Reflections on a European Adventure

From May 13 to June 4, Lisa and I were so fortunate to have a dream trip to Europe. It’s not like it was our first trip to Europe…we’ve been a bunch of times over the years. But this trip seemed extra special in that we had a chance to visit with people we admire and appreciate, meet new people, soak in the rich culture and history, and improve our health and well-being. Here’s a recap…

We started our trip by flying from Toronto to Amsterdam. We spent a couple of days with family. I love Amsterdam! The city’s unique architecture and rich cultural life is amazing. But beware, bicycles are everywhere…I almost got run over a few times:)! It had been 20 years since our last trip there. I missed it but it is very touristy.

Frank Horvat in Amsterdam

We then traveled to the Classical:Next Conference in Rotterdam. This is one of the biggest gatherings of people associated in the classical music industry. I was fortunate to be invited to speak about my Artivist activities. What a thrill it was to meet musicians (and those who support musicians) from all around the world. I’m really excited that connections made there might lead to future collaborations. A lot of great presentations and showcases too. Big take-away, using technology and multi-disciplinary elements in performing classical music is going to become the norm in the years to come.

Frank Horvat at Classical:NEXT conference in Rotterdam

Concertzender radio interview with Frank Horvat at Classical:NEXT at De Doelen convention centre

Canadian composers with the Canadian Music Centre at Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is a very unique city in Europe in that it is completely modern. Having been destroyed during WW2, it has a different vibe and buzz than other major cities in Northern Europe. I really liked it.

We then traveled to Brussels for the European premiere performance of my string quartet, The Thailand HRDs, by the Tana Quartet. The concert was hosted by Protection International, the human rights org that commissioned me to compose the piece. It was such a pleasure to be there in person because in essence, it was a family reunion with their staff who we have worked so closely with the last few years on this project. It was such a pleasure to finally meet their team in person. The concert took place in La Monnaie, the famous performing arts centre in the heart of Brussels. It was a magical night with such a receptive audience and having my music performed so brilliantly so far from home.

La Monnaie - EU Premiere of The Thailand HRDs - For Those Who Died Trying

Tana Quartet performs The Thailand HRDs by Frank Horvat

We had a chance to sightsee in Brussels. It’s very nice to visit…not sure if I would want to live there though. Not as many bikes there, but they love scooters. Lot’s of history, lot’s of cobblestones.

Brussels, Belgium

After Brussels, we returned to Amsterdam for another couple of days of visiting with family. We also took advantage of our return to Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum, an amazing gallery we did not get a chance to see 20 years back since it was under renovation. A pretty wonderful collection of art. Europe is oozing art and culture from every nook and cranny.

Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum

We were then off to Paris. I had not been to Paris since I was 9 and Lisa had never been so to visit the City of Lights for 2 “young” lovers like us was pretty special. Our first order of business was to visit the Pompidou, a mammoth modern art gallery where the building is as much a piece of art as the art it contains. We stayed in a centrally located AirBnB so we walked everywhere. On our way to the Pompidou walking down a quiet side street, we bump into my friend, John Farah! John is an amazingly talented composer, improviser and pianist from Toronto, but he has been living in Berlin from a bunch of years now, and now also spends time in Paris. But I did not know that and poof – he was just right there! What a remarkable coincidence!!

John Farah, Frank Horvat, Lisa Horvat outside the Pompidou

We went to Paris because we managed to have a meeting at a pretty important cultural institution about a potential future project. It went amazingly well. Still can’t tell you all the details about it yet but when it does happen in the coming year or two, you’ll know it started with this wonderful trip.

Otherwise, Lisa enjoyed playing tourist in Paris. It’s a lot bigger than Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Brussels, so we relied on the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus to see the sights especially because we had so little time. Other than the Pompidou, we had no time to see any other museums. Honestly, you would need 2-3 weeks to see everything. Paris is huge with a lot of hustle and bustle. WAY too much car traffic…they need to do something about controlling the flow of cars into the city like they do in London.


Speaking of London, that was our next stop! We took the Eurostar under the English channel on a Sunday morning. What a delightful and convenient trip. It’s really an engineering marvel. We were in London for only one night but had enough time to visit with musician friends and visit the Tate Modern – this was my favourite building we visited on the trip. In fact, as much as I enjoyed elements of everywhere we visited on the trip, London was by far my favourite city. There’s an excellent energy there but without the terrible traffic. People are so friendly. A rich cultural life and a nice mix of traditional and modern architecture. With all this Brexit stuff, it might seem like the UK is in turmoil. But London continues to hold it’s chin up high and welcome visitors with open arms. If the opportunity ever became available, it is a city I would consider living in at least on a temporary basis.


Tate Modern

The reason for the trip to London was to be interviewed for the MusicPlus classical music podcast. It was quite an in-depth interview with host Chris Gunness.

From London, we flew to the Algarve Region of southern Portugal for the last leg of our trip. We stayed in this absolutely beautiful resort which was situated right on a cliff overlooking the ocean…it was stunning. Warm dry air with a light breeze…it was a true paradise. We traveled to this destination to attend A-fest, a health and well-being conference run by a company called Mindvalley. It’s a pretty ritzy event featuring influential people from various walks of life. I had to be invited so I felt honoured to be there. In that one week, we were surrounded by love, support, and camaraderie by our fellow a-festers. We had so many in-depth conversations and heard so many amazing presenters. The main themes that were prevalent the whole week is that love and happiness = success. That being vulnerable is a therapeutic thing that goes a long way. And that breathing deeply and meditation are pretty powerful tools in maintaining a healthy life.

Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve resort

A-Fest Portugal

I left that week in Portugal feeling more invigorated, that anything in life is possible if done with an open heart. It was a perfect way to cap off what was a magical trip. On the plane trip home, Lisa and I made a list of potential projects and events for the next couple of years. Many opportunities born out of the connections we made on this trip. I know it was a dream journey since I had the time of my life in those 3 weeks and it’s those same 3 weeks that are now going to lead to another 2-3 years of amazing opportunities and other dream journeys to come. To say I am blessed is an understatement.

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