It was shocking to hear the first story. It was astonishing to witness the colourful ensemble’s audacity. Surely, things could not get worse?
Ms Pircher gave her second free fringe concert at Utrecht’s Museum Catharijne Convent. (See part 14). This small venue in a charming former convent, can seat an audience on ground floor level. It also has a very large balcony hovering over part of the ground floor.
When volunteers opened the doors, the eager public flocked in. Groups of friends headed for the stairs which lead to the balcony. I settled in a seat on the ground floor, with my program sheet, my voting sheet, my bag, my coat, myself. Soon, all seats were taken. Volunteers brought in extra chairs. The small venue was totally packed.
After the concert, all of us who had received a voting leaflet started tearing corners. Then it was a quick rummage in the purse or wallet, followed by joining the long queue at the exit. For we had all flocked in through the same entrance.
All volunteers stood at these doors, ready with bags. A few collected donations. The others collected the public’s voting papers. Depending on such votes, musicians are asked back to the festival, or even make it into the fabulous fringe group and get a chance to perform in Tivoli-Vredenburgh’s large hall. The votes also help elect the public’s annual favourite fringe artist.
Volunteers were totally focussed on gathering donations and voting papers. People who had handed over papers and donations, stood chatting with each other in the small reception area in front of the doors.A few chatted with the busy volunteers.
The reception area was crowded, blocking views and an easy passage. Carefully, I winded my way to the exit which leads into the former convent’s grounds. Suddenly, a door opened on my left.
The audience which had used the large balcony spilled out. Apparently, a few of them were familiar with this venue. Unlike the volunteers, they knew there was a second exit. They had tried a door which should have been locked. Gleefully and smiling broadly, they hurried past me. None of them bothered to walk to the volunteers and hand over votes, as well as donations.
Believe me, it was no small group. There must have been well over fifty people seated on the balcony.
“Oh”, you may say, “they were unfamiliar with customs and did not know about the voting paper and having to donate something for the musicians, at the end of each fringe concert”.
I don’t buy into that. The majority of faces hurrying past me were very familiar. They turn up each year, each day, each round of fringe concerts of this festival.
Utrecht’s mayor had mentioned the legend of Saint Martin, Patron Saint of Utrecht, at an earlier fringe concert. Unfortunately, some members of the public hang on to their cloaks, their coins, what they consider to be their right to attend concerts for free and do not spend a thought for the musicians.