Tuesday March 20, Vienna-Bratislava


On March 20 Ambassador Rodolphe "Skip" Vallee will host a concert at his home in celebration of Womenís History Month. The event will specifically honor womenís contributions to the arts. The performers will be composer Nancy Van de Vate, soprano Michelle Vought, and Pianist Carlyn Morenus. All three women have made countless contributions to the musical world. Ms. Van de Vate is most famous for her operas "All Quiet on the Western Front" and "Where the Cross is Made." She has also created 26 orchestral works. Ms. Vought has performed with several opera organizations worldwide in both the United States and Europe. Dr. Morenus is a solo pianist, collaborative pianist and chamber musician, and teaches at the Illinois State University.


You can see part of what we did on Tuesday by looking at the Bratislava US Embassy website Ė perhaps you didnít realize we are world renowned musicians! It was news to me, but rather fun.

Tuesday was indeed a full, rich day. In the morning I braved rain and light snow to search out Schubertís birthplace Ė now a museum. It was a special journey for me, since I have loved his music for so long. A little house on what is now a busy street, and no original furnishings, but a lot of paintings of Schubert and his family members, a piano owned by a brother, manuscripts, and other memorabilia. And I felt that those who designed the collection appreciate his music as I do.

Back to my apartment, with a reasonable amount of time to change and get ready, complicated by the fact that the cleaning woman came just at the same time I did. That was a nuisance, because she was cleaning where I needed to be, but we both managed to get our tasks done. Then off to Bratislava by train. We were met at the train station by Donna, one of the Embassy staff, with a van and driver. Had a nice drive through the city to the Ambassadorís home, which is a really gorgeous place Ė looks like a scaled-down White House! At least, itís white, and has that pillared circular porch entrance at the center of the building, with wings on each side. Suzi did the photography, so I canít include any here, but they will come! The US Seal is all over, it is all very official-looking and a bit intimidating. But we were made very warmly welcome. We had a guest suite for our dressing area, and then went upstairs to their reception/concert room. Really nice Bechstein grand piano, gorgeous crystal chandeliers, lovely artwork, everything so elegant and tasteful. And the performance space is at the center of the building, with no doors, so the sound carries down the stairwell and through the whole house. Really wonderful! We felt very important, and very lucky to be performing there. Had all the time we wanted for warm-up, and then plenty of time to change and relax before the concert. We met Ambassador Vallee and his wife just before the performance began Ė they are both quite charming and likeable, and genuinely interested in sharing the arts between countries. And then, as you can see, they were able to link our concert with Womens History Month, which gave us even more legitimacy (or something like that).

Great audience, mostly Slovaks and members of the Embassy staff. We had the use of the Ambassadorís lead translator, who did a super job for us, and was a very interesting person. Actually, everyone we met was both friendly and interesting.

Our performance went very well, and we were warmly received. As a special surprise for the ambassadorís wife (at his request) we added her favorite Gershwin song at the end of the concert. She was obviously surprised and gratified. Afterwards there was a lovely reception with huge amounts of delicious food, and we enjoyed talking with people. Most spoke English, actually. We noticed that when there was something humorous in the public remarks, the laughter came with the initial English version, not in the follow-up translation into Slovak.

Talked to a lot of fascinating people at the reception Ė all the Americans here are very personable and interesting, widely traveled, and of course knowledgeable about the world. Quite a few Slovak musicians, including several who are close friends with Scott and Eva Ferguson, friends of mine on the Illinois Wesleyan faculty. The music world is a close-knit one, thatís for sure! It was a wonderful evening from start to finish.

After things wound down, we had a taxi back to the train station and that easy one hour trip back to Vienna. We had extra load of beautiful flowers, and even some extra treats from the reception (none of the chocolate things made it back as far as Vienna!) It was late by the time we got home, which is why this is a day late now.

Love to all, Carlyn

Last updated 12/07. Copyright 2007 by Richard C. Morenus. Questions? Send email to richard.c@morenus.org