Speaker Series: Composer de Meij Premieres Song in Extravaganza

Extravaganza 2022 - a signature program at ASH -  counted with the world premiere of “Songs from the Lowlands”, a special musical piece that is one of the first of its kind, written by our guest composer Johan de Meij. The 12 minute medley of songs captures Dutch folklore and history and was performed by 200+ musicians.

About Stronger Together
“The great thing about the premiere of “Songs from the Lowlands” is that it will be performed by not only the wind ensemble of American School of The Hague but they will be joined by a local wind orchestra from Wassenaar called Excelsior Wassenaar. And there will be a choir as well, so we have 3 different groups and even a recorded quartet. That really shows that we can be stronger together, which is quite relevant in these difficult times. I am looking very much forward to hearing the results of my work and I hope it will become a repertoire piece for other orchestras as well.”

About Joyful Learning Environments
“I have always lived in a very happy and warm environment. I grew up in a family of five - three children and my parents. They were very supportive from the beginning. Throughout my career, I have played in many orchestras and ensembles, which was very inspiring and helpful. When I became a composer, I got a lot of help from my colleagues on specific instrumentation. And also, I was stimulated to keep writing music. I am very happy about that. Writing music is for people, not for instruments. So far, I’ve written 9 solo concertos, and all of them were written for a specific person or a group that I know, so they became very personal pieces. For Extravaganza, it is a very personal present. It starts with a trombone chorale, and that goes back to the time when Jim and I were both playing trombone in travel ensembles. I remember very well going to his mother-in-law, who lives near the Amstel River, very close to the Carré Theater and we would play duets together on the trombone with the window open. We have a long and warm friendship and therefore I put all my love and knowledge into the piece.”

About Being Well, Doing Well
“I try to stay in shape – both physically and mentally – by doing exercise, going for walks, and enjoying a lot of time at home cooking and watching TV series with my wife. I think it is important. If you’re a happy person or satisfied with your life, I think you can produce better music. Although, I have written some pieces that turned out very well in a period of my life that I wasn't so happy – right after the death of my father, for instance. But in general, if you don’t feel happy, it is harder to compose and to concentrate.”

About Learning That Matters
“I think that teaching someone how to play an instrument or how to sing is quite different from learning a language or mathematics. To sing, you need to have a certain ability with your voice, and that can differ per person. Same with playing an instrument – it is a lot of muscle memory. The movement is something you need to practice many times, which is different than memorizing. Compared to other arts, it is quite different with music.”

About his ASHexperience
“I have a long history with ASH. In 1977, I started to work there as a freelance teacher for low brass - trombone and tuba. I assisted the director of bands with all kinds of stuff. I played in the musical pit with the orchestra - I had a lot of fun. That’s when I met Jim, in 1981 or 1982. We became instant friends. He commissioned me in the 90s to write a work for the wind ensemble at ASH which was called “Polish Christmas Music” based on unknown Polish Christmas literature. Everything had to be sung in Polish. For the premiere of Extravaganza 2022, I wrote “Songs from the Lowlands” for a quartet and full choir. It is based on 60s and 70s patriotic, love and drinking songs - all in Dutch. The choir has to sing in old Dutch and I think that will be a lot of fun. I am looking forward to hearing the result.”