Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Having a Blast in the Home of the Black Stuff - Friends Reunited!

Sláinte! Theo with Jan and me in the Guinness Storehouse
Last Sunday hubby Jan and me travelled to Dublin to a very special musical interlude - our old friend Theo from Deurne in Brabant in Holland was conducting his Dutch Brass Ensemble Mé Tresse (My Tresses in the local dialect) in an afternoon performance in the Guinness Storehouse - the Home of the Black Stuff, as the ads have it - and we planned to be there. Theo had sent us his tour schedule some weeks back and we decided there and then to go to at least one of the shows. The last time we saw Theo perform was in Schouwen Duiveland in 1995, during our leave from Tanzania, when he played with a Jazz Quartet or Quintet in a local venue.

Theo playing to the gallery with Jan & Martin
Sinking the Black!
Theo the Musical Director
A bit of background mightn't go amiss here for those of you who mightn't know who Theo is or where our friendship developed. We met in Iringa in Tanzania in 1993 when he came to be a "manny" - male nanny or au pair to two Dutch boys whose mother worked for an international aid agency. As everyone knew everyone, especially expats, in Iringa, it didn't take long for us to meet up. Our kids were already friendly through the Danish School where they all went for sport and music and craftwork, subjects not covered by the homeschooling we were all doing to some extent or another. The Danish school catered for the MKs (Missionary Kids) of the Danish Lutheran Pastors around Tanzania, and the Danida (Danish Bilateral Aid) kids from the area - Iringa was a prime recipient of Danida largesse. Thus we got to know Theo very well over the year he was there, and we had a lot of fun together - not least because he was and is a brilliant musician and entertained us all at Christmas and parties with impromptu concerts on the trombone and piano, and his warm extrovert personality endeared him to everyone. We even first saw Riverdance in his house, on a video of the Eurovision that someone sent out to Iringa weeks after the event took the country and world by storm.

Mé Tresse with Theo directing in Guinness Storehouse
Not surprisingly, we kept in touch - albeit erratically - in the years that followed. He visited us on a number of occasions when we were in Holland and when we were staying in Liessel with Addie in 2002 we had a memorable evening around a campfire with music and craic into the small hours. A few years ago he turned up on our doorstep in Lismore and we had a lovely few days with him and his friend Liet, and relived a tradition of beercan building from floor to ceiling that had begun in Iringa on a memorable Good Friday back in the 90s.

Jan and Martin - pints and Peelneutjes!
Since then we've had sporadic contact until now, and we were delighted to renew the links with this great performance in Dublin, having collected son Martin before heading to St. James's Gate and the Guinness Storehouse, the iconic shrine to the national drink (besides tea!). The band played under his direction for about an hour and a half and the crowd loved them. Theo played trombone and conducted all his own arrangements, and included a number of Irish songs including Molly Malone and The Fields of Athenry, and they finished up the show with a rousing rendition of what we know as The Red Rose Café - in Dutch, Het Kleine Café aan de Haven. He welcomed us in his speech as old friends from Tanzania and he even played a bar of Mungu Ibariki Afrika (the Tanzanian National Anthem - God Bless Africa, the universal Anthem of Africa that we all know from South Africa as Nkosi Sikelele Afrika,).

Theo and me having a laugh
We repaired afterwards to the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse - where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were offered a pint - and enjoyed the panoramic vistas over Dublin. We had a lovely afternoon together catching up on old times, taking some photos of the reunion.

All the boys have fond memories of their time in Iringa with Theo when they were young and homeschooling, and his flamboyance made him easy to remember. If the others hadn't had work Monday I think they'd have come from Cork to meet him.

In fact, Jan went to Galway tonight to see them play in the Augustinian Church with the Galway Choral Society which was a terrific show. I was working and couldn't go, but our friend Fran who lives in Galway went and thoroughly enjoyed it, I had texted her earlier this evening to tell her about it.

I will post a few photos and a video clip if I can upload it to YouTube, and hope you enjoy them and get a sense of the fun and enjoyment of the show as much as we did. Here's a clip from the band from YouTube.

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