I have attended two festive occasions in Gouda in the past couple of weeks. First the Stichting Gouda Glazen (Gouda’s Society for the famous Stained Glass Windows in the Church) held their annual gathering in St. John’s Church. Modesty opened this event. We, being overall a rather decrepit public, were told it was merely the 66th time the gathering was taking place. However, not to panic, doubtless more celebrations would follow in the future. Sixty-six, it was proposed, could not possibly be the final number in the history of the Stichting Gouda Glazen. Impatiently I quite agreed for the argument of the announcer did not in fact have me perched on the edge of my seat with suspense.
A choir sang and a guest speaker spoke about the windows. Modesty introduced the speaker. We were being treated, yes treated was the word, to a lecture not on one window, but to a lecture on eleven of the windows. Imagine eleven windows for the price of one theologian! The theologian chose to interpret the windows through the book of Luke. Basically it boiled down to John the Baptist (MC) telling everyone Jesus was the big deal, not John. I am not sure I needed to hear a theologian explain this to me.
‘The theologian pointed out that the window showing Jesus climbing up the river bank after having being baptized, depicted no other people splashing about in the water. Really now, most extraordinarily! This, strangely enough, had always bothered me without me consciously realizing it. I was glad the speaker pointed this out. The big baptism bang with the main scene accomplished, and no one else seemed to matter. Excellent. Then there was something about halos or the lack of halos on the saints followed by musical interlude time with some Mendelssohn and Rheinberger. Have you heard of Rheinberger? Well I did.
Then a few days later Gouda’s Historical Society made a great splash with its 80th birthday. I missed the first half of the evening, and snuck into the church just before the intermission in the festivities. Upon entering, a man generously handed me a handful of consumption coupons. “How was the first half?” I asked an acquaintance while in the queue for drinks. “Stuffy and fluffy.” He answered. I had assumed as much given that there were a dozen or so people dressed up as Gouda’s famous citizens from the last 800 years and traipsing around in badly fitting wigs. A four piece band wearing Hawaiian shirts, thumping a fake cheese round moaned some music in an aisle. I walked around to the organ at the back of the church. It was magnificently lit, and recently restored it glowed with delight under the lamps. I looked at the coats of arms decorating the noble music loft. Tags, I thought as I sat down to the guest speaker’s discourse on street language in honor of the new publication, a four volume oeuvre, of Gouda’s historical society, “The Street Names of Gouda.”