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Music and Words: The Austria Centre, the Practicum Musicae Orkest and Grensverleggend/Crossing Borders

On Sunday, April 23, 2023, Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey, Special Chair for Central European Studies, gave a special lecture alongside the Practicum Musicae Orkest at the Cultuurhuis de Paulus in Oegstgeest. Cramsey spoke about the borders which encircle and criss-cross Mitteleuropa. Maps both real and imagined reveal historic borders, geological borders, religious borders, ethnic borders, national borders, cultural borders and political borders. In fact, Cramsey argued, to be “Central European” in the late 19th century, the early 20th century and even today is to be a “border-crosser.” The lecture situated the musical experience of border crossing in larger contexts, illuminated the composers Anton Bruckner, Karl Goldmark, Josef Suk and Joachim Raff as border crossers themselves and showed how a discussion of “borders” offers unique lens to learn about the history, culture and music of Central Europe. You might not know exactly “where” you enter “Central Europe,” but, Cramsey observed, “you will know you arrived in Central Europe when you hear it.”

Leiden graduate student Lily Jalink is a member of the Practicum Musicae Orkest and worked with Cramsey to create the program for the event. She answered a few questions about the orchestra and her involvement in PMO for the Austria Centre.

What is the Practicum Musicae Orkest and what kind of events do you do? 

Since fall 2019, the Practicum Musicae Orkest (PMO) provides a place for students who are developing both academically and musically at a high level. Founded by students of the minor of the same name offered by Leiden University and the Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague, the orchestra focuses primarily on participants of this program, but also on other (former) students who play music at a high level. For this group, the PMO offers opportunities to develop orchestral and ensemble playing in addition to individual training and to build knowledge of repertoire for small symphonic and chamber orchestra. 

In addition to a focus on a higher level and smaller-sized works, the PMO distinguishes itself from other (student) orchestras by always also seeking academic and/or social relevance. For example, in the summer of 2022, the orchestra combined a performance of the music for Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream with a lecture for the orchestra members on Shakespeare's work, a condensed rendition of the story for the audience, and a link to the Boerhaavedag in the context of Leiden European City of Science 2022. In November of that year, in the program “Lost in History,” the orchestra was introduced to a number of unjustly forgotten female composers, a spectacular solo work for violin and horn and an impressive commissioned composition by young Dutch composer Hesce Mourits.  

How long have you been part of the Practicum Musicae Orkest and what do you like about this organization?  

I myself have been part of the orchestra since its founding in the fall of 2019. Since April 2022 I've also been contributing to the organisation as a board-member. I really enjoy playing in a smaller chamber orchestra. In a small orchestra, each individual person is important. All add something of value and have a say in how the music sounds. In a larger group, it is often the case that mainly the conductor has something to say, and the rest have to listen to it (otherwise the rehearsal process does not progress). Especially as a string player, like myself, you are one of many. In a small orchestra, each individual person is important to the musical whole. Furthermore, I like the connection the PM Orchestra tries to make with academia. Music rearly stands on its own, and I find it very interesting to put it in its (historical) context and learn more about the background of a piece. I don't know any other student orchestra that tries to combine these things in every concert.  

How can we find out more about the PMO and their upcoming events? 

You can find more information about the orchestra on our website: https://www.pmorkest.nl/ 

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