A little while ago on our social media we shared a story about Vincent Van Gogh supporting a brass band which still plays today.
In 1884 Vincent van Gogh helped set up a band in the village of Nuenen, where he was living with his family and developing his skills as an artist. His name has been discovered among the 68 honorary members who established the musical group known as Harmonie de Vooruitgang (Harmony of Progress). Dutch architect and trombonist Arie van Kuijk, made the discovery in the register in the band’s archive!
Well, when we shared this story Tim Messerschmidt (solo euphonium) from Brass Band Nuenen got in touch to tell us they are currently working on a theatre production with all new original brass band repertoire on the Story of Vincent and Margot (his girlfriend) during his period in Nuenen.
Here he tells us a little more about the project.
The concept we use is can been seen as a musical story telling with a narrator like an audiobook or a a (small) group of actors like in a play. At moments the brass band music takes the leading role, like in a movie with only little visual effects. As we see it, music is the art form that leaves so much more to the imagination of the audience. And of course, brass band music has the capability to touch the audience. Have your feelings connect with the music and you understand what the main character is going through.
It is a concept we have used successfully before with the story of our local mayor during WW2. It was a story about the dilemma’s the mayor must have had during that period. For that performance we used existing Brass Band compositions (e.g. Dark side of the Moon (PLC), Power of the Megatsunami (Wittrock), Inspiration (de Haan). After that performance we received lots of compliments with people asking, “how are you going to top this”?!
We started asking ourselves the same question! We thought having all the music specially composed would a good thing to elevate the concept. Next question would be, what story to use. To us it was plain and simple. We knew fragments of a true story full of emotions that took place in our village Nuenen (NL).
The band originates from the Dutch village, famous for van Gogh living here (painted for instance the Potato Eaters in Nuenen). Several subjects of his paintings are still untouched in Nuenen, like the church, windmill, watermill and several other buildings. Even the house where he (and his parents) lived for a couple of years is still intact and well maintained. Now the story of van Gogh has been told several times (by several sources) and his letters are a source of historical facts. But also there is limited “creative freedom” in particular when it comes to a complex and passionate relationship with his neighbour, Margot.
We thought why not let her tell the story of her live, with the love of her life. Let the audience experience her story with her thoughts and emotions that took place in our daily environment! Her story is worth to be seen, heard, felt, and remembered.
The Story of Margot (& Vincent)
1883: Marot is unmarried (42 years old) living in her (deceased) parents’ house with her 3 sisters. She and her sisters are convinced that she is too old now to get married and has to deal with that. Margot starts to realise that she will never love or be loved and starts focusing on her faith and charity work.
The (on the 5th of December) the son of pastor van Gogh (next door) comes home. Immediately there is tension and argument at the neighbours. When mother van Gogh unfortunately breaks her hip. Margot meets their son at the sick mother’s bed, His name is…. Vincent. It seamed as if this is what God has intended for her too, gave her hope for the future, in fact brought her to life again.
The love between Margot and Vincent is disapproved by her sisters and family. Margot eventually even tries to commit suicide (because she wants to die in the loving arms of her Vincent). A story with a big emotional load where we try to take our audience inside Margot’s head and try to look at Vincent through her eyes….
How we’re getting on!
We found a partner in Kevin Houben (BE) and commissioned all the music from him (approx. 40/45 min of music) with the request to also create a 3rd section piece (approx. 12 min) of all the commissioned music.
Geert Niland is our scenario-writer and director, and the idea so far is that we will have 2 actors on stage telling the story (Margot and Vincent). Merlijn Passier has a good reputation working for local and national television and will be supporting us with the creation of additional video and visuals for the production. The houses where the story takes place are still intact and will be used to shoot scenes.
The team from Brass Band Nuenen have finalised the story, done the fact checking, and added emotional ups and downs to the timeline. (It was during the fact checking and research that we found out about van Gogh being an honorary member of our band).
Kevin Houben is currently busy with composing, and Geert is writing the screenplay. We hope to be looking at our rehearsals in May – we’ll let you know how we get on!
Several of the players play on Alliance mouthpieces, particularly the ever popular DC3
Full story on www.theartsnewspaper.com . Photo © Brass Band Nuenen archive and Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)