Belgian Inspiration

The logo above was on the cover of the concert program for my first concert in Belgium.  A crowd of seventy lovely Belgian people heard our duo, Kristof & Kane, in Izegem. The logo is probably too small for you to read the quotes so I’ll write some of them for you here:

“We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

“Music, the beautiful disturbance of air.”

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

“Music is well said to be the speech of angels.”

“Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Such inspiring thoughts.

Flutist Ilse Vromans ( played with our duo and also offered some pieces with piano and for solo flute.  We connected right away and I could tell that she was a kindred spirit the moment we began to play together.  Ilse also played with a band called Ishtar in Belgium.  After our rehearsal, she offered us free tickets to Ishtar’s concert in a nearby town.  Kristof and I went to the concert and were delighted by the band and its music.

Ishtar performs arrangements of love songs from many different ages and places.  Some of the languages, long dead, were brought back to life by the arranger and leader of this band, Michel Vangheluwe.  Michel was a double bass player in the Radio Orchestra of Belgium for twenty years.  He told us that he had found a book that changed his life.  It was a book of ancient love songs, all in the original languages and with German translations and explanations.  He read through this book of several hundred tunes and became inspired to bring them to life with instrumentalists and singers.  Thus was born Ishtar, a Babylonian love goddess and Belgian band. (

In this form, Ishtar has nine heads and eighteen arms.  Yes, there are nine people in the band, which includes six instrumentalists who double on several instruments and three singers.  The music itself is ethereal, delightful, sweet, poignant, and simply beautiful.

The band won a large European competition in 2008, which launched its fame. They became successful enough for Michel to leave his position with the orchestra and do Ishtar full time. The day after our concert, Kristof and I were invited to join them for lunch in Brugge.  The conversation was wonderful.  We spoke about our individual visions of the purpose of art and music.  We each shared our experiences of performing, teaching, and trying to make a living with our music.

Above all, I was struck by how each of us believed that music’s beauty and power was unfaltering in the face of misunderstandings, difficult human relationships, and financial challenges. In fact, the music made those daily, ordinary human situations irrelevant.  None of us were young up-and-comers with stars in our eyes. We were all experienced, seasoned musicians whose lives bore witness to music’s gifts.

Again and again, I am awakened by the amazing power of music. When it appears in a musician’s heart, he can move not only himself but also everyone around him.  Michel obviously had many trials in his life, as we all do.  But the gleam and spirit in his eye, his soft heart, and his passion to keep making music no matter what were the overriding truths I walked away with.

Life is short.  Pain is inevitable.  Music soothes, uplifts, and makes this human life a paradise.