Last week I took a place among the pews at St. Bavo’s cathedral in Harlem, in the Netherlands, and listened to the production of a 20-piece clarinet choir, and as the range of instruments from piccolo to baritone swept over me I got the sensation of being transported through time. The pieces of music being played were like ancient ensembles mimicking the past. The crypt stones making up the floor of the church, though so worn by footsteps as to be illegible, became like the platforms of a time machine, and the giant organ sitting inert in the background, with over 5000 pipes reaching up to 32 feet, adorned by lions and angels with harps (the organ Mozart played once in 1766 at the age of ten) made me think that time no longer existed.
The music formed a connection back to the day the piece was originally written, and I felt connected to each person that had played and listened to it since. According to the pamphlet handed out at the entrance, the construction of the present church took place between the years 1370 and 1538, the culmination of almost 200 years of craftsmanship, and the music compressed this time even more so that I felt I may as well have been some medieval Dutchman.
Weather also exists relatively outside of time (at least on the grand scale of things), and at the time of the clarinet concert the weather in Harlem was overcast with occasional sun. Apparently it was one of the few sunny days they’d had in recent weeks. The temperature inside the church must have been ten degrees cooler (about five degrees cooler in Celsius), but the sun was strong coming through the stained glass, and I was as relaxed as only a person free from the passage of time could be.
For the rest of my time in Holland the weather was, by all accounts, unseasonably warm, so unseasonable that the Croatian woman running a small pastry shop near my sister’s apartment in Amsterdam called the sudden change in weather from cold to hot—from winter to summer—like “getting hit with a bat.” But for me, transported through space and time from my home in Los Angeles to this ancient city, the weather was just a continuation.
Chris Black lives with his wife in Los Angeles. He is a former associate editor at Black Clock and wrote feature articles on rubber duck races, birds of prey, and other mountain topics for The Vail Trail weekly.