Traditional music from the Netherlands Part IV:
This episode of Traditional music of the Netherlands is about Folkcorn. The group can be seen as the oldest, still existing Dutch folk group. After more than thirty years they have just released a new cd laet ons den landtman loven. Already in the seventies they recorded three lp's on the famous Stoof label, which can still be regarded as an important representative of Dutch traditional music. Although I interviewed the four members of the group, it is Jitze Kopinga, one of the founders of Folkcorn, who does most of the talking. However, he was often interrupted by one of the others: Laurence van der Zee, Marja van der Zee and Anneke Rot. The four of them are still enthusiastic about their music and, already at the start of the interview, they promised me a small private concert when the interview would be over.
Folkcorn was founded in the last few months of 1972. In the small town of Wageningen there was a tradition of what is called "coffee concerts". These concerts usually featured classical music, but the organisation got interested in traditional music and they asked musician Cees de Gooijer if he would be interested in giving a performance. Cees met Jitze Kopinga at a party and because they shared an interest in the same kind of music they started talking. Cees asked Jitze if he was interested in joining him in this "coffee concert" programme and this is how it all started. Soon this duo was joined by Marja van der Zee and the first line-up of Folkcorn was born. They didn't start out as a traditional Dutch group but derived inspiration for their music from several countries, including Holland, Italy, France and Germany. This is also the reason the group has chosen a name with an international ring to it. As they used musical influences from so many different places, they wanted a name that could be pronounced abroad as well. After some brainstorm sessions they came up with the name Folkcorn. Not much later, in about 1975-76, the group decided to focus more on early Dutch and Flemish music, but they kept their "international" name.
THE THREE LP'S
The first two albums were recorded by the trio in 1977 (welkom gesellen) and in 1978 (Goedenavond speelman) and according to the group they played "historical music the way they liked it themselves. It's a mixture of folk, medieval and renaissance music". In those years the reactions to their music were somewhat strange. According to the classically trained musicians they weren't "pure" enough and according to the "seventies folkies" it wasn't folkmusic they played. The fact that the group had quite a complicated way of arranging their songs was probably the reason that it was difficult to sing along with their music. This may have been an explanation for the criticism they received, but according to Folkcorn the reactions were also fuelled by the endless discussion about what folkmusic is and what it is not.
These first two lp's were clearly representatives of the music Folkcorn played in those days. The third lp, released in 1980 (al vol), has a different sound. Cees had left and Laurence van der Zee had joined the group. This album was recorded with some guest musicians and has a much more open sound. The two guest musicians came from Jitze's other group Dommelvolk. This was a very successful folk band from the southern part of Holland. The group now chose a repertoire that was a bit more popular and more accessible to listeners. The musicians experimented more than before and, because Laurence had replaced Cees and played different instruments, the character of the songs changed. Nevertheless, this album is based on the same sources as the first two lp's.
THE THREE CD'S
After the release of their three lp's, they did not record any albums for a period of about ten years. At the beginning of the nineties Anneke Rot joined the group. Folkcorn had always been a trio, but now they decided they needed someone new and, more particularly, a keyboard player. Anneke heard about this and, after some kind of audition, she joined the group. A new decade started with again three recordings. Only this time the albums were no longer lp's but cd's. In 1992 the cd Ghy sotten was released. There are two different versions of this album. The first version did not have the name "Folkcorn" on the sleeve. This was a marketing trick; the producer wanted the cd to be placed in the classical section of the cd shops and he thought that it would be put somewhere else with the name Folkcorn printed on the sleeve. The second edition has the group's name on the sleeve again because the group did not really agree with the producer's marketing ideas.
In 1997 they recorded another cd (Jan de Mulder) and their latest project, which was released last year, was called Laet ons den landtman loven and was a special project in several ways. This cd is the first thematically one; its subject being songs about farmers and farmers' lives. This project could be realised because of Folkcorn's unique co-operation with the university of Wageningen and Job Zomer. Wageningen has a world-famous university for agriculture and some people there liked the idea of a cd with all kinds of songs having to do with agriculture. The university ordered 500 cd's in advance and paid for the art work. The group asked Job Zomer, who had also recorded their first three lp's, whether he was interested in producing this particular cd. He was very enthusiastic and made the group an offer they simply could not refuse.
FOLKCORN IN CONCERT
When I asked the group in what way their music had changed over the years, they were silent for a few seconds. Then they answered that their music had not really changed that much. As I have mentioned before, they are still making use of the same "sources". Only the circumstances have changed. In the seventies it all started with the "coffee concerts", where people sat down and listened to what was being sung. Later this kind of concert disappeared and Folkcorn started playing at Medieval events. There people do not sit down to listen to their music but they are more of a background group. This also means they have had to change their music. At these events it is not smart to play songs that people have to listen to, it is better to play tunes. That does not necessarily mean they have had to give up their own repertoire. They enjoy playing tunes, short songs as well as beautiful Dutch ballads. They would love to do a good ballad programme again but then they will have to find places where people are willing to really listen to them again. They have experienced how different performing in Holland is as compared to playing in other countries. The level of concentration of audiences listening to their music in Germany, France, Spain or anywhere else in Europe or the US has always surprised them. Abroad, they are considered to be a Dutch roots group and the people listening to them are really interested in their music. When they perform in France, for example, and hear people talking during a concert, these people are always Dutch. When I asked Folkcorn what the reason was that Dutch people have so little respect for their own traditional music, they were not able to give me a definite answer. They had discussed this issue many times before and wondered if it had something to do with the music or with Dutch people in general. They made it very clear to me that they would love to play in Holland more often. It is a pity that Dutch festivals hardly ever have an eye for Dutch traditional groups like Folkcorn. The organisation usually prefer programming foreign bands to representatives of their own cultural inheritance.
And as they had promised before, the group gave me a small concert, while sitting at the kitchen table. They played Dutch traditional music. I beg your pardon?? Dutch traditional music?? They started with Monday, Monday and California Dreaming. (Did you know that the Mamma's and the Pappa's actually were a Dutch traditional folk group??) Anyway, Folkcorn showed me that they knew how to play all kinds of musical styles. Besides, some Folkcorn members are part of other groups as well. The repertoire of these groups varies from experimental/surrealistic to Irish and blues. Jitze also builds old instruments. At the beginning of the evening he handed me a small bagpipe and challenged me by saying that I would never be able to guess what kind of wood he had used for this particular instrument. I named about all the trees I could think of and at each tree I mentioned, Jitze laughed louder and louder. Well, now it's my time to have a good laugh. The first person who sends me an e-mail with the correct type of wood Jitze uses for his bagpipes will receive a genuine Folkcorn present.
Of course, I also asked them which records they considered to be the most important ones in Dutch traditional music. They did not mention any specific records but, according to them, the complete repertoires of and Wannes van de Velde are essential. The same applies to the albums made by Dommelvolk. This gave me some new ideas for future episodes of Traditional music in the Netherlands.
Welkom gesellen (1977 stoof 7436)
Goedenavond speelman (1978 stoof 7450)
Al vol (1980 stoof 7476)
Ghy Sotten (1992 clipsound 955)
Jan de Mulder (1997 clipsound 97212)
Laet ons den landtman loven (2002 Munich 348)
All cd's can be ordered at their webpage, www.folkcorn.nl. The records are out of stock, only for sale at second-hand record fairs.
A PERSONAL OFFER FROM FOLKCORN FOR FESTIVAL ORGANISATIONS: SUMMER TOUR 2003 IN GERMANY, FRANCE AND NEIGHBOURING REGIONS. Folkcorn: Early Dutch and Flemish folkmusic
Our annual goodwill-summertour will be held in Germany and France. We start
in Moerfelden-Walldorf (Germany) on Saturday July 12th and finish at the first
folkfestival of Druyes-Les-Belles- Fontaines (France) on Sunday July 27th next.
Folkclubs and individual enthusiasts in France, Germany and neighbouring countries
are invited to help us fill-in our programme in the second half of July 2003.
Our special summer formula is: free concerts in exchange for meals
and lodging for one or two nights for the two couples of Folkcorn.
Mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our website in several languages www.folkcorn.nl .
Do you have any questions about the article? Do you want more information? Are you interested in one of the albums mentioned above? Feel free to contact me any time; also with suggestions for future articles etc or comments on this article. Eelco Schilder
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