When I came back to The Netherlands in mid-May of this year, it was very much on my mind to visit my old organ teacher Piet Kee. But the first weeks were busy, and I figured there was no hurry in contacting Kee; yes, he was 90 years old, but since his dad had made it to 99, it seemed reasonable to expect that Piet would still be with us for quite a while.
Boy, was that a mistake. Kee passed away within two weeks of my being back in Haarlem.
That’s now almost exactly a month ago and I have spoken about Kee quite a bit with colleagues and close friends. Many, many memories, and my intention is to write them down here, a bit as I get to them (or as they get to me). Here is a first one.
I was reminded of this when I went to see a movie in Haarlem’s outstanding independent cinema, the Filmschuur. We saw The Bookshop, a nice enough movie that I enjoyed watching for the second time, this time in the company of a friend. At the end, as it happens with movies, the titles rolled down the screen. People start leaving the room. We stay seated a little longer.
“Many years ago,” I tell my younger friend, “I went to see a movie in the old Filmschuur, over in the Smedestraat. An Italian movie, Tuscany, beautiful pictures, but goodness knows what it was about. One of those movies.
“Anyway, I walk into the cinema, and there are Piet Kee and his wife. I sit down next to them, how could I not, they were friendly, both parties bien étonnés de se trouver ensemble, so to speak.
“At the end of the film, like now”—I said to my friend—“the titles roll down the screen. People start leaving, but not Piet Kee and his wife, nor, of course, I.
“Piet Kee turns to me. ‘Ik heb zo’n hekel aan mensen die meteen weglopen,’ he says, somewhat quietly, but nonetheless very clearly.” I hate people who walk out immediately (although admittedly ‘hate’ sounds little too harsh in English.)
“I have often thought about that,” I said to my friend. “Of course, it had nothing to do with music, but in a way everything with Piet Kee’s artistry. Respect for the work of art. For the music. For the performance. And for the performer, of course.”
My friend encouraged me to blog about my memories of Kee, so thanks to her, there’s the first one. Many to come.