At 7 p.m., the first musicians are already playing in between the bicycle racks. Blankets are scattered on the ground for the spectators, and a keyboard stands at the back with lights draped all around. This instantly gives more atmosphere to the dark bicycle garage. Psychology student Catalina Kiru is practising her violin in a corner. She is the reason why the musicians have gathered.

The idea to have musicians play in this echoing space came from Frederieke Hoitink of Studium Generale. She had heard Catalina playing here when she came to get her bicycle after an Open Stage Night. “The sound of the violin was so beautiful, especially in combination with the acoustics here. I immediately thought: we could work with this.”

Limited rehearsal space

Kiru actually plays violin in the bicycle garage quite often. “During the COVID-19 lockdowns, I lived in the Hatta building, and there was really no way to practise there without bothering the neighbours”, she says So she started looking for other places. “There is a rehearsal space on campus. I believe we have one practice room, but it was extremely difficult to reserve it during COVID-19, and even after that, I couldn’t get a reservation”, she laughs. “So then I just went to the bicycle garage.”

She is not bothering anyone here, and only the students and staff who come to pick up their bicycles can hear that someone is practising. Still, not everyone is happy with her practice sessions. “I’ve already been kicked out by security twice. I’m not exactly sure why, but they’re very strict. I’ll just keep trying. It’s the perfect place to get together with musicians and practise.”

Original songs and improvisation

Bonno
Bonno plays his own songs. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Meanwhile, students have continued to gather in the garage. The forty spots for spectators and musicians fill up fast. The musical evening begins with Kiru, who sings the song Sweater weather along with two fellow students.

Like in the Open Stage Nights organised by Studium Generale, many different styles of music are played here, too. Philosophy student Bonno Geerse (stage name Bonno Gets), who writes his own songs, plays two of his creations. Before he begins, he first explains to the audience: “I wrote this song because I saw how difficult it was for the international students when they moved to Rotterdam during the pandemic. It’s called Way up here.” His second song is about ADHD, with which he himself has been diagnosed. “I’m proud of all my lyrics, but my favourite line is probably ‘The government gave me a pill so I can learn how to sit still’.”

Basement Concert
Another student played a medley.

When the echo of Gets’ voice fades and the president of the Erasmus Music Association Ricardo Laanen is about to announce the break, a student walks into the garage who would like to do a bit of improvising. “I was just in the library and suddenly heard that this was happening. I’d love to play something as well!” What follows is a cleverly improvised medley of Hit the road jack, I will survive and Misirlou.

Every month

The evening proceeds very organically, with other students occasionally taking some time to stop and watch while getting their bikes. Security keeps a close watch to make sure the limit of forty people is not exceeded, but even that seems to go smoothly. Each performance is followed by thunderous applause, and the atmosphere is great. New groups of musicians spontaneously form, and at the end of the evening, everyone has been able to play their songs. Laanen is thrilled. He feels an encore is definitely in order, “This turnout is so good, I think we might do this every month!”

Ukraine Piano Night Thumbnail 1

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