here in Louvain. There are about 15,000 students, and a town of about 40,000 has grown up around it, all brand new, hence “neuve,” and something of a dissonance where everything else “belgique” has been “tres ancien.”

PAQ in Belgium Louvain la neuve

The campus was built literally out in the fields around the remains of four abandoned farms, at last explaining the curious name of the concert hall: La Ferme du Biereau.

PAQ in Belgium LLN farm hall exterrior 1 SS

PAQ in Belgium LLN farm hall exterior 2 SS

PAQ in Belgium farm hall exterior 3 SS

PAQ in Belgium farm hall etxerior 4 SS

It’s an old grange or barn, beautiful old timbers exposed in the renovation that transformed it into a concert hall with a surprisingly attractive acoustic; warm and forthcoming; invitingly beautiful and comfortable as well.

PAQ in Belgium LLN hall interior 1 SS

One of the students in audio engineering, Thomas Vanelstlande (below, with his assistant Marine Haitt), will be recording the concert as his final exam for the reception. The recording set-up is below bottom.

PAQ in Belgium LLN 2 recording engineers SS

PAQ in Belgium LLN hall recording setup 2 SS

The concert is one on the afternoon series sponsored by LLN , under the guidance of Guillaume Wunsch. Programs are offered every couple of weeks.

Again, the capacity audience brought an impressive attentiveness and concentration to Belgian composer Benoit Mernier’s new work, String Quartet No. 3, which was commissioned by the Pro Arte Quartet for its historic centennial and which asks a lot on a first hearing.

Benoit Mernier 1

It is such a pleasure to be in the company of such intentional engagement. We’d thought the famous Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber a strange closer, coming after the Mernier, but it turns out to be in fact a rather appropriate coda.

PAQ in Belgium LLN program SS JPG

Happy for a chance to meet Benoit’s wife Helene (below with her husband beside her and his father in the background).  She reminds us she’s heard the piece once already, when it was streamed live from Wisconsin Public Radio on its “Sunday Afternoon Live From the Chazen” broadcast on March 2, at its Madison world premiere, and we once again mourn the loss — announced two weeks ago — of that distinguished statewide concert series.

PAQ in Belgium LLN Benoit Mernier and wife Helene plus father in bakgrd SS

We were alerted that a reception would follow the concert, and assumed the champagne in the lobby was it, appropriate for 2:30 in the afternoon.

What we were UN-prepared for was the formal lunch, for us and about 20 guests, that ensued.  It was a beautiful buffet, quite elaborate, with very nice wines. Many interesting conversations, many new friends, many promises to follow up and stay in touch.

PAQ in Belgium post-concert lunch at LLN with both Benoit Mernier's parents SS

And after THIS, we are ferried to Waterloo in cars, for a more private supper with Alain and Anne and the Prevost brothers (below, Michael Arthur on the left, Jean Marie on the right). Helene and Benoit Mernier, still not feeling well, and in fact now feverish, have to decline.  It is, in all, a very sweet closing to our time in Belgium.

PAQ in Belgium brothers Michael Arthur Prevost (left) and Jean Marie Prevost Sarah Shaffer

Many toasts and congratulations, but most thanks and special tribute to Anne, who put together this special week.  “I em veery ‘appy!” she tells me quietly.

Alain has purchased our train tickets, and Michel Arthur Prevost accompanies us to Brussels Centrale.  He has ambitious ideas for a return trip.

A CODA

It is over.

Parry went on to the UK for a couple of weeks of concerts. “Having a wonderful time in England,” he emails.

The rest of us parted company at the Brussels airport — three quartet members on United Airlines to Chicago, John and I went through Amsterdam.

BUT — and this is the coda to the dispatches:

Sally exited Belgium and returned to the US without incident.

The “fish” lady (the agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that enforces the CITES law about protecting endangered species) was waiting for her at O’Hare, whisked her through in 4 minutes, and even got her a shortcut through the lines and out to Van Galder. (She’d made appointment the required 48 hours ahead).

Below are her instrument “passport,”  her CITES documentation. It is readily accepted this time, unlike on our arrival in Belgium.

PAQ in Belgium LLN Sally CITES document 1 SS

PAQ in Belgium LLN Sally CITES document 2 SS

All goes smoothly.

Sally is so relieved.

I’ll see Sally today — we’re writing up the experience to be ready for an article and other inquiries — and will learn if she’s heard about Parry’s England entry. I’m guessing she has info. I guessing he was fine, with the “EU” stamp received in Belgium.

Thanks for keeping up with us while we zoomed around Belgium. It was extraordinary to be there with these musicians, and to feel the gravitas and all the promise of the incredible legacy they continue to carry on.

Pro Arte Quartet in 1928 Onnou far left

Pro Arte Quartet 1940 Brosa-Halleux-Prevost-Evans 1940

PAQ 9-2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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