Nothing if not Dutch – an Indo in an empty shul…

A small tour ending with a concert on a typically Dutch theme in a typically Dutch, Amsterdam location, having a special meaning for a Dutch composer of mixed background…

Uilenburger Sjoel

On Monday, March 15 2010 Tom Kerstens and the Utrecht String Quartet played the Dutch premiere of my quintet Over the Water in the Amsterdam Uilenburger Concerts.
The piece has been written at the request of Tom, artistic director of the International Guitar Foundation & Festivals, and he and his G+ Ensemble already gave a (partial) performance at the opening festival of Kings Place in London in september 2008. The concert is the first of a small tour along some Dutch venues: Figi in Zeist and De Toonzaal in Den Bosch.
Over the Water means a lot to me. Not just because I know Tom quite some time already – he studied musicology in Utrechts besides studying the guitar in Tilburg and Spain with LaGoya. No, the fact that our friendship is a long one and a good one made me decide on a very personal theme as the starting point for a piece for him. It is a theme that runs through my life for quite some time now, even though, when I still saw Tom regularly, I was not yet quite aware of its importance.
In 1946 my mother and her family left behind their war-battered homeland – still known as the Dutch Indies at the time, until in 1949 it would become the present Republik Indonesia. From then on they would have to reside in the white and chilly Netherlands.
The memories, the losses, the journey, the eternal differences and the eternal commemoration of all this in and during extensive meals, that is what ‘Over the Water’ is all about, even including the kroncong-orchestra, a musical genre that they found was not Dutch enough to love but at the same time too Dutch-Indonesian to not listen to it with melancholy.

In other words – a typical Dutch theme, and this not especially because of the ‘water’. Dutch presence in colonial Dutch-Indonesia dates well back into the 17th century, meaning that the largest muslim country on the globe has been part of Dutch history for some 350 years.
This is a unique historical situation that resulted in a unique demographical heritage, to be found only in the Netherlands, and which my mothers family (and I with them) form a part of: the presence of a large group of mixed blood, usually designated by the term ‘Indo‘ (short for Indo-European).

The Synagoge in the Uilenburger street, the location of the concert, too, is in fact typically Dutch, albeit in a rather more chilling way.
Besides my mother’s home sick stories about Indonesia I listened to my father’s stories about 1930’s Amsterdam – that true Mokum brimming with Dutch-Jewish life. Martin Vissers, for years my piano teacher, had a jewish father who played in an entertainment orchestra. Both my father and Martin liked to tell jewish jokes, if possibly for different reasons.
Only a few of them are left, of the Amsterdam Jewry, and part of that Dutch heritage, that truly Amsterdam heritage of the largest number of Jews deported during World War II is formed by the jewish composers who now are being honoured, and whose work is gently being revived, by the Uilenburger Concerts and the Leo Smit Foundation with such care and dedication.



The March 15 programme was as follows:
Het programma op 15 maart is als volgt:
Daniël Belinfante – String quartet
Willem Wander van Nieuwkerk – Over the Water (première)
Dick Kattenburg – String quartet
Leo Smit – String quartet (arr. Jeff Hamburg)
Manuel de Falla – Homenaje (Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy)
Heitor Villa Lobos – Choros nr. 1
Astor Piazolla – Verano Porteno
Leo Brouwer – Quintetto (guitar and String quartet)

Utrecht String Quartet: Eva Koskinen – viool, Katherine Routley – viool, Joel Waterman – altviool, Sebastian Koloski – cello
Tom Kerstens – gitaar

Please have a look the website of the Uilenburger Concerten.