by Carol Moore
Imagine getting a weekly fix of culture through a wonderful mix of music and talented performances? And to top it off, this is for FREE. Yes, free is a word we don’t always associate with pleasant experiences, but this has got to be one of the (not so now!) best kept secrets of highbrow entertainment in Amsterdam.
Each Wednesday – always check online schedule for up to date info: (https://www.concertgebouw.nl/en/lunchtime-concerts), Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam, which has been in action since 1881, gives the city and its people a free half hour concert which can range from small intimate performances from between 1-3 people to a full classical orchestra of up to 50 people, which has included the Netherlands National Youth Orchestra amongst others. These take place in one of the following spaces: Kleine Zaal (small room), for me my favourite since it is adorned with sumptuous dark red velvet drapes, glistening chandeliers that cast a beautiful light onto the light beige marble walled interior and provides the listener a luxurious experience whilst watching the performance. And the second: Grote Zaal (big room), which is normally reserved for the large full orchestra type performances, complete with an impressive dark wooden floor to ceiling organ.
It’s a simple and straightforward procedure to obtain your free ticket for entry to the concerts. Since they always start promptly at 12.30pm, you must be there at 11.30am when the desk opens to dispense. This is however only for concerts in the small room, as when there are those in the big room it’s not necessary since its capacity is close to 2000 people (wow!) Once this step is complete, I find it a lovely little time filler to walk over to the adjoining restaurant/café to grab a nice cup of coffee. It’s always bustling with people, but on each occasion, I have been greeted and helped rather well by the staff, who are happy to accommodate you wherever possible.
Around 12.15pm it’s time to go to the concert. It’s easy to find your seat and once complete, I like to savour the buzz and surroundings. Everyone chatters excitedly with expectation of how the performers will sound and what they will play. The lights dim, drapes close and the performers are on stage to an encouraging round of rapturous applause. There are diverse types of instruments played but my favourite would have to be the grand piano, violin and harp together.
30 minutes absolutely flies by but at the end, you’re left with a warm, grateful feeling that you have just been privy to some of the most talented, quite often still very young, performers in the Netherlands, and again – for free!
Highly recommendable and a pleasure each time. Just don’t tell everyone about it ?