Wednesday, April 4, 2007
From the heart and soul of a Netherlander...
A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to accompany my arranging teacher (Jurre Haanstra) to a day-long rehearsal he had with Paul van Vliet (in my estimation, a Dutch cross between Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye). Jurre wrote the orchestral arrangements for the hour and a half long concert program which was performed two days later.
Mr. van Vliet, also the Dutch ambassador for Unicef, is a seemingly gentle man who wears sentimentality on his sleeves throughout every song he sings - most of which he has written. He writes about the sea, he writes about growing old together and watching the world change around you, he writes about challenges of parenthood. Not always the cheeriest of topics, but seemingly a bastion of aged observations, Paul seemingly touches many a Dutch man or woman with his music.
Somehow, this is all characteristically Dutch to me. I wish I could describe exactly how. Maybe it's the straight-forward honesty about the kind of feelings that not everyone would deal with so directly. Maybe it's the ability to write about true love while still (at least to my American ears) making me think I should be swinging a beer stein along with the rhythm. I'm not quite sure. But it was truly interesting to observe. A few steps removed from watching Mariah Carey from backstage at the American Music Awards a few years ago, but still interesting. (There were definitely fewer body augmentations involved!)
These days, getting any kind of inside peek at what makes an orchestra go round and round has me locked in at full attention. Beautiful arrangements take good songs to whole new places. Jurre paints the texts so well. I'm glad to be learning from him.
Oh! And you can cue "It's A Small World After All," because the pianist in the orchestra played a gig with my old boss Suzie in LA a few years ago. Spooky how small the globe is becoming.
Here are some of the lyrics of one of Paul's songs, titled Misschien Vannacht (Maybe Tonight). My translation is below. It might not be perfect, but you'll get the idea.
(Uh...you might want to get a handkerchief out for this one. Like I said, unabashed sentimentality.)
In elke vrouw - in elke man
Zit een verlangen groot of klein
Om in dit leven als het kan
Eén keer gewichtloos vrij te zijn.
Vrij van verdriet en niet meer bang
Niet meer alleen en los van toen
Omarmd door oeverloos geluk
In staat iets kolossaals te doen.
Die ene dag, die ene nacht
Niet meer te vragen van: Waarom?
Maar zeker weten: Dit ben ik
En dit gevoel daar gaat het om.
In every woman, in every man
There is a longing, big or small
That in this life, if possible,
One time, to be weightless and free.
Free from sorrow and no longer afraid,
No longer alone and free from when,
Embraced by overflowing (?) good fortune,
In the process of doing something important (colossal).
Which day, which night
To no longer be asking "Why?"
But to know for certain: This I am
And this feeling goes on (?).
(or something like that! Laura, Bas, or any other Dutch friends checking in...have some mercy on my Dutch comprehension!)
As ever, another fascinating day on this side of the Pond.
Signing out for now...