Living in Vienna for any length of time, you discover the rhythm of the city — the Easter markets, city marathon in April, summer music and films shown in front of the Rathaus, Christmas markets, and balls. Ball season traditionally starts after the Christmas season ends and before Fastenzeit (Lent). Everyone, it seems, hosts a ball — schools, clubs, charity organizations, universities. The most posh setting is the Hofburg, the seat of the former Austrian empire.
In March, I enjoyed the Keimgasse school ball. It’s tempting to say it’s just the Austrian version of the prom. However, although I’ve never actually been to an American high school prom, I had fun making a list of things that I was pretty sure were different or wouldn’t be considered normal in the States.
- The ball opens with a choreographed dance performed by a group of couples clad in tuxes and white dresses.
- There’s a good representation of formal dancing throughout the evening. (Many teenagers take dancing lessons around age 16.)
- The ball was held at a casino.
- A hookah lounge was on offer. (I think Austrians can smoke from age 14.)
- Teenagers can (and do) drink from age 16. (Pretty responsibly handled in this setting, I must say.)
- It’s not unusual for parents to come, too.
- It’s long — I think we left at 2:00 a.m. or something.
In April, a fellow teacher invited me along to a fancy Hofburg ball. Quite the experience. The building is huge, boasting multiple elegant rooms and halls. If one got tired of meandering, observing the different music/dance styles offered in various rooms, or watching the interesting programmed dances, there was always plenty of people-watching to do. The crazy attire of the celebrity contingent, and the almost endless variety of evening attire. The young and the old. The graceful pairs and the wooden poses.
One must go with a certain mindset of sleep being negotiable and dancing non-negotiable. I arrived about 6:30 p.m., joining Elisabeth and three of her friends for drinks and delectable hors d’oeuvres; watched the opening dance at 8:30 (maybe 100 couples, again all the girls in long white dresses); and toured around the building, watched others dance, and tried our the waltz (quite fun!). At 2:00 a.m., I attempted to dance the quadrille (terribly complicated, but at least I wasn’t the only one hopelessly confused) and at 3:30 a.m. wandered downstairs for the traditional “breakfast,” featuring goulash of all things. I finally headed home — about 1 1/2 miles on foot — around 4:15.
Mid-March was the last of the Brahms, Schumann, etc., concerts that Ernesto and I played, this time in Graz. Friend Pauline came along from Vienna, and the three of us enjoyed hangout out after the concert with some of Ernesto’s friends — even if the concert turn-out was disappointingly small. The next day I had the whole day to wander around the city…perfect spring weather beckoning one out-doors.
In another vein, a musical highlight in March was attending Bach’s St. John’s Passion with Pauline. One of my favorite choral works — great soloists; the Vienna Boys Choir; Baroque instruments; incredible texts, mostly straight from Scripture.
Besides the normal unusual array of lesson topics, one day I got to join a particularly delightful 1st form (5th grade) class to watch them put on a skit. Definitely glad I happened to have my camera along!
And, speaking of students putting on a show, this year I made it to the Schülerakademie (school talent show, with maybe 1000 people attending). Most of the performances were pop music, but my favorite was the class which performed an Austrian folk dance.
New City Wien is growing these days — with a couple of new babies recently arrived and at least four more on the way! At the same time, one of the families that has been involved from the out-set, more-or-less, is moving back to the States. Dan has led the music team, and together he and Jen have shared their gift of hospitality. Amidst the enthusiastic tumult of a family with four young boys, they have opening their home to host small group meetings, extended impromptu dinner invitations, and generally made guests feel at home. (And, the summer I interned with the church, I stayed with the other interns in their house, while they were in the U.S.) Needless to say, they will be really missed! …This last week or so, I think I’ve seen them at least five times, including good times to talk and laugh and pray together, as well as an outing together to Vienna’s war history museum.
Last week I learned that I have been accepted to the University of Vienna’s musicology master’s program, meaning there’s a clear (even if paperwork-laden) path to a visa renewal. Lots of questions remain, but at this point I’m aimed at staying for a while. Time will tell what happens about finding a part-time job, determining if a German exam is required, deciding if I’ll apply for another program at the music university, etc. …”If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God….”
More immediately, I’m thinking ahead to an Easter vacation. Tomorrow I’m heading with a friend to Croatia. No doubt fodder for more stories next time!
I’ll close for now with a few more glimpses of spring.