Live performance of “De trein stopt in Herxen”.

I felt well-rested when I woke at 9:30 AM that Sunday morning. I had a little over an hour and a half to get ready, for I had to leave at 11:10 AM to catch the 11:30 AM train to Hilversum. Fortunately I made it to the train station, but only in the nick of time. Besides things like eating breakfast and packing my gear, I managed to get a little dress-rehearsal in of my 10-minute solo guitar program for my performance at the open mike later that day.

The trains rode according to schedule, and I arrived well on time in Hilversum, where I met with my cousin and aunt and uncle, who lived nearby, to drink some coffee. I hadn’t seen them for years, and it was fun catching up, but unfortunately they couldn’t make it to my show.

After our meeting, I went to a venue called De Vorstin. Once I was inside, the place had a nice and warm feel to it. Another cousin, who also lives in Hilversum, had come out to watch my show. At first, she wasn’t sure if she would make it, as she said she might have to work, but to my pleasant surprise, she was there.

The show commenced at 2:00 PM and I was inspired by the talent of the other acts. I’m always amazed how much talent there is and I always appreciate people who go on stage to create their art.

I was the fifth act. My performance consisted of some solo pieces on acoustic guitar. After a short soundcheck on stage, I was ready to go. I felt a little nervous as I announced my first piece, a ragtime I’d written called “Back in the Day”. As I began to play, I felt confronted with my anxieties, like a whoosh of hot air in my face. My fingers trembled a little bit, and I had trouble managing some of the fast, difficult passages. I noticed my nerves were a result of thoughts I had, where I felt I ‘wasn’t good enough’. These thoughts seemed to come from my childhood, where somehow, I’d become embarrassed to express myself creatively.

And yet, as I played on stage and I experienced all this, there was another side of me, that felt exited beyond belief. The sound and light in the venue were excellent and there was a good audience. I was playing pieces I absolutely loved and I’d finally managed to leave behind me my training as a classical guitarist to focus on pieces that were closer to my interests. I kept on reminding myself to take everything in, and enjoy the adventure of it all.

I played three acoustic fingerstyle guitar pieces. The second piece went better than the first, and the third went even better than the second. For the third piece, I told the audience the story that was connected to it, and that I wanted to evoke the mood of a steam engine train with the music.

The applause after my ten minute show was gratifying – there really was a full round of applause, and as I got off stage, my nerves were gone. I found it remarkable how my initial nerves had come from a childhood thought, but that my elation afterwards seemed the result of a teenage dream I’d had. I had always wanted to play popular, accessible music, but I was heavily influenced by my classical training. For the first time, I’d done a performance where I played standing up, with my guitar strap, instead of sitting down, like classical guitarists do. It was just a wonderful sensation as I felt my childhood dream come true.

I played three acoustic fingerstyle guitar pieces. The second piece went better than the first, and the third went even better than the second. For the third piece, I told the audience the story that was connected to it, and that I wanted to evoke the mood of a steam engine train with the music.
The applause after my ten minute show was gratifying – there really was a full round of applause, and as I got off stage, my nerves were gone. I found it remarkable how my initial nerves had come from a childhood thought, but that my elation afterwards seemed the result of a teenage dream I’d had. I had always wanted to play popular, accessible music, but I was heavily influenced by my classical training. For the first time, I’d done a performance where I played standing up, with my guitar strap, instead of sitting down, like classical guitarists do. It was just a wonderful sensation as I felt my childhood dream come true.

I had to leave fairly quickly, as I’d promised to join my cousin and some others at a sidewalk café nearby. One of the concert promoters came up to me and told me how much he’d enjoyed my show. I’d played a piece by a Dutch guitarist called Harry Sacksioni, and he told me how this guitarist had been the reason he’d kept on playing guitar at the time when he felt stuck. I was delighted to hear how he felt so inspired. My nerves had given way to a feeling of stability, joy and confidence. In the distant past, I’ve smoked marijuana a few times and also a long time ago felt a rush from alcohol, but the natural high I was experiencing at that moment was so much better than either of those substances combined. I can only describe it as the best high ever. I felt calm, happy and connected. It may not be unlike the calm and stability one experiences after the physical effort of a sporting achievement. There are times when I wonder why I have become a musician, or indeed why I’d ever go on stage, but at that moment I knew why; silently and without words.

2 replies
  1. Rick Runquist
    Rick Runquist says:

    Emiel, I liked this “story” a lot. The gentle personal tone is your style for sure, and I felt like I was riding along with you. I always find myself hungering for a little more description when others in the group write “nonfiction”. Like, what does your cousin look like? Do you like her? What did the room look like, who was in the crowd…things like that. Thanks a lot for sharing this chunk of you. Rick R.

    Reply
    • Emiel Stöpler
      Emiel Stöpler says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Rick. That’s actually a good suggestion, to add some more details/descriptions at some points of the story. I wanted to keep it as short as possible, though – I usually aim for 400-500 words, since the people who dwell on the internet generally have less of an attention span than a goldfish. 🙂 But, I’ll follow your suggestion and rewrite some of it and see how that goes. I don’t want to put in too much detail either, so that the story doesn’t flow as well anymore.
      BTW, that’s feedback I get more often, that people feel like they’re riding along with me in the stories that I write. I feel that’s quite a compliment.

      Reply

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