After a very interesting and brilliant concert, I collected my belongings. Like everybody around me, I rummaged in my purse, before heading for one of the exits. The fringe concerts are free, but one is expected to donate money for the musicians.
The musicians playing at these concerts, some still studying and others starting on their careers, do not receive much financial assistance. Their costs to play at Utrecht’s Early Music Festival are not covered by ticket-sales, or heaps of financial support. Actually, I suspect that after enchanting their public with a free concert, most of the fringe musicians head home facing a financial loss.
Many travel from all over Europe to this festival. Some have to carry their precious instruments with them. So it is unlikely they can book budget flights, or cheap train and bus tickets.
Then there is the problem of finding affordable places to stay in a crowded university town. A town which not only attracts musicians, early music nerds, music fans, instrument makers and others to the festival – but also ordinary tourists. The cheapest B&Bs are booked way in advance, the number of suitable airbnb rooms is limited, prices soar.
So I joined a queue at one of the exits of Tivoli-Vredenburg’s large hall, to donate money in a hat or bag, held by volunteers. Usually, the artists join the volunteers. This enables their public to chat with them, ask questions, thank them for a wonderful performance. It’s all far jollier, than at ordinary classical music concerts.
From the corner of my right eye, I noticed a colourful ensemble strutting towards the exit. High heels staccatoed past me. A volunteer noticed the red-orange-yellow-green queue-jumping. She held out the black bag and shook it. Coins rattled. Giving a sweet smile, she called: “For the artists, for the artists, please”.
The colourful ensemble gave all of us a murderous black look, circled the volunteer, headed purposefully to the set of double doors – where nobody stood. Colourful was lucky: these were not locked. She barged through them with another dark look for us, then disappeared in the milling crowd outside. It was over in seconds.
While the doors slammed shut, I looked at the volunteer. She looked at me. We stared at each other in shock; eyes and mouth wide open.
Then we simultaneously said: “OH! – Well!! – Yeah!”. I put money in her bag. She thanked me on behalf of the musicians. What a relief the musicians had joined another queue and had been spared this horrid scene.
You may say: “Hey, the dame didn’t have any dough!”
I walked towards the next venue and fringe concert. The public was early, but RASA’s bar was open. The colourful ensemble ordered two drinks for her and a male friend. From where I stood, I had a view of the bar’s black board and the prices. The two drinks cost over five Euro.
Surely, after a free concert, someone who can pay for two drinks, can also spare a few dimes for struggling artists?