The Dutch word for canal is ‘grachten’, so the Grachtenfestival literally translates as ‘canal festival’. If you’re like most people, then you’ll love the relaxing effect of being surrounded by water. So what could be better than mixing Amsterdam’s waterways with music?
The Grachtenfestival is a highly successful classical and jazz music festival that attracts around 50,000 visitors. It’s now into it’s 17th year and will be held from 15-24 August 2014. The festival organisers have one thing on their minds; to marry their love of stunning architecture and canals with their passion for music. With that in mind, each year they organise over one hundred and fifty performances all over the city, keeping in mind to stage them in areas and buildings of cultural or historical importance, as well as nearby Amsterdam’s waterways. Considering that Amsterdam city centre is, itself, a UNESCO World Heritage site, they are spoilt for choice when it comes to determining venues.
The festival has also being renowned for not just bringing famous classical musicians to the stage, but also showcasing talented young musicians and giving them a platform to show off their skills. Locations are both indoor and outdoor. Some venues are quite decadent, for example, on docked cruise ships and upmarket hotel suites. Quite possibly the most impressive is the Prinsengracht, which is held on a floating stage on the canal with the audience watching on from the canal walls and even on little boats. But lots of the venues are very relaxed as well, such as tube tunnels (the acoustics must be amazing in a tunnel), gardens and parks, and even in private homes and roof terraces (a perfect way to sample the real local Amsterdam life). Regardless of the scale of the venues, from large to intimate, all have been chosen to fit in with the organiser’s vision of marrying beautiful music with beautiful surroundings. In keeping with this theme, the organisers also complement their music programme with architectural tours, hiking and cycling.
Highlights of the 10 day festival for me are likely to be the reinterpretation of Cosí fan tutte at the Stadsschouwburg, and Raksha Gopalakrishnan, a Swiss/Indian recorder player performing at Westerkerk, as well as, of course, Prinsengracht (I just love the idea of listening to music while floating on a boat!) But I’m also looking forward to just wandering around and discovering music and venues from all over the city centre. I would recommend you check out the Grachtenfestival’s full agenda: http://www.grachtenfestival.nl/concert_overview.vm?dag=15&maand=08&jaar=2014
What’s better, despite enjoying some of the most glorious music in the most historic surroundings, the vast majority of these events are free of charge, with the rest at a very reasonable price. So there’s nothing to stop you from soaking up a bit of music and culture this summer.