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October 2018

Although my name and fame as a composer is largely related to Kayak and Youp van 't Hek, strangely enough the majority of my musical output did not go there. Even combined they don't get the amount of music that I have written for youth theater and family performances, especially for Youth Theater Hofplein in Rotterdam. I have lost count, but I still manage to get such a performance or 30, apart from the pieces that I have arranged or played 'alone'. You can calculate thirty times 45 minutes of composed music. I was also allowed to do that for Opus One about eight times.

Writing for theater in 1989 (when I was asked if I wanted to make music for a Hofplein performance entitled Bolle Boos) was almost unexplored territory. Certainly, I wrote for Youp van 't Hek since 1985, but that work still had little to do with musicals like this, in which the music supported the lyrics and the story, and just as important.

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Apart from the artistic approach that demanded something completely different from what I had done before, I had to get used to the fleetingness of the medium of theater. Both Kayak and Youp recorded everything that was made, also recorded and released on CD and in the case of Youp, also on video and DVD. That gave a kind of comforting eternal value to my work. When the show or tour ended, it was still a tangible memory.

But things were different at Hofplein: it was only from 1991 that it was decided to make CDs of the songs from the performance, and then only the best pieces: of the almost 50 minutes of music, more than half were still 'lost' because they fit only 20 minutes on those (single) CDs. Moreover, it was not feasible to record more because the CD had to be ready for sale before the premiere date, so much was not fully studied when everything was recorded. Those CDs were sold to the audience, in an edition of about 500 pieces. Was used up.

If I try to find something of that Hofplein period on YouTube or the Internet in general, it is a disappointing experience: there is almost nothing left, and what can still be seen is of poor quality. Then I am not talking about the acting and singing performance, but about sound and image. More than twenty years of composing has almost disappeared. Foetsie.

Unfortunately? Yes, it is. I realize that many of the songs might have deserved a better performance (after all, most players were amateurs between 8 and 18 years old, and had barely had time to master everything) but sometimes I was really pleasantly surprised by a young talent that rose above it and managed to struggle effortlessly through my melodies, which were not always easy. Professional actors and singers also regularly participated. Loes Luca, Frits Lambrechts, Joris Lutz, Joep Dorren and Don van Dijke are just a few names that come to mind. They raised the level quite a bit and that is nice for a composer.

Sometimes writers from outside were also recruited such as Youp van 't Hek, Harrie Jekkers and Koos Meinderts, Bruun Kuijt. Yes, I even made songs with Jules Deelder, you don't believe it. Unfortunately those songs weren't the best, I readily admit. Jules and I didn't really have what you call a "click."

I approached writing and recording for Youth Theater Hofplein no different than usual: I tried to make something beautiful, something special, something unique from every song, every musical. Actually, I didn't care if they were children of 10 or adults who would sing: every song had to be good. I never got down on my knees because it was probably over the top of the students. With that I may have given the less talented sleepless nights (or their parents, sorry for that) but yes, it was the only way I could work and have fun.

Of course I was also dependent on the submitted texts. Often that was fine, but of course I was not so enthusiastic about every text I saw. There was almost no time to tinker with it. Mostly it was about three months between the script and the premiere, so generally I did it with what I got. Only rarely did I have to pull the emergency brake and ask for a better version because I could not start with a certain text.

Around 2012 it was over, the artistic staff gradually disintegrated and the directors took their own people with whom they wanted to work. Fine, that's the way it is, new blood and stuff, and I actually thought it would have been nice. In retrospect, just in time, before the wear would come to me. Because I already felt that it was going to happen.

Again, it is a pity that so little of it remains - at least it is barely traceable on the Internet and that is pretty much the benchmark these days. If you cannot be found there, you do not exist, so we can summarize it. There are CDs, sure, but who still plays them? Fortunately, much is still etched in the memory of the players, the parents, and the audience.


PS- for those who are curious and want to hear something from that time, I occasionally post some songs on the FYEO page of this site. But beware: don't expect a Kayak. It is music, made for a family performance, and much of it should be heard in that context. Still, there are quite a few songs and performances that I can still listen to with some modest pride and wonder.

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