Just in: US string quartet detained at Belgian Customs

Just in: US string quartet detained at Belgian Customs


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2014

The Pro Arte Quartet, based at the University of Wisconsin, were held for several hours by Customs at Brussels Airport over concerns that their instruments contained protected ivory and wood specimens. Despite prior assurances that their instrument passports were recognised in Belgium, assistance had to be called from consular officials and a Belgian cabinet minister in order to release the quartet in time for them to practice for the first concert.

Sarah Schaffer, of the university’s school of music, writes:

pro arte quartet


Our first afternoon was spent at American Embassy, trying to spring violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp (below), who were both detained at the Brussels airport and refused entry into Belgium over the endangered species business about ivory and wood.

“Oh, boy. Also called on our Belgium friends, who reached the cabinet minister in the agency overseeing CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), and between all efforts we got them sprung.

“We’re all here at last, exhausted, a little tattered, but a much better outcome than we feared for many hours today.”



  • SteinAway says:

    These regulations may have been well-intentioned at the outset but, as in most cases, they balloon into the creation of hordes of overpaid taxpayer-funded bureaucrats with their backsides moulded by leather seat cushions and their pencils jammed between the pages of the statute books, and led by heads of departments and presidents of agencies who have chauffeur-driven cars, tax-free salaries, cast-iron pensions and who fly first class to international conferences held in 5-star hotels.

  • Bobo says:

    37 Endangered Elephants were saved in this process.

  • Michael D says:

    Referring to customs here: It must be really hard doing your job when you have no idea how to do your job properly, right?